Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Bree goes for her first trail ride!


Sunday was a big day for Bree... she finally got to hit the trails after about 1.5 months of getting her skills up in the arena. I have been working with Bree to teach her some ground games and riding skills. Bree has been riding walk, trot, and canter in the arena really calmly for a couple weeks now, so it was time to hit the trails.

This is a pretty big step for Bree because the farm where she has lived with her owner before training is fairly small and doesn't have a lot of space to expose her to different things... so even going up and down hills would be new to her.

When taking a horse out on their first trail, you can help set them up for success by:
- go with a group of calm, trained horses
- go with patient riders that will be willing to stop and wait for you if needed
- start on the ground walking with your horse, and only get on if the horse is relaxed
- be ready to dismount if the horse begins to get upset, confused, or anxious
- be ready to do some ground work if needed to help relax the horse during the ride

I started my ride on the ground, and I brought my lead rope and rope halter with me - I left it attached to Bree at all times, so it was ready to use if I needed it. To my delight, she was really calm as we headed out, following a couple of horses ahead, with a few quiet horses behind us.

After about 5 minutes I knew she was calm and relaxed because of her breathing, relaxed position, and relaxed movement. I decided to mount up and try continuing the trail riding.

Bree was fantastic! We went on roads, in forest, by open field, and over water. She was really well behaved and did excellent. She did start to run out of 'gas' so we took a few rest breaks a long the way - our ride was about 2.5hrs!

Bree wasn't a big fan of fast moving vehicles on the road - at first she was scramble her feet a bit and jump sideways. However, I stopped her right away, and then asked her to move forward once relaxed.

After a few cars, she had learn to stop and watch the car go by, and then continue walking.

It is always much safer for a horse to stand still and observe when they get nervous, than to jump around - this means that when a horse does get nervous or scared, it's our job to allow the horse to stop. It is important that we don't kick our horse past what is scary and tell the horse to just 'go', or the horse could go a lot faster than you want.

All in all it was a fantastic ride and Bree had a great first experience.

Key tip for this week:
Remember that the goal for a trail riding is a safe and enjoyable experience - so it's okay if you need to dismount or start on the ground to help you and your reach that goal.

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