Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Merlin goes for his First Trail

Merlin goes for his First Trail

This past weekend Merlin, one of the horse's in for training, went for his first trail ride. We've been working on a lot of things including steering and speed control in the ring. One of things we also worked on was emotional control and confidence building so Merlin could be safe out on the trails.

Some exercises we have done to help Merlin become confident:
- Going over poles both forward and backward
- Stepping in hula hoops
- Going for walks around our track
- Pushing a ball

Exercises that help Merlin to think through an obstacle because he has to back over it, go sideways, etc help him to become a thinking horse instead of an anxious horse. Exercises where Merlin meets new obstacles and props like a ball or hula hoop help to teach him emotional control - because it teaches him these new things aren't scary.

All of the preparation worked paid off in Merlin's case. He headed out on a trail with 9 other super calm and well trained horses. He rode in the back so he could follow all the other calm horses up ahead. He did walk and trot on the side of the road and in the forest. He was super!

Some things to remember when out on the trail with a new horse:
- Get off your horse if either you or the horse becomes very tense. You can always walk part of the trail and then get back on.
- If you want to teach a horse to be calm and relaxed, then you need to ride the trail calm and relaxed. It is best if you don't do any fast canter or gallop on the first couple rides until the horse can understand to be calm and relaxed out on the trail.
- Monkey see, Monkey do. Horses are prey animals and follow the herd. If you ride with a bunch of anxious horses that spook and startle, chances are high that your horse will spook and startle too. If you ride with calm and relaxed horses, then it should help your horse to be calm and relaxed too.

Key tip to remember this week: If you want to trail ride, it is a good idea to practice some exercises in a controlled area first (like an arena) and introduce your horse to new things, and teach your horse to be a thinking horse. That way when you hit the trails, you have a horse that is more likely to be confident and thinking - which makes for a much safer horse.

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