Anticipation on a trail ride
Posted by Irina Yastrebova on Monday, June 30, 2008 05:24 PM
One of my students has asked me to ride her horse on a trail because he has spooked badly
and she lost confidence in him. I must say the place where I teach is right in the city adjacent
to a beautiful park area along the river bank. There are many miles of trails but being in the middle of the
city there are many hazards and spooky situations - picnic areas, dogs, bicyclists, cars and trucks,
construction zones, bridges, plastic garbage, big trash cans, etc. Many horses will spook from
some of these distractions.
While we did the trail ride I was explaining to her what I'm doing and why. For sure, he got tense couple times,
he stopped to go under the street bridge and I had to be consistent with my request, etc. Watching me ride him my student
point out that I'm not anticipating bad situations ahead of time. And that is one of the important mental skill to develop
when riding horses.
Anticipation of something bad that may happen is one of the worst things you can take with you
on a trail ride. I'm not saying that you must be so reckless and fearless that you never think about
what can go wrong on a trail ride. However, you cannot let these images rule you
and create panic inside you. Just because your horse can spook at something doesn't mean he will.
When I go on a trail ride I keep my reins loose, I do not have constant contact. I give my horse a chance to be smart and prove
that he is trustworthy. But I do not abandon him. I ride my trail rides with constant attention to my horse's state of mind.
Even if I don't look at him and I'm talking to a companion I feel what is going on under my seat. If he steps out of line
of expected behavior I'm right there to correct him or even prevent the bad behavior if I'm quick enough.
If I feel him building up some tension, raising his head, shortening and/or quickening his steps I evaluate the situation,
shorten my reins just enough to be able to take contact on the moment's notice and I may talk to him in a quiet reassuring voice.
If he speeds up I will ask for a transition to the slower pace, if he doesn't listen I will halt him or turn around. As soon as he responds I'm
back to trusting him and giving him chance to continue the way he was before a spooky place. The earlier you recognize
something going on the more effectively you will be able to "talk" to him with your aids.
Show your horse that a trail ride with you is an enjoyable experience. Do not get mad at him for spooking at a silly
thing, do not hold him in tight reins anticipating bad situations. Let him look around and enjoy the change of scenery.
Show him that you are a calm, fair and steady leader who never abandons him, who is always there to help in any situation.