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How to help that not so brave trail horse.


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#1 Sally

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Posted 29 August 2012 - 06:46 AM

I am hoping to talk with others that may have worked through this issue.


I have a 7 year old Arab gelding. He was not started until he was 5. He was given
plenty of time to grow up alittle. My goal was to do some limited rides then move up
to endurance if he liked it. We have been trail riding a couple times a week with some
really seasoned trail horses to help him with his bravery. It has not helped. He wants to
stay right behind the horse in front of him almost touching the horse. I have been working
with him to make him keep his distance, which has gotten better. But.. he is literally
afraid of his shadow.........I mean literally!! We can be going along and come out of the shade
of the trails into the sunlight and he sees his shadow and really spooks. He doesn't bolt but
he sides steps enough to be glad you have a good secure saddle and good balance. He has
actually made me into a better rider. I am a confident rider so I don't feel like I am contributing to
his less than brave attitude! I have been riding out alone with him to work on some issues. Some days
he is better than other days......he just looks for something to "get him"!! He will hold his head down to the trail like a bloodhound and look up into the side of the trails so interested in anything that moves. The thing is.......he seems to enjoy being out. I am constantly having to get his attention back on me. We do
some circling some backing, ect. He will focus on me then as we move forward he immediately starts
looking for the horse eating monster......!! It is the things he can't see that gets him. He is
not afraid of the creek crossings, the bridges, joggers, bicycles, picnic tables, trash cans.......the things
you would think he would be afraid of.

I have done some arena work with him and he is so.....much better.


Need advice ~ do I keep riding him on the trails and working on this issue or are there just some
horses that do not make good trail horses?

Sally

#2 Dreamcatcher

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Posted 29 August 2012 - 07:58 AM

Some horses just don't make good trail horses. BUT, that doesn't necessarily mean that HE won't. It takes miles and miles and sweaty blankets to get them seasoned. If you can and he's in shape, I'd start taking him on some CTR rides to start and then work up to a 25 mile ride, there's nothing like being tired to settle a horse down. If he stays silly at the end of some long rides that have distance coupled with things to engage his brain, you may have to re-evaluate him for trail, but most Arabs are pretty darn good trail horses; they just need a little more challenge than most to keep them engaged.
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#3 lkirby

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Posted 29 August 2012 - 08:48 AM

I would seriously recommend that you have a vet that specializes in eyes take a look at your gelding. He may have some problem in his eyes that prevents him from seeing clearly, such as moon blindness. In addition, some parasite infestations can migrate into the eyeballs. If there are no problems with his vision, then your gelding may just need more time for his brain to translate what his eyes are telling him.

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#4 loriwoo

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Posted 29 August 2012 - 08:50 AM

I agree that being tired helps. I think trail horses are underrated,

Trails can be scary, and many times a green horse forgets the rider is there with them out on the trail. SOme horses connect with the rider and remember the rider is there much sooner than other horses. Some horses forget the rider is there for them when they are distracted by something for up to a couple of years after saddle training, which is what your horse is doing as you constantly bring him "back to you". Most horses that have a hard time remembering the rider is "there" with them when they see something they find disturbing or disruptive are horses that were started later, like yours. They have spent more time as a horse than as a horse/human team, and it just takes time. Not to worry.

Work him at home before going to the trail, even if it means before trailering. Work him at the parking lot of the trails, doing circles and things he is good at. Lead him along the trail, even if you dont' think he needs it, for a ways, so he knows you are there. If possible when leading him, go first, to get him over this need to follow the other horse. When he sighs and seems to let down, then ride.

Find nice wide trails that you can ride side by side on, not follow. Stop frequently, get off, check tack, scratch him, get back on. Let him go first. Even if he only goes 10 feet, it is OK,, go the 10 feet, go back the way you came, go forward and try for 20 feet, if he wont' go, let the other go first, but if you can, switch your horse back to first every so often. Some horses actaully do better with the horse behind them, they know they are safe from behind and they begin to get curious about going first if nothing is too scary. If he REFUSES to go first every time, lead him for a while, making him go first with YOU beside him.

One thing that really helps is to continue to do the same path OVER AND OVER AND OVER. It may be boring to your friends, but he'l keep seeing the same things, he'll soon be unconcerned about those things. The loop or path should only be about 10 minutes before repeating. Dont' expect to go an hour in one direction then have him be calm doing it again. A 10 to 15 minute loop or path is plenty for what you are trying to do. Extend it toward the end of the ride if you can.

Go more than one day, go 2 or 3 days in a row on the same path, 2 or 3 times. THis sounds like overkill, but trust me it works. I hope your riding buddies are patient. If not, get new ones, they have never had to do this, and they won't understand.

I've worked with more than several horses just like yours and they became wonderful trail and show horses, the trail keeps them refreshed and works different muscles, then the showing stuff is so easy for them. It usually takes a couple of months so dont' get discouraged. But some horses can figure this out in a week if you can do it several times on consecutive days.

The ones that start out liking arena work and the barn and are afraid of the trail eventually are the horses that really like coming up on picnic tables and trash cans,(AH civilization!) the other group of horses are scared of picnic tables and trash cans. Your horse may always hesitate a bit at stumps and rocks, but they will enjoy the outings and you'll have a great horse.
Good luck!
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#5 Sally

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Posted 29 August 2012 - 01:15 PM

Thank you so much for your replies!! This is exactly what I needed to hear.

Dreamcatcher ~ I have thought about taking him to some rides just for the experience.

lkirby ~I will definately have his eyes checked out.

Loriwoo ~ You have given me more to work on. I have done a little of leap frogging and he will lead for a little while then all of a
sudden just stops! Then won't go, the other horse will come up beside him and he will go then.......You just never know when he will
not want to lead.

Thanks!!

Trails can be scary, and many times a green horse forgets the rider is there with them out on the trail. SOme horses connect with the rider and remember the rider is there much sooner than other horses. Some horses forget the rider is there for them when they are distracted by something for up to a couple of years after saddle training, which is what your horse is doing as you constantly bring him "back to you". Most horses that have a hard time remembering the rider is "there" with them when they see something they find disturbing or disruptive are horses that were started later, like yours. They have spent more time as a horse than as a horse/human team, and it just takes time. Not to worry.


This may be a lot of his problem...

#6 ladycascabel

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Posted 29 August 2012 - 04:12 PM

I know he is seven, but that is actually still pretty young mentally for a horse, and especially for an Arabian. If his eyes are normal and you are not feeding him too "hot" a diet, plenty of miles and more time will undoubtedly make him into a bolder horse. As Loriwoo said, "not to worry". :happy:
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#7 secondchanceranch

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Posted 29 August 2012 - 07:49 PM

I have a trail/obstacle course set up in my pasture. Every horses here gets taken through the course from the time they have learned to lead as babies up to green broke horses to seasoned horses. My horses also get turned out in the same pasture periodically. I find that helps immensely :)

I have an old swing set that I tied pool noodles to for them to walk through, a bridge, an umbrella, several small jumps, poles, barrels, tires, a gate, tarps, a log to drag, a box to practice turn on the haunches/forehand, trails through the trees, etc... Basically anything I can think of to despook them and help build confidence.

You might try that if you have the room for it.
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#8 greygelding

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Posted 30 August 2012 - 01:59 PM

I have had a couple of these including the origional Mayo. He was afraid of everything - paper, plywood, gopher type dirt piles, gates, metal, 2x4's lying beside the trail, you name it. He became the best trail horse you could ask for. I spent HOURS working on things. I would not let him go by something he was afraid of until he would square up to it and put his nose to it. My friends started not to invite me for a ride as, and this is fact, a 1/2 hour trail ride would take over 1 1/2 hours to complete. We then went on a lot of solo rides and he eventually got to where nothing bothered him. Probably because he knew that I would make him "check it out" before we would go on. :lol: It's boring, scary, and very time consuming but well worth it. The other gelding did have vision problems but turned into a pretty good trail horse as he learned to trust me. Ride ready for the problems to crop up and sooner or later you will realize that you haven't had a problem for awhile. It's a great feeling as you can say you did it!

Best of luck, Mike

ETA: Aspen's thing is park benches and picnic tables. It has slowed down some workouts but she's getting the idea that there are no trolls hiding around them.

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#9 gemtri jane

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Posted 30 August 2012 - 11:40 PM

How many trail rides has he had in total? How many of those were with other horses?

#10 lkirby

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Posted 31 August 2012 - 08:34 AM

I have always found that a good "sacking out" helped my timid horses tremendously. Start with a small hand-towel and gently slap it repeatedly against your horse's face until he ceases to flinch while you are holding your horse's lead line. Don't tie your horse to any object until they are half-way through this training method. Then get a larger towel and start moving back to the hindquarters by gently but repeatedly slapping the neck, withers, front legs, stomach & back legs, etc., until your horse stops flinching. Gradually move to a larger sack that has lightweight rattling objects inside and start repeatedly slapping your horse's face and then move back to their hindquarters.

At the same time that you are "sacking out" your horse, work on having them obey your voice commands. Get your horse used to the extremely useful word "easy" by taking off any pressure from your horse for a full minute when they respond to this command. Also work on these voice commands: "stand still", "move over","stop that" and "Uh, Uh, Uh".

Lorna G. Kirby, PE
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