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To help guide you to a deeper relationship with your horse.

 

Active Trail Riding
Make your trail riding safer and more fun!

Trail riding is one of the most relaxing of the equine sports. There is nothing quite like following a trail through a fern-lined redwood-grove that opens upon a grass covered knoll where the ocean gleams in the distance, or round a corner to find a four-prong buck standing on the path in front of you.

The downside of trail-riding is that while riders relax in the saddle, they allow their horse to be the decision-maker and what puts a horse into a flight pattern may not be dangerous in human eyes. When a horse is focused on saving himself from danger, or is in a state of panic, he is impervious to his rider’s soft aids. This can lead to some very dangerous outcomes.

To avoid these situations, it is important that, even when horses are on a long rein, they are still listening to the aides at all times. We must stay balanced in the saddle, not unintentionally bump our horses’ sides with our legs, yank on their mouths, or throw our weight this way and that.

To ensure that our horses are still listening we can ask them to do something every few minutes along the trail. Of course, if you are riding with friends, let them know that you and your horse will be playing a little as you ride.

One of the first things you can do is play with walking and halting. You can count strides and every fifth stride or so, quietly ask your horse to halt. You can change your stride count to keep your horse attentive. If you and your horse can come to a halt smoothly and consistently after two strides or twenty, you can feel more comfortable that your horse will stop with you during an emergency.

Once walk-halt transitions are mastered, insert trot and canter transitions so that, no matter what the gait, in an emergency, your horse will stay with you. Even when you travel at faster gaits practice counting your strides the way you did at the walk. For instance, five strides of trot to five strides of canter to five strides of trot to five strides of walk to a nice quiet halt. This way the horse stays tuned to you, does not become exhausted, nor does he take off at a pace that is faster and more energetic than you want.

Side-passing back and forth across the trail also is a helpful maneuver. There are many times when a branch of poison oak or a rock outcropping may not in the horse’s way but could hit you in the face. If you can move your horse from side to side, nasty accidents can be avoided.

Prepare your horse beforehand for those times when it is necessary to turn around on a narrow trail. Practice circling around trees, bushes, and rocks. Teach your horse to perform turns on the haunches and walk pirouettes.

Have you ever dropped something on the trail, dismounted to pick it up, and struggled to get your horse to hold still while you remounted? Practicing mounting and dismounting here and there on the trail provides you and your horse with pre-emergency practice and the opportunity to take a little break and stretch your legs. Be sure to bring a few slices of carrots and apples along to reward your horse for his good work.

If you keep your horse engaged while you ride the trails, you will find that your riding will be much more pleasurable and you and your horse will navigate emergencies in unison!

Many horses are fearful of water especially when it is moving. This anxiety may have started years before when they first became nervous while approaching a stream and were whipped or spurred by their rider to encourage them forward. Their mouths were yanked when they tried to turn around to run away. From the horse’s point of view, water obstacles must be really awful because it turns his owner into a punitive monster! Punishing a horse for being anxious will intensify his fear.

Instead, find a safe body of water where you can spend part of your day playing in and around water with your horse. Bring a lunch and be prepared to take your time. Get off your horse, walk your horse past the stream, lake or mud-puddle and reward him for every calm step he takes. Maintain a happy mood; laugh, play, splash, and enjoy your time with your horse. Play with your horse on the ground until he relaxes. Do not force your horse into the water. Reward him with a slice of carrot or apple every time he steps near or in the water. Do this until your horse feels comfortable walking across the stream with you by his side before you try to ride him across. Keep it fun!

2015 BITLESS RIDING CLINICS

Bitless horse-rider teams practice ground & flat work, trail-riding, and traversing obstacles. An action-packed two-day experience!.

  • August 8 - 9 (Sat-Sun) Orangevale, CA
  • August 22 - 23 (Sat-Sun) Orangevale, CA
  • September 12 - 13 (Sat-Sun) Orangevale, CA
  • September 26 - 27 (Sat-Sun) Orangevale, CA
  • October 10 - 11 (Sat-Sun) Orangevale, CA
  • November 7 - 8 (Sat-Sun) Orangevale, CA

NEW! An optional third day of group practice with a half-hour private session will be offered at the end of each clinic. Space is limited! Auditors: $50 Riders: $200

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