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desertpony

Group Riding - Horse Manners Problem

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So, took the new girl out to practice for competitive trail riding this past weekend. We;ve been training/ conditioning for the last few months, but this was our first big group experience. We work with a dressage trainer in the arena on horsemanship and basics, but he;s not trail-savvy. So, our trail work has been solo to date.

I expect my horse to be under my control at all times. She wasn;t. I had only one style bit along- a very gentle korsteel eggbutt curved snaffle with an oval mouth. She just charged through that thing. She bolted, grabbed the bit, ignored the bit, etc... This is her regular training bit and she is typically responsive to it, but with the stress and excitement of the other horses, she lost it. Yes, this is a training issue and we'll continue to work on it, but I need to use something that I have more control with (and stopping power) that will not undermine our primary trianing efforts. Thoughts?

She wanted to race. At a walk she was comfortable in a group, leading, following, or in the middle. Once we got more than a couple lengths back from any horse OR saw an new horse ahead of us on the trail, she got very jiggy. It didn;t matter if she had a buddy next to her or not. She wanted to catch up with any horse in front of her. At a trot, this was intensified. I did a lot of "Easy" and one rein stop, lots of circles, but even after three days of wet saddle pads, she was no better.

Oh, and the best part? When we did pass others, she struck out. Nice, huh? I tried to use my leg to push her hinquarters out from the other horse and drive her forward and said "NO!" She has earned her red ribbon, but suggestions on this?

Thanks all!

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My suggestion would be to watch the CA Training on the Trail series. I could make a whole post about what to do but CA explains (and shows) so much better.

You said you did circles. That's a great start. It's going to take time. Just keep working.

As far as the bit, it's not for control. If you don't have control of the feet, you're not going to get it with a bigger bit.

Good luck. Where is the CTR that you are training for? I'm Trail Boss of the Bald Mountain Butt Buster August 15-17, 2008. We've got our trails set, not just waiting for the snow to melt so we can ride them. Probably May.

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I agree with AKPonyGirl.

I watched Clinton Anderson at a clinic not long ago and he focused for a 1/2 hour on trail riding and what to do for a horse behaving such as that.

It wasn't just for bad horse behavior, it was for all types of horses out on the trail.

He put a lot of humor into it, but he was very helpful and had a lot of good ideas.

Check out ebay, you might be able to pick up his "trail riding" dvd, cheaper there than on his site.

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It sounds like your horse is resorting to normal herd behavior, like it would when turned loose in the pasture. It seems to me that she is still trying to figure out the rules of group trail rides. You need to work with her to teach her the rules. She is getting easily excited by the new surroundings and not minding you.

I personally would take out only a few horses at a time, and just spend the whole time working with your horses, getting them use to trail riding and figuring out what is expected (like obedience and trail manners). Hours in the saddle will usually make a great trail horse, unless there is something else going on. Your horse probably didn't do dressage perfectly the first few times either. [Razz]

Also, a good way for a horse to learn the drill, is to go for rides with experienced trail horses, your horse will take mood cues from the other trail horses.

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DesertPony,

I feel your pain!!! You have my horse!!!

When I haven't ridden in months due to weather or whatever and we go out with the Saddle Club on what is supposed to be a relaxing 3-4 hour ride....I have the same freaking problem! Attitude, wants to be 1st...wants to catch up....geez, it makes it miserable.

I am a CA follower all the way and we just seem to do lots of circles and one rein stops and at times she'll settle down. I'm so tired when we get back......my horse is a Mustang I trained myself. But she is 5 and still has an attitude.

Best of Luck to both of us...

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I agree with the others. Sounds like your horse is still learning how to behave in a herd on a trail ride. I also like Clinton Andersons and Chris Cox methods and I do lots of asking for softness in the poll and if I don't get it easily I do roll backs. Changing direction a lot makes them tired quick and they realize it is easier to walk along calmly rather than rush into another roll back.

I like trail riding on the beach. If you don't have a beach find someplace safe and wide open. Then all the riders can fan out and go in all directions sort of alone and the horses don't know who is leading and who is following. Good training grounds.

Also agreeing with the others start out in a small group with experienced horses. Your horse will take a cue from their attitude and be more calm with a small group. Work your way up to the bigger groups slowly.

Personally I don't like big groups anyway. It's too hard to have an enjoyable ride in a big group.

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Can you find 1 other person to go out with?

Someone willing to help you with the training issues?

That would be helpful before going out with a bigger group.

Play leap frog - where you take turns passing each other and taking the lead.

Become a pro-active rider instead of reacting to your horse. Ride your own ride. Go around bushes, rocks, trees, all the while controlling your horse's feet.

Good luck and enjoy your first CTR. My horse was a total pill the first few rides, so I know what you're going through...

PS: regarding the bit, you might want to switch to a full cheek just to be sure it does not pull through your horse's mouth. Still a gentle bit with a similar effect to the one you are using now - korsteel makes them with the french link also.

Also,remember, should you feel unsafe, you can always dismount and work on issues on the ground. [smiley Wavey]

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Dont' ride alone! go with someone else who knows you and your horse and will help you out in times of trouble. Someone who can grab your horse if it's not listening or trying to take off. As far as kicking out...I'd have a dressage whip handy-she'd have a few marks on her rear for that. Sorry...I have NO SYMPATHY for 'mean kickers'. Nip it in the bud-or you'll have no friends at the CTR. And they do take off for bad behavior!

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I'd go with one or two other people whose horses are trail wise. Horses learn better from other horses. Just walk and don't be in a hurry. Get her relaxed in that long rein - low head swinging gait you strive for in dressage and then graduate to a little trotting but do this on a long rein. Also put her in front. She'll be more worried about having the responsibility of being the lead horse that she "should" not run off when you increase your pace. I always put the horses behaving badly up front and that normally settles them down...but not always. But back off being nitpicky about the little things and let her figure this out for herself. As far as kicking goes - what I Miss My Bud said. She needs to know that is inappropriate behavior.

Keep in mind that some horses just do not make safe trail horses. And if she does not get with the program and you are not enjoying yourself then you may be stuck in the dressage ring.

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Thanks to everyone for the ideas. I;ve taken her on a couple more rides and can give some updates/ clarifications.

She is safe and obedient alone and in small groups. In is the "graduation" to large groups that has been difficult. I do want to compete in CTR with her, and, for instance, the ride next month will have 60 competitors.

Last weekend our ride was 40 horses, and I don;t really think she is buddy-sour. I;ve dealt with that before and, it may be a piece of it, but is not the over-riding issue here. She wants to chase and pass other horses. She doesn;t care if there are horses next to her or behind her, as long as they are in front, she wants to catch them. Then, the passing/ bunching up is where she gets more agitated-- not listening to me anymore and acting aggressive. It has been fine with one-two other horses- but once there are large groups of "strangers", she wants to assert herself. She is an alpha mare. Because the passing was the most difficult situation, I decied just to work on getting calm and working on a close range as horses moved off at different lengths than us. We worked the back of the ride to avoid anyone passing us. When we were separated from the main group by some space, she was much calmer. I also found that as she was forced to use her mind to work the trail, she was much better. In the wide open spaces, she got the most antsy- no surprise I guess. I think I need to learn more about what can calm her. For instance, when I put my gelding in a stretching routine, he "automatically" calms down immediately. Suggestions for calming cues that work for you?

I agree with the idea that she just needs more exposure to it, that;s why I;m taking her out again this weekend... will keep you posted. Thanks again!!

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Also, I was surprised at the overwhelming response not to change bit. Too many people think the bit will solve the problem- I;m not one of them. But safety first and a horse that won;t whoa in this mindset is dangerous. In other situations, we have a one - two stride transition from go to whoa.

Our next big ride (40 horses) is this saturday and I was thinking of taking an extra bit-she;s usually in a korsteel eggbutt curved double-jointed snaffle with an oval mouth center. She is also learning to carry a myler comfort snaffle with a roller and low port on 7" shanks for western pleasure and trail class. I am thinking of wrapping my smooth single-jointed snaffle-type mouthpiece on a gag O-ring with triple rings that you can easily adjust from the saddle for direct pressure or leverage pressure. You can also use a curb chain with this bit. just thoughts...

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