October 30, 2012
Think back to when you were a small child and the older kids told scary stories after dark. Did you feel a little uneasy? Remember some other kids saying, “Stop it!” As a grown adult, do those same stories still scare you? Do remember when the ghosts went away? It was probably about the same time you said, “You don’t scare me.”
It’ s Halloween and the ghosts, goblins, and monsters are lurking inside the horse trailer. Tensions are high and you feel ready to jump and run! Sound like the last time you tried to load your horse in the trailer? If so, you need to call ghostbusters. Go ahead, sing the song while you read the rest of this post. Ghostbusters! “We ain’t afraid of no ghosts!”
Maybe you need to say the same thing to those ghosts in the horse trailer. If you are tense while loading your horse, he senses “you believe there is a ghost” inside. If you as his trusted leader are afraid of that ghost, then your horse is a true believer and really thinks a ghost is in there.
The next time you go to load your horse, chase away those ghosts. Mentally decide you are going to walk into that trailer and the horse is going to follow you right inside. Take the horse and boldly walk towards the trailer with the door open. Don’t pause, just walk straight in and don’t wait for the horse. Just expect him to follow you. If you think there still might be a ghost, then keep singing the song. Seriously, if you are trying to load a horse and don’t demonstrate fearlessness, you are creating ghosts for your horse that don’t exist. You are telling scary stories late at night and the horse believes you.
Caveat: Horses in small areas can be harmful to your health. If you don’t know what you are doing, get some professional help. If you have loaded horses in the past without trouble, but have a horse now that is hard to load, make sure you aren’t the problem by telling him ghost stories.
October 28, 2012
In order to have success with your horse, there must be trust and confidence in the rider. If the horse doesn’t have full confidence in the person doing the driving, problems can arise. The more a horse is trained and ridden by the same person, the more the horse is likely to trust that person. It doesn’t necessarily mean the horse will accept direction from someone new to the horse. Part of our training is to develop horses for YOU. So training includes changing riders as much as possible in the later months of the program. We often place a new person on the horse to monitor additional training the horse and sometimes the rider may need. Here is our Summer intern working one of the horses to see how he will react to someone else.
Just recently, we had a situation with horse that had undergone extensive tarp training with the tarp placed over his head while under saddle. The tarp was shaken, dragged, tossed in the air, and finally thrown over the horse’s head while being ridden. The point was to work on desensitization. The horse passed with flying colors. However, a few weeks later with a completely different rider that the horse didn’t fully trust resulted in him flinching when a jacket was removed while headed down the trail. He didn’t spook or panic, but he stepped away as the coat came towards his neck.
We already knew it had nothing to do with the object as he was used to tarps. The test was a good one as it showed he still needs some work learning to trust other people. It is one reason we look for interns from the veterinary and equine schools to help out and actually test the training work we do. Just like the fire department, we use real life simulations to see how the horse handles a situation and to watch for areas of additional training.
We also like to stress to people new to horses that just because the horse will respond to the trainer doesn’t mean the horse will act the same way for them. For the horse, a new rider is a lot like being the passenger in a car. Sometimes you don’t trust the driver until you have ridden with him for a while. Horses don’t always have confidence in a new person and need time to decide if they should trust their judgment and decisions. Some horses are naturally more trusting than others and some riders demonstrate good leadership that instills confidence faster than some. Bottom line: success occurs when the rider inspires the horse to undertake a task or obstacle without fear or concern for rider’s judgment.
October 26, 2012
Trail horses are required to be surefooted, no exceptions! Once you’ve ridden a horse that is clumsy, you don’t forget the experience. A horse falling with you brings an adrenalin rush that we don’t especially enjoy. When you feel the horse start down, you have to decide whether to ride it all the way down or bail off. It’s no fun anywhere, but on a steep trail it can be extremely dangerous and even fatal. This photo makes it a little hard to see the grade and the rocks in the path on the way down. There were several rocks sticking out in the trail that could have easily caused a horse to stumble. The grade was steep enough in places to allow a horse to tumble head first if the front feet tripped. The horse in picture is Jack. He really pays attention to his feet and where he puts them.
The horses in our training program are ridden into the rocks and rougher parts of the ranch in the first few weeks of riding. The purpose is to teach the horse early to pay attention to his feet while simultaneously learning to balance the load he carries. If the horse can’t figure out how to deal with the rider and the rocks, we don’t need to waste time with future training. As we said, a falling horse is unpleasant to say the least. Not to mention we have too many athletic horses in our horse training program to continue working with one that doesn’t have what it takes to make a sound trail horse.
October 24, 2012
Jack is working his way towards graduation from our two-year training program. He is doing excellent and shown here being ridden in the middle of the lake. The horses that successfully complete the program demonstrate stamina, physical agility, strength, mental focus, calmness, and soundness in every way. Riding into water is not a big deal for Jack and this photo demonstrates his willingness to wade into a big body of water he had never seen before. Jack went straight into the lake without hesitation and up and down the shoreline through some slippery, muddy places with ease. He never showed the slightest anxiety and acted like he plays in the lake everyday. He is a hard worker and ready to attempt whatever is asked of him. Jack will graduate in May, 2013. Keep an eye on his him, he’s a nice horse.
October 22, 2012
A trail horse should know how to ground tie. Here is Jack shown on a trail ride left standing without being tied to anything. The left rein was dropped to the ground and his rider walked away as a test. Failing the test meant his rider was going to walk back to the truck or be riding double behind someone else. When you ride a lot, there are constantly situations that come up where you need to get off for some reason and there aren’t always good places to tie your horse. You need to be able to drop the reins without concern about your horse running away. It takes practice and repetition, but it is well worth the effort, unless of course, you like hiking!
October 20, 2012
Recently we saw a post about a woman losing hope of finding her dream horse. She wrote, ” In the past few months I have been bucked off by a ‘total gentleman’, whipped round with on the road by a so-called ‘perfect hack’, reared up with by a ‘complete schoolmaster’ – and have now given up. I even put a very truthful wanted advert out there and the result of that adventure was being dumped on the road and generally traumatised. ”
We offered her some polite comments that might be useful to others looking for that perfect horse. Every buyer is part of the communication process that is either a success or failure. No doubt there are unscrupulous horse traders willing to sell you a heavily medicated outlaw, but there are also buyers who don’t really know how to articulate what they want.
A buyer should sit down and spend a couple of hours day dreaming about everything they plan to do with the horse AND WRITE IT ALL DOWN. Armed with these, hopefully detailed plans, the buyer should be able to develop some detailed points or outline of attributes for their purchase. Unfortunately, we often hear comments, like I want a really good horse that’s gentle.
Vague and undefined terms like ” good ” are meaningless in communication because ” good ” means something different to everyone. Don’t believe me, head down to Starbucks and ask the people standing in line to order you a ” good ” cup of coffee.
When you come to understand how many cups of ” good ” coffee are available, you will be on your way to the realization that ” good ” horses are everywhere depending on the other guy’s definition of a good horse. If you have questions, let us know. We recognize a novice horse buyer may not know what they are looking to buy and we are happy to offer things our horses are expected to do.
More importantly, we believe people need to ride the horse several times before they purchase and make sure the horse really is their dream horse.
October 16, 2012
Trail riding offers solitude and an opportunity to relax. Cell phones, computers, e-mails, and demands of the job can leave you wound pretty tight and ready to strangle people. A little quiet time on horse back on the trail reduces stress and restores the sanity you lost at the office. You can’t beat the effects on your attitude and mental outlook. Better and less expensive than a psychiatrist, horse back riding will give you a new outlook on life. If you find your life is full of stress, do something about it. Get on a good horse and head down the trail. The fresh air, sunshine, and beauty of nature will lower your blood pressure, help you sleep, and improve your life in countless ways!
October 14, 2012
Speck is the perfect example of the quiet nature we like to see in one of our trail horses for sale. He doesn’t get excited about much of anything. The disposition comes from three things. Genetics surely plays a large part. The American Quarter Horse with the foundation blood lines produce nice horses. The training Speck was given used his good genetics and taught him to accept circumstances that would frighten a lot of horses. He has been required to drag tarps, ride with tarps covering him, walk across tarps, bridges, drag logs, pony colts, exposed to tractors, semi-trucks, motorcycles and everything we could throw at him. He has been exposed to sirens, barking dogs, and deer jumping up nearly underneath him. Third,we have been pulling wet blankets off his back for approaching 17 months. While Speck has a little more to complete before graduating the two-year program, he is well on his way. Not long ago he passed umbrella training where he stands still while an umbrella is opened and closed repeatedly and noisily with a rider on him. Speck is going to make someone a really special horse with many, many years of fun and good times!
October 12, 2012
We have owned or ridden nearly every breed of horse out there. So why did we select the American Quarter Horse for the trail horse of choice? Several reasons come to mind, but admittedly we live in Oklahoma. It’s quarter horse country! More importantly, the Quarter Horse has the mind, attitude, personality, willingness, and athletic ability to do the job.
Trail riding requires more self-control from a horse than almost any other activity or event. Surprise you! Well think about it for a minute. Trail horses are required to maintain self-control in all sorts of situations. They are ridden in rough terrain with natural predator wildlife such as cougars, wolves, etc. and expected to safely take their rider where he wants to go. These horses are ridden in rescue work, parades, and around countless other events.
There are great mounts in every breed, but the Quarter Horse combines the best from our view. They work hard and enjoy the task at hand. Willing to attempt nearly anything, they still retain a good sense of their surroundings and the situation. They learn fast and remember what you taught. Although there are benefits to every breed, the American Quarter Horse is our preferred choice.
October 10, 2012
Trail rides should be fun. Sure, some may come with a sense of adventure, but there shouldn’t be apprehension to trail riding. Sarah writes, ” I don’t go trail riding very often because I like to have fun while trail riding and not fear for my life or have to work on training the horse, both of which are prone to happen when I take a green farm horse out that has never gone up or down an incline or through water and over sticks. I should know, I’ve experienced it multiple times and none of those times were fun. ”
We want to give Sarah credit for a couple of things. First, she recognizes a ” green horse ” can be dangerous. Second, she is knows the importance of riding within her ability. Both are key components to safe horse back riding.
We love to ride the trails and use them to train our horses. In our view, those long days on the trail bring countless benefits for the horse and set the stage for teaching the horse all sorts of things from neck reining to standing quietly when offered the opportunity. We were really glad to see Sarah’s later post detailing a trail ride and the fun she had. There’s absolutely nothing better than a day on the trail on a good horse!
October 8, 2012
Welcome to horsesfortrail.com, a blog dedicated to trail horse riders and their mounts! We write to give updates about equine events related to trail riding, tips on teaching your horse, progress on horses in our training operation in Bixby, Oklahoma, and encouraging the most relaxing and therapeutic activity in the world, horse back riding. Recently we have picked up several new readers and your interest is genuinely appreciated.
Education is an essential component of success in everything in life. Horses are no different. The goal of horses for trail is to help provide insight into the world of trail riding and help others avoid some of the things we learned the hard way! Yep, we want to save you those ” Ouch, that hurt ” mistakes. Thanks again for your kind interest in the blog and trail riding.
October 6, 2012
If you decide to use a professional horse trainer, you may be asked if you want your horse to perform to the best of his ability. The question is usually asked in general conversation and it is the rare owner who answers no. After all, you want to get as much for your hard-earned money as you can right. Well maybe.
Let’s think about it just a little. First, if you could get the horse to do what you wanted, a professional trainer probably wouldn’t be under consideration. Most folks don’t spend money for services they don’t need. So if you are going to a training facility and using a trainer, it is probably because you need some help. Otherwise, you probably would just do it yourself.
Outside trainers by nature want to do their best and often push a horse to the edge of his ability. It’s great watching the trainer, but not so good for the owner. Common sense tells you a professional horse trainer rides better than his customer. Pushing the horse to the limits of his physical and mental abilities likely means the horse will perform above the customer’s riding level. Our experience has been most people want a horse they can ride. Not a horse their trainer can ride!
One reason we set up our two-year training program was to develop horses almost anyone could ride. These horses often have athletic ability far above our typical customer’s riding capability. So to compensate, we first train for the horse’s potential and then teach the horse to adjust to cues slower and respond less quickly. The intended result is a horse that can perform when needed, but doesn’t react faster than the rider.
For example, we have some horses trained to the point that the slightest leg cues move the horse and quickly. Perfect for a reining horse, but not so good for a purchaser wanting to ride trails without falling off. Bottom line, if you are going to an outside trainer, find one that can ( and will ) teach the horse to perform at the level you ride. Talk to them before you deliver the horse and make sure there is a clear understanding who is going to be riding your dream horse, you or the trainer!