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.