Looking for a Great Trail Horse?
With a few exceptions, most horses can be taught and trained to be good trail horses. It takes discipline, patience and the respectful relationship forged between horse and rider. Keep the following traits and factors in mind when introducing a horse to trail riding:
Disposition of a Trail Horse
An intelligent horse with good instincts and ability to navigate new, unfamiliar terrain are best for enjoyable trail riding. Look for a horse that is naturally calm and relaxed. They should be reflexively cooperative with an easy going nature. This speaks to the main issue while out on the trail and that is safety.
A good indicator of this is if the horse is load willing. If it takes too much effort to get the horse in the trailer, or once loaded the animal is visibly stressed, this speaks a great deal to the unpredictability while out on the trail. However, many of those traits can be overcome with proper training. Regardless, they are signals of the horse’s natural disposition.
The horse should display a proclivity and enthusiasm to head out and explore new natural environments. As the rider, you should guide your horse with patience by allowing it to explore as well. If the horse is under constant stress and displaying anxious behavior by constantly moving about, he could become more of a liability when on narrow ridges or when crossing waterways.
Trail Riding Experience for Horses
Experience is a key factor, the longer they have been out in an uncontrolled environment, the better. Arena horses may have trouble at first with the adjust but this is where patience comes into play.
If you spend enough time out on the trail, something that spooks the horse will eventually occur. Horses have a heightened sensory awareness in order to survive and pick up on many things humans don’t detect. They may react to a bear or deer in the distance or a loud sound from behind them. Something as simple as a white rock and water can even startle the horse. What is important in these situations is how the horse reacts and that it trusts you. Does he cool off and return to neutral quickly once reassured, or does he stay agitated and stressed? If it is the latter, you have to consider more specialized training or not recommend this horse for beginner trail riders.
The relationship between horse & rider
When on the trail, the horse must easily go where directed and this largely depends on the relationship with the rider. If you are firm but respectful toward the animal and display a good deal of empathy, the horse will trust your judgment. Building a level of companionship will go far. A confidence must be fostered as you grow to trust in their abilities and they in yours. Horses are amazing at responding to pressure and will match your tempo even in the most precarious terrain.
When this relationship is established the horse will remain obedient and respond to cues when necessary. You will be able to better keep the horse’s focus on the trail ahead and not distracted by other horses or people around it.
Differences in Horse Genders
The gender of your horse is more a matter of preference. There are those that say geldings are easier to work with while others prefer mares. Stallions are prone to more hormonal bouts of energy and considered more unpredictable. They are not permitted in most national parks and public trails.
Either way, if the horse is friendly to other horses and people when under saddle he will make for an enjoyable ride whether leading, following or walking side-by-side.
Trail Riding & Rescue Horse
If you are looking for a great trail horse and riding companion, contact Equis Save Foundation. Many rescue horses make for great trail riding horses. Learn more about our horse adoption and available horses.