5 Things to Teach Your Trail Horse

5 Things to Teach Your Trail Horse

Group of horseback riders on a desert trail

As summer approaches, this is the perfect opportunity for you to take your horse out for fun rides. Many riders love to take their horse to different places such as trails or other friends’ fields. If you want to take your horse to a trail, it is crucial to teach your horse different things. Below are 5 things that you can learn to teach your trail horse before going on a summer trail ride.


Teach your Horse where to put his feet

Trail riding is different from riding your horse in a field or a flat surface. It is important to take your horse out to a shorter, rocky trail to evaluate your horse’s foot placement. Your horse has to be comfortable stepping onto rocks, pebbles, and overall on uneven surfaces. The best way to work on this is just to continuously watch the foot placement and to take multiple test runs on rocky surfaces before actually going on a very long trail ride.  


horseback riders on a trail bridge

Teach your Horse “ride specific” training 

If your horse is new to ride training, there are a few tips that you should consider before planning out a ride. First, your horse should be comfortable being tied to anything. This includes trees, bushes, fences. One way you can practice this is through at-home training. You want to make sure your horse is comfortable being tied to different areas; if not, this could lead to panic or anxiety within your horse. Next, you should practice walking over bridges. Bridges are important to practice walking over because you will most likely encounter different types of bridges at different trail locations. A few bridges to keep in mind are wood, metal, concrete, and bridges with or without siding. Along with walking on bridges, practice walking in the water, mud, and rocky areas. The last important thing to consider when training is to make sure your horse can be around other horses. If other horses are around and your horse gets anxious, your horse may kick another person or horse. You can always tie a ribbon around your horse’s tail just to let people know not to get close if your horse struggles with this specific training. 


Teach your Horse to get over water phobia

At various trails, you will most likely be around bodies of water. If your horse is reluctant to cross water, there may be fear of the unknown. Practice going over small creeks or smaller bodies of water to test your horse’s comfortability. Make sure to give your horse the time to overcome any uncertainties felt in the present moment. Keep the horse between your aids and realize that you should always be facing the water. If your horse still feels anxious, allow other riders to pass by. Follow the other riders because your horse will see that the path is safe. The most important tip is to build up your horse’s confidence around water. 


Teach your Horse how to get over leadership anxiety 

Your horse may experience leadership anxiety. This means that your horse may be scared and timid to lead a herd of horses. You should not force your horse to lead the pack if you decide to ride with friends. The best tip is to compromise to make sure your horse feels comfortable in the situation. Your horse can be in the middle of the pack and then gradually, you can lead your horse to the front. This may be a great idea to implement when you are riding in multiple small groups. Your horse won’t feel the extreme pressure to lead a large group but will have a sense of confidence instilled when realizing that it is okay to lead smaller packs. In other words, test out the merry-go-round game to see how your horse reacts to being in the back of the pack, middle of the pack, and then the front of the pack. Your horse will gain new experience being in each situation and this game is a confidence-building exercise for every person and animal involved. 


silhouette rider and horse on hind legs

Teach your Horse to not get spooked 

Horses who are spooked easily have a high startle reflex. Your horse may have the initial reaction to turn and run in a scary situation. Spooking comes from the idea that there is fear of the unknown. Sometimes, this behavior stems from the rider’s overreaction. Also, a fun fact is that some horses use spooking on the trail as a form of play. This can occur especially when other horses are around. If your horse is relatively calm but has poor eyesight, your horse could feel doubtful while riding and is more easily spooked. As a rider, you need to know how to take control of your horse in a spooked situation. Stop your horse at a substantial distance away from the spooking to allow the horse to analyze what just happened. Once your horse is calm, start trying to move forward. This may become a start and stop the process until your horse is fully calm. Make sure to be patient during this time. 

These are just a few ways to improve or help teach your trail horse techniques before going out on the actual trail. Try to implement some of these tips into your training program. Make sure that your horse has fun and that you both are listening to each other’s comfort. 

There are so many amazing places to explore with your horse and implementing these few tips can make the experience more enjoyable for you and your horse. At Equine Medical and Surgical Associates, we care about the health and safety of all horses in every activity that they do. Care for your horse like they are part of your family and enjoy their company on the trails!