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Re: [RC] Starting young horses on the trail - Beth Leggieri - Karen Sullivan


Being older and more fragile, I would personally not want to ride out
on the trail, a young horse that had not been ponied out, or exposed
to things prior to saddle training.  So much cah be done with young
horses in terms of taking them places and handling, that is worth far
more than the actual under saddle work....

I started mine at home, sitting on them in stalls while they munched
from a hay rack, and then turning them in circles to go back to the
hay (cues and moving off leg,backing, going forwarrd etc)...and .they
were ponied with light saddles, packs, tools, etc....taken on the
trail, into town for restaurant band bar visits (tied to trees), and
used to seeing all sorts of strange things....

The saddle training takes a lot of time, but at least the trail stuff
is not new when you get on them and ride out...they can focus more on
the rider than the scary stuff that might be around the corner...and
they also have experienced some boring and tiring days on the trail
prior to being ridden, so tend to conserve some energy and be

You could not pay me to take a basically unhandled young horse, with
30 or even 60 days training and ride out on the trail, with no prior
trail experience!

The other advantage of either ponying out for a year or so, or even
letting them follow loose, is that they are legged and muscled up to a
certain degree, stronger, and you know their personality by
observation over time....

On 12/31/08, Sharon Hahn <sharon.hahn@xxxxxxx> wrote:
Here's my one-rat study.  I am certainly not an expert as this mare is
the only horse I've ever trained.

I started off by taking Gold to distance rides all the time, beginning
when she was a year old or possibly even younger - I don't remember
exactly.  Her job was to stand in the pen and observe, learn to deal with
diesel trucks driving by, dogs, flapping tarps, etc.  She also got ponied
around the farm and at the park, and I ground drove her a bit as a
two-year old.  So the trail was nothing new to her when I took her trail
riding for the first time.

When I started her, I rode her maybe 10 times tops in the outdoor arena
and then once we had "left," "right," and "whoa" down halfway decent, I
grabbed a friend and headed to the park.  My friend rode my old horse
(Gold's pasturemate and the one she'd been ponied off of).  I chose a
park with nice wide flat trails, good footing, and no traffic, bike
paths, water crossings, etc.  We walked the whole time because we hadn't
learned trot yet.  She thought this was fun and interesting and I kept
the rides short enough that she stayed interested and didn't get tired
(maybe 30 minutes at first).  With this particular mare, I think she
would have gotten bored and annoyed quickly in the arena, so since she
was meant to be a trail horse and I wanted riding to be enjoyable for
her, I did as little as possible in the ring.  I continued to ride her on
trail with my old horse along for a while, then branched out to one or
two other horses and some trotting (she basically learned trotting on the
trail and from ponying - I found it easier than trying to trot AND steer
to keep her going smoothly in a circle in the ring).  When I wasn't
nervous anymore, I moved up to riding alone (actually, as I recall, it
was a nice spring day, I wanted to go riding and couldn't find a buddy,
so I looked at Gold and said, "If I take you to the park alone, are you
gonna buck me off? "  She looked compliant so we went!)  We're OK alone
now but still need more practice riding in groups of more than 1 or 2

On the "lazy young horse" thread - this mare broke her ankle a couple of
weeks after that first trail ride and was laid up for nearly 2 years.  I
had to redo the ponying and arena training rides (so she had 30 days on
her over a 3+ year period!), but I found her much easier to work with as
a 5 year old than as a 3 year old.  She was just more mature (more brain
and a longer attention span.)  But I think all of the casual training I
did with her as a youngster was really helpful, because when I got on her
the first time, that was the only new thing (and actually, I used to sit
on her like she was a log when she was snoozing laying down in the
pasture, so even that wasn't totally new.)  She was pretty calm and
well-behaved throughout the whole training process.

It'll be interesting to read what other stories/opinions people have.

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[RC] Starting young horses on the trail - Beth Leggieri, Sharon Hahn