Fall is the time of year to get out on the trails and ride. Enjoying a nice fall trail trail ride is fun for both horse and rider. However, a trail ride cannot be truly enjoyed unless you can set your horse on autopilot.
What's autopilot? Autopilot is when you set your horse at a certain speed and direction. The horse then stays at that speed, in that direction without changing and without you touching the reins. If you can teach your horse to run smoothly on autopilot, your ride will be much more relaxing and enjoyable for both of you.
Step 1: Start at the Trot
I like to start training autopilot at the trot. It's one of the hardest gaits to train autopilot on, but once you have it down, the other gaits will be easier. If you have an energetic horse, they are going to want to break into a lope or canter. If you have a lazier horse, they will want to slow down to jog or a walk. Some horses will just try to head back home. Be grateful for any mistake they make as it gives you opportunity to fix the holes in their training and ultimately make them a better horse.
Find a nice straight-ish trail; it does not have to be perfect. Start riding out at a posting trot or just a faster jog. Ride your horse like you would normally. Once you have found a good rhythm, loosen the reins and see what happens. Your horse may take the opportunity to slow down, speed up, or maybe turn for home. Whatever your horse does, allow him to make the mistake then correct it. Why? If you hold your horse back from making the mistake you are just preventing the issue not fixing it. You have to allow the horse to make the mistake, then correct it so he knows it was incorrect.
If your horse slows down, ask him to speed up again. Once he is back at the proper pace, release the reins and try again. Same with speeding up. Ask the horse to slow down then release and start over. If your horse tries to turn around, do a few circles then put him back on track at a trot. Be consistent with your cues. If he keeps wanting to speed up, make sure you ask him to slow down in the same way every time. If you are not consistent your horse will get confused, which will make you frustrated, which will in turn make your horse frustrated.
Be sure to work on this lesson going to and from home. Lots of horses will mosey out on a trail away from home, but want to rush back. You want to be consist in both directions.
Keep this up until your horse will trot willingly at the same speed in the same direction with no cues from you. Don't get disappointed when it does not happen right away. This will take several lessons and lots of patience. The payoff is great though, so keep it up!
Disclaimer: Of Horse! and sponsors do not endorse nor validate the accuracy of a blog post. Each article is the opinion of the blogger.