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3 Trail-Training Exercises
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3 Trail-Training Exercises

Most of us often go on a trail outing to relax, enjoy and leave behind all our burdens and strains and relish the unique experience of being with our horse. However, sometimes such a trail outing can turn into an exasperating experience, which tests our wills and abilities to handle a horse. The constant refusals of a horse to cross water or pass on by scary objects followed by spooky and bumpy ride can make your day tiresome. You become all the more frustrated when you see other people enjoying their ride on the trail. Such an experience on a trail outing is not a miracle, but only comes through proper training.

Here are three exercises that will help you to eliminate many problems that riders commonly experience on the trail.

Exercise 1: Perform Lateral Flexion

People often complain that their horse has a hard mouth. But the truth is that horses have a stiff and a hard body. You need to work on getting your horse soft and supple. If you accomplish this task, you may gain a greater control over him. Train him to bend from side to side. However, if you fail to carry out this exercise, then he may shove against the rein pressure and run away.

Step 1: Flex to the left

Make your horse walk around your area’s perimeter. As he walks, encourage him to bow his head and neck until it reaches your left foot. To do so, you have to slide your left hand down to the left rein and with steady pressure pull the left rein back towards your hip. Use left leg pressure to encourage him to bend his rib cage.

Step 2: Reward the slightest try

As soon as the horse’s foot stops moving, and he softens to the rein pressure, reward him instantly by releasing the rein pressure and allowing him to straighten his head. The faster you release the pressure, the sooner he will understand and the faster you will get to see positive results. Remember to be patient as he may take 15 to 20 minutes to soften.

Step 3: Flex to the right

As soon as you gain positive response on the left side, let him loosen up and unbend his head and make him walk straight for a few seconds. After that, repeat the exercise to the right side.

Exercise 2: Train Your Horse to Comply with Your Commands

Many times, horses get so elevated that they take no notice of your instructions to stop.  In such a case, you have to teach your horse to obey your commands. In this training exercise, your horse should halt as soon as he hears you saying “whoa.” Read on to learn how to train your horse to follow your commands.

Step 1: Warm up your horse

Make your horse walk around your area’s perimeter for about ten minutes so that he softens and loosens up from both the sides. After that, you have to make your horse walk and trot in transitions so that he gets a slight hint of the following training exercise.

Step 2: Trot and whoa

Make your horse trot around the ground’s fence while holding your reins loosely. After jogging for about a few distances, sit back and state “whoa.”  Then stop riding the horse, drop your weight backward and pull your heels downwards. You need to overemphasize the act of stopping and let your horse determine whether to halt or not.

Step 3: Apply lateral cues

Many times a horse will keep trotting straight as he may be trained to stop only when you pull the reins. In such a case, pull on the left rein and lead him towards the railing. After he stops, perform lateral flexion exercise on the left side. The prime goal of this exercise is to train your horse to listen to you, to loosen up and follow your commands. You have to perform this exercise for about six to seven small circles, or until he loosens up.

Step 4: Teach your horse to comply with your command – “whoa”

Allow your horse to trot down your arena’s perimeter for another 20 to 30 feet. Make sure that this time your fence is on your right side. After trotting, sit back and state “whoa." Wait for 2 seconds to see whether the horse complies with your instructions. If he does not obey you, then pull on the right rein and lead him towards the railing.

Step 5: Reward his actions

Keep repeating step 4 until he obeys your command and stops as soon as you state “whoa”. In the beginning, he may continue moving his foot for about 10 feet before he stops, which may indicate that your horse is slowly complying with your commands. Immediately reward him for such obedience by rubbing his head and allow him to rest for about 45 seconds. Such a positive reinforcement will help him realize that he has done something correct.

Step 6: Repeat the lateral exercise

After a few moments of resting, turn him towards the fence and repeat the lateral exercise. Then, again repeat the same procedure of trotting and halting the horse. However, this time your goal should be to stop the horse within 9 feet after you state “whoa.”

Exercise 3: Gain Your Horse’s Focus

Your horse may behave beautifully at home but becomes unruly, and out of control as soon as he spots a group of horses on the trail outing. Horses are highly susceptible to new places or new sounds or when they spot other horses. They are similar to kids who are highly energetic, and their energy magnifies all the more as soon as they spot something new. So, if you want your horse to behave appropriately, then make your horse practice the following exercise.

Step 1: Perform groundwork

Before going on a trail outing, you should perform some groundwork for about 10 to 15 minutes. Firstly, lunge him, and then carry out lateral flexion exercise on the ground. To do so, you have to stand at the left side, behind the cinch and then slowly bend his head to the left side. Carry out the same exercise on his right side. Once you gain his attention, then mount.

Step 2: Keep him busy

Avoid being passive and try to be more energetic, especially when your horse overreacts, and you feel that you are losing control over him. In such a situation, divert his energy in a positive way. You have to engage him mentally by putting his feet to work and repeatedly changing directions. You can make your horse sway in and out of trees, jump over logs and circle around the bushes. These are some of the ways that will shift your horse’s attention towards you and can make your trail outing all the more fascinating and enlightening. Remember, the more you engage with your horse, the more he becomes familiar with you, and soon you may develop a greater bond with each other.


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