Hi guys, I’ve never been a trail rider, it’s new to me so I am hoping for a little advice from some regulars regarding the best way to approach an issue.
I have a 20 year old warmblood that I’ve had for almost 10 years who is now too creaky to do dressage any longer so I thought we’d start riding out, just to keep him moving into his old age and spend some time out of the arena.
To give some brief background on my horse, he comes from a line that’s known to be difficult. They’re beautiful movers, good conformation and they’re known to do well but the closer they get to GP the more their brain lets them down. I don’t think any of the sire’s progeny ever made it to GP despite having everything needed to get there, except temperament; they all started to unravel and don’t have good brains for pressure.
They’re sweet on the ground but when things get too hard for them under saddle they have a tendency to have little meltdowns and can lash out, they get angry, they stop co-operating, they plant their feet and refuse to go forward, they go backwards, they paw, kick out, rear, buck… basically anything. They can be good one second and then explode, and they can be quite dirty about it. I know of several trainers who will no longer accept horses of this particular breeding, they’re well known for being dirty and not completely trainable.
My horse is pretty true to that type and has done all of those things. I’ve had him for 10 years so know how to defuse him in the arena for dressage work but as a trail rider I’m new so I’m not sure on the best tactics to get what I’m asking for. I can’t even really call myself a trail rider as I’ve never actually gone out on a trail, we haven’t gotten there yet, so far I’ve just been riding him around the property to check the fences every day, it’s probably only about 50 acres but there are plenty of places that are new to him. Before heading outside the property I want to know what sort of horse I have away from the arena. I should have done this with him many years ago, I only have myself to blame on that front.
The biggest issue I have at the moment is having him just stand still in new areas. I just want him to stand still when nothing is being asked of him, which is a pretty normal thing to ask of him in an arena and we haven’t had issues doing just that for 10 years!. But is this something that should be avoided for horses in unfamiliar areas? Is it a better idea to keep them moving along? If I take him somewhere unfamiliar he’ll stand for a few seconds but then starts walking off despite not being asked. I’ve been pushing his quarters over whenever he moves off and then having him stand again until I’m ready to move off, that’s what I’d do for any other horse but because of my horse’s neanderthal brain it makes him angry. He’s now bucking like a bronc and snaking his head at being asked to stand still. He doesn’t want to stand still, I want him to stand still.
I don’t excuse and let him get away with bad behaviour but I also can’t ignore his nature, this is a horse who will happily escalate and the more you push the worse he gets. I get around it by asking him for the same thing a different way but I can’t think of another way to ask him to stand still.
So what do you think? Any ideas for the best plan of attack with this horse? I feel like perhaps asking him to stand still is too much, that he needs to keep his feet moving to keep his brain happy but I just don’t know so I thought I’d come ask people who do this far more than I do.