I am the proud and doting owner of a 24-yo horse with a non-healing suspensory injury. He should be enjoying pleasant strolls through the countryside, gently nursing his aged limb(s). But no. On a trail ride with a group (about 8 horses, granted none that he knew) this weekend, he started out very attentive and Proper, carrying himself very conscientiously, but as the ride continued, he got stronger and stronger. He had been on this trail once before, several years ago. I guess it’s possible that he remembered the way home, but seems unlikely. What do we think a horse is thinking, when it goes faster and faster, even though the rest of the herd is in no hurry and is not keeping up?
Horses are different going out to coming home
With this type of horse it is good to remember the rule about walking only towards home.
Yes they know the way home. The same way that a homing pigeon does.
Any horse I have ever owned does know the way ‘home’. Home being actual home, the trailer in a random parking lot, where we are stabled at a horse show, etc.
Well, then, he is both amazingly intelligent (which we knew) and an idiot. Most of the herd is behind him pottering along in happy relaxed cohesion. The trail is bucolic, with vast acres of green fields and pretty woods and stone walls and 300-year-old trees and birds chirping. It’s idyllic. The only thing ahead of him is an hour-and-a-half trailer ride home with everyone driving at high speeds bumper to bumper, and mom inventing new words that take the paint off the car at everyone cutting her off or trying to get in front of her when they’re coming up the entrance ramp doing 30 and mom’s doing 70.
As 14.2hh horse must be in front on trail rides, he is exhausted from keeping up with 16.2hh horse who also must be in front. The two of them race-walked the last mile or two, parallel to each other (“but, I’m still just walking, mom! See? Just walking!”).
Horse got home, did his male supermodel walk down to his paddock while all the other horses called to him, had his 4,237th snack of the day, and conked out with lip drooping, eyebrows twitching in his sleep.
I’m dying laughing. I know these feels!
Have you tried slowing him down with your seat? I find that tends to work the best with that super-annoying power walk. Tighten the core, resist the movement. If I try to get handsy, the horse decides it’s a fun little pissing match to get into, and if I try to circle it was the slowhalf-fasthalf-slowhalf-fasthalf small oblong circle, which now is way funnier than it was at the time.
What was his job when sound ? If it was endurance racing, he’s doing what he always did.
I have a semi retired gelding who’s a nut bar on trail rides when he realizes we’re turned for “home” only once in 20 years did he get ‘lost’ and behave the whole ride… his WTF reaction to rounding a bend and seeing our trucks and trailers was pretty cute.
Event horse this past weekend. He’d done the first two phases and was being tacked up to run cross country. He was so relaxed that he was standing with his his hind legs crossed and his rump leaning on the partition in the wagon while he rested his nose on the side and dozed, eyes drooping, even as his human attempted to put on his tack. Obviously this energy conservation worked as he won his section.
Hah-hah, endurance racing… hah-hah-hah! No, not an endurance horse. He is built for strength, not speed, this one. If we’re taking the position that he did know the way home, I think it could just be that this horse doesn’t love trailriding, and was ready to be done. He isn’t afraid of being out on trails; he just gives off the vibe of thinking it is stupid. He would rather be working, doing dressage-ish stuff. If I am riding him with purpose, giving him jobs to do while we’re going along the trail (or if his job is leading another horse), he is more content. He sees no point in just meandering around the countryside admiring the view and breathing fresh air. I don’t understand this, as I am never happier than when out meandering around the countryside, but, my teenagers never want to go hiking or bicycling with me either, so I guess it is a real thing.
I love my mare having a big walk on trails, but absolutely no jigging.
Over the past couple of years, I worked on cantering on our little trail system with canter/ grass break. It rewarded her for canter and it also made her easy to halt.
One ride I’ve been doing with a friend is up the powerline road to a good grass spot. We were cantering out most rides until we saw that the horses were getting way too jiggy. So we started walking out. They are super hyped still on the way out.
On the way home they relax. They know we aren’t going to gallop home.
I pretty much just gave up on any and all group trail rides. It’s all either QH’s who walk slower than paint dries or all gaited who run around like lunatics. Either makes me and my horses nuts. I ride solo or with a friend or two. And, while they are not allowed to run towards home, if they want a big walk- I’d never discourage that.
Bingo. Chip the nut bar and I have agreed that he can walk on like a MoFo going home or going anywhere. There’s nothing gained by demanding he walk like a QH just to stroke my training ego.
I’ve spent a long time cultivating a big marching walk on my Paint mare. I think it is glorious. I know she won’t transition up to trot or gallop from her big swinging walk. She’s happy when she moves like that, it’s excellent fitness for her, I love riding the swing, and it’s biomechanically correct.
If we get way ahead of other horses they have my permission to trot up, or I halt and let her graze for a minute.
And yeah. I like to ride alone or with one other person. I’ve never gone out in a group where there was no horse drama or incompatibility. I don’t want to ride with horses doing a shuffle.
Knowing the ride OP went on (the route is basically one I do regularly in the summer), and who typically attends, think more TB types, draft/TB crosses, foxhunters, etc. Gaited would be unusual for this group.
And I have met her horse, and he is as hilarious as described. He is little but thinks he’s Very Big. I did a hunter pace with her and him a few years ago, and before that a ride with her former horse. My mare is not easy to get along with sometimes, but she loved both of OP’s horses.
I would bet money that it was 3 things:
- His muscles were nicely loosened up part way in and he was feeling good.
- The other horses are viewed as a bit of a fun challenge “I can outwalk you!”
- Heading for “home”, which is just “being done”, always a huge reward even for young horses who love to work, wherever the end of the work might be. They get their lives back at the end. Just like us getting home from work (pre-covid) and throwing the bra across the room.