Winter wonderland has returned here to Spokane. Saturday's high was 17 I think so I didn't really even bother to leave the condo. I'm staying with my mom as my house has mold issues and the insurance/contractor are trying to get their -stuff- together so it can get fixed. Stalling? Noooooooooooo, surely not. My parent's have cable tv, which is about a million stations I've never even heard of before. It's like crack.
Sunday was a little warmer and I thought I could ride around on the driveway that loops around the barn as the arenas are slippery and full of snow. Unfortunately the driveway was really slick from cars packing the snow down, so the only option was to head out on the trail and through the frozen snowy hay fields.
We hit the first hay field at a very brisk walk. He asked to trot. We trotted, he asked to canter multiple times until I let him. There was about a foot of snow but he didn't seem to be slipping or sliding around, and by the time he was allowed to canter we were at the base of a hill that connects to another hay field. I let him stretch out a little, which was pretty exciting for both of us, and once we hit the top of the hill he very reluctantly came back down to a walk.
The next field is a lot bigger, and instead of following the trail that loops around to the left he chose to head for the biggest, longest, steepest hill at a trot. Then a canter. Up, up, up we went... I braced my hands at the base of his neck and he settled into a nice rhythm through the field. Until the terrifying pile of brown stuff showed up. He spooked, but I'm pretty sure it was just an excuse to take off. It's the first time he's taken off with me. With each bound I'm sure the 100s of acres were calling to him, telling him "look at how much space there is, go faster! faster! faster!" Luckily he's really not that strong (as in determined) and I got him pulled up before things got really out of control. We circled back and oh, the brown stuff is not that scary after all. Here, let me step through it. Then we cantered NICELY for a little bit more to prove we could. Then had a discussion about walking and NOT prancing. One of my biggest pet peeves, the prancing thing. After we got out of the field and onto a narrow trail in the woods he relaxed quite a bit.
All in all the ride was probably 20 minutes. The last 10 were on a loose rein through the woods and back to the barn. He walked through the last field, down the hill, and back to the barn with no problems. Got lots of and lots of praise. Gotta end on a good note.
What are your trail expectations? When you are on a trail ride or out hacking do you have a different set of rules for your horse than when you're in an arena?
My expectations on trails are that my horses walk on a loose rein. I don't care how fast they walk (mine always seem to be speed walkers), or if the meander around a little bit, but they may not prance or break gait without permission. Alexandre (not mine anymore) often stops to take in the views, especially when he's on top of a hill or overlooking a valley. He stops on his own to catch his breath on hills and will continue on when he's ready. He also "S" curves down the trail and sometimes chooses to walk through the woods. He's always happy and interested in his surroundings. I know I could keep him on the straight and narrow, but I let him choose his own path cause he enjoys it.
Jasper is not as confident as Alexandre, and is still learning how to stay on a trail. When he wonders off into the woods, which happens often, it's because he gets distracted by, well... everything. I try to use leg pressure to keep him on the trail rather than reins. I let him meander off into the woods every now and then, and he often gets himself in situations that he can't get out of (uh, gee, there's a big downed tree here and bushes on all sides, uh, duh. Or hey, I'm on top of a cliff of shale, can't really walk down that, uh...) but I figure he'll learn how to plan ahead and find a path eventually. I like to let horses use their brains and make decisions for themselves as much as possible. Alexandre can be in the deepest, darkest woods and can always find a way out. Jasper's just learning to walk through the woods and not get stuck.
And I almost always have light/medium contact at the trot and canter as the need for speed requires half halts.
Do you ride on a loose rein? Keep contact? Are you in control of your horse's every move? Let them make decisions and think for themselves?