Monday, February 7, 2011

Reader Question on Trail Horses

I received a message from Mike asking if his 15.1- 15.2hh 4 year old Quarterhorse Gelding, who is sometimes lazy and pushy, would make a good back country trail horse, and what should be avoided when choosing horses for the back country?

Mike, I think about any horse can make a good back country trail horse. I have seen Thoroughbreds, Appaloosas, Arabs, Tennessee Walkers, and, grade horses of all shapes, sizes and colors. Quarterhorses can make great backcountry horses as they are generally sure footed, savvy without being hot blooded and that QH rear end is useful when going up hills and down.

I like to differentiate between lazy and pushy. Lazy horses aren’t necessarily bad.  I'd rather have a horse that’s lazy instead of wanting to run or bolt especially when I’m on a narrow trail in cactus country or close to a drop off. Pushy on the other hand is not good. They need to respect your space. You don’t need to be dismounted on that same narrow trail and have your horse come into you pusing you into a cactus or over the edge of a cliff.

If I was looking for another backcountry trail horse I’d look for a horse with good conformation, not to tall (around 15 to 15.1 hh suits me), a short back, inquisitive mind and above all good feet. Although my main trail horse now has exceptional thin hoof walls and my farrier can’t understand how he can hold up putting miles and miles over rock.

Everything else can be taught. I wouldn’t worry so much about their breeding, but I am found of Quarterhorses, Tennessee Walkers, Paints and grade horses with obvious QH type bodies. And I’m partial to geldings. The Paint horse in the picture above was 3/4 Tennessee Walker and 1/4 QH.  I have yet to ride or ride with Mountain bred horses but the obvious with them growing up on rough country and inclines would put them on my short list.    

I expose my horses to obstacles and not necessarily object’s that they will find in the desert or in the mountains, just obstacles none the less that gives them a problem to solve and help them become a brave and thinking horse. What I am looking for is a horse that may although be initially fearful, he doesn’t give into that fear and figures out that he can be okay with new things that he encounters.

A 4 year old is a young horse. Lots of wet saddle blankets will make him a good horse. He may not be a champion in any discipline, but I’m sure given a fair deal and brought along slowly he’ll be more than functional for the trail. Good luck and safe journey.

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