Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Common Bad and Dangerous Habits on the Trail

I received an e-mail from a person, who name I will not use, asking for me to write a post about bad and dangerous habits on the trail. "Dear Functional Horsemanship, could you write an article about bad and dangerous things riders do when trail riding? I enjoy riding and several of us usually ride on weekends, however occasionally some of the riders, some of the original group and some of the new riders, make the ride less enjoyable because they are not so careful with their horses and are not considering others. Thanks, I'd like to print what you say and give it to them, but I know I won't. Please do not use my name too."

Considering the other riders and their horses is the key. I think that riders in a group should ride considering the comfort and skill level of the least experienced rider and the greenest horse. And on the other hand, green riders and/or green horses should choose their trail mates carefully and with knowledge that they may slow up or restrict the ride somewhat.

We all probably know people that we would rather not ride with, if not for their personality then for their trail manners. I used to work with an individual who was prone to letting the reins drap over his horse’s neck while he played with a cell phone, a radio or whatever and his horse would routinely bump into others. Over a period of just a couple years this individual was thrown or became unseated twice, breaking ribs the first time and a femur the second time. I am saying this not because of his bad horsemanship, but his general inattentiveness that posed safety risks to himself and others. So another bad trail habit is a rider that is a danger to him or herself, potentially leaving the group with a casualty to care.

And while I’m writing about this character,….one time I was trying to get down a steep embankment to stop and checkout a truck and cattle trailer who were not scheduled to be in a grazing unit. I told my partner let me choose a path, give me some room and follow me down. I chose a path that I thought he and his horse could handle. Well follow me down he did, ……..right on my horse's butt, but he couldn't rate his horse and ran into me almost causing a major wreck. So, the bad habit here is not controlling your horse, riding too close or up into another horse. Good way to get kicked,….by both the horse and the other rider!

It is no surprise that horses have a herd mentality and sometimes see increased separation as something to worry about. It is the responsibility of the rider behind not to run up into or crowd the horse in front. If the horse in front is prone to kicking then it should be wearing a red ribbon and that rider should mention this horse's kicking trait at the beginning of the ride to all.

Secondly, if you have buddy sour horse in your group be considerate of riding off and causing that horse anxiety and possibly increasing danger to the rider. Sure there needs to be a minimum level for a horse and rider for the trail, but often the trail is a good training ground for green horses and riders. If you accept that horse and rider with your group on the trail, then I would think it is implied that there is responsibility to all horses and riders as well.

If a green rider and horse has to stop for any reason, it be courteous for the others, or at least some of the others to stop and wait.  A green horse stopping by himself and seeing the herd leave may become anxious and hard to control for a green rider.  And if the inexperienced rider allows that anxious horse to catch up   at his own speed, regardless of the rider, than that horse is learning some bad habits, one of which is letting him buy into that anxiety that he is in danger and has to catch up.  If a green horse is like this then maybe the best thing to do is to not set him up for failure by leaving him behind.   It might be easier to teach that horse to think and be brave on easier to acheive things rather than to be seemed to be left behind on the trail.  It would also be the responsbility of the green rider to ask the others to wait.

Another common bad habit is for a rider in a group to suddenly lope off and possibly spooking other horses, or to run up on a group unexpectedly. It would be good manners to ask the group if they mind you loping off. One way would be for the group to stop and let the rider walk off a ways, then lope away. In fact we do this quite a bit and call it leap frogging. It’s good training for the horse who stays behind so when you ask him for a jog or a lope, it gives you a chance to rate him and get him used to those cues, as opposed to running full out to catch up.

One more hard to put up with habit is for a rider, whose horse cannot stand still, to be close to others when everyone is stopped, then his horse is constantly moving around pushing into other riders and their horses.  Have you ever seen one rider's horse standing right next to another horse, turning into the other horse and getting his head through the other horses reins?  
For more advanced riders riding in a less experienced group, you can still have an enjoyable ride by working on communication between you and your horse,…..work on lightening your cues,…..get in back of the group and work on two tracking,….jogging circles,…..walking collected,....or whatever.  The list of what you can do is basically endless.  This can turn a boring ride into a good training session. 

A lot of problems can be alleviated up front by the group agreeing on how they are going to ride. I guess that’s called communication, between humans and horses, and humans and humans.   Of course, there are also non-verbal communications, like those looks my wife gives me, which makes me want to be in Central America or some other place far away. Safe Trails. 

No comments:

Post a Comment