Before adding any articles about training your trail horse, I thought we’d take a look at some of the things to look for in a well trained, seasoned trail horse. Whether we are talking about buying an already trained horse, or training one yourself, this list of 20 things to look for, is what I personally think a perfectly trained trail horse should be able to do.
1. Have good ground manners.
This includes being easy to catch, easy to lead, respecting your space, standing tied without pulling back on the lead rope, being easy to groom and especially no biting or kicking.
2. Be able to stand quietly for the farrier.
As the saying goes, no hoof, no horse.
3. Be able to load and unload from a horse trailer safely.
4. Stand quietly to be saddled and bridled.
Your horse shouldn’t be “cinchy”, or refuse the bit.
5. Will stand still to be mounted.
6. Can be mounted and dismounted from either side.
7. Has good brakes.
I like them to be able to stop quickly, with no hesitation or argument, like trying to lift their head to avoid the bit.
8. Neck reins well.
This makes moving brush and tree limbs aside much easier.
9. Has been trained to “spook in place”.
I don’t want to worry about my horse taking off with me because a bag was flapping in the wind, we flushed a covey of quail, or he saw a “ghost”. This mainly takes a lot of time and wet blankets to achieve.
10. Will calmly negotiate things such as logs and muddy spots.
11. Will wade through creeks and streams.
12. Will cross a bridge.
13. Can turn on the forehand.
14. Can turn on the haunches.
15. Can side pass.
16. Backs up with ease.
This, and the previously listed 3 things are part of what I call “Trail Dressage”. Many horses are not always taught to turn on the forehand, haunches, or to side pass, but all of these can make it much
easier for you to handle your horse in tight spots along the trail, where your movements might
need to be more precise.
17. Has specifically been desensitized to dogs, cars, and mountain bikes.
These, along with hikers, are the things you are the most likely to encounter along the trail.
For equestrian camping:
18. Will stand quietly all night long on a highline or picket line.
19. Can ground tie.
20. Has been desensitized to ATV’s and motorcycles.