When you’re out on the trails, you’ll want your horse to be confident and dependable. A horse who lacks confidence can make trail riding stressful and even dangerous. But you can build your horse’s confidence on trails. Here’s how.
Ride With a Buddy
Going out on the trails alone goes against your horse’s natural instincts. Horses are herd animals and instinctively know that there is safety in numbers. While building your horse’s confidence, try to always go out on the trails with a buddy who is already calm and confident. Your horse will be reassured by the presence of another horse, and the buddy’s calm demeanor can help to teach your horse to relax on the trail.
Keep Rides Positive
As you build your horse’s confidence on the trails, you’ll want to make sure that each ride is a positive one. Start slowly – head out on the same trail a number of times to establish your horse’s familiarity with the location. Keep your initial rides short, and set your horse up for success. Presenting your horse with too much too soon may overwhelm him, causing him to lose confidence on the trails. Instead, by heading out on short rides designed to be easy for your horse, you’ll be reinforcing the fact that trails are positive events and that no harm comes to your horse while on the trails.
Expose Your Horse to New Things
You’re bound to encounter unexpected things while trail riding, such as loose dogs, joggers, or even bicyclists. While you’re in the safety of your arena at home, start exposing your horse to some of these things which he may find frightening. Allow your horse to explore each new item and make sure that he becomes comfortable with it. When you’re out on the trail, your horse will be better prepared to deal with the different sights and sounds that he may encounter.
If your horse does get nervous while out on the trails, one of the worst things that you can do is to overreact to the situation. If you punish your horse or make a big deal out of a spook, then you’re just reinforcing the fact that your horse was right to get nervous. Instead, stay calm and ask your horse to focus on his work again. This approach can help to reduce your horse’s spooking in the future.
By spending time building your horse’s confidence on the trail, you’ll be setting him up to be a more successful and safer trail horse.