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While you are training your horse to be a confident trail partner, it is best to ride him outside the arena by yourself rather than attempting to train him while being on a ride with six other horses and riders. “That way it is just the two of you concentrating on the training sessions. There are already going to be a lot of distractions for your horse when you first take him outside the arena, he doesn’t need the added distraction of worrying about another horse,” Clinton says. “When you get two or more horses on the trail, they have a tendency to want to race one another and get reactive. The more horses in the group, the more each horse’s prey animal tendencies come out.”
When you’re on a well-trained trail horse, how the other horses behave isn’t a problem, and it’s even fun to be on the trail in a big group. However, on an inexperienced horse, you’re just setting him up for failure. “Personally, I don’t ride a horse with others on the trail until I’ve taken him through the entire Fundamentals Series and the foundation trail exercises found in the Fundamentals on the Trail Series. At that point, I feel that I have enough respect and control of the horse and he knows how to use the thinking side of his brain on the trail so that if we did come across trouble, I’d be able to easily get his attention on me,” Clinton says.
One of the first things to do when introducing your horse to a group is to show him that you can still control his feet. “He needs to understand that no matter how many other horses may be present, you are still the one he needs to listen to,” Clinton says. “The exercise Cloverleaf Mayhem is a good way to reinforce the concept. It is also a great exercise to practice on your own to put some steady miles under your horse’s feet.”
Clinton explains how to teach your horse the Cloverleaf Mayhem exercise in the training guide, “Safely Ride Your Horse in a Group.” Read the training guide now on the Downunder Horsemanship website.