Trail riding is a great summertime activity, but if you’re hesitant to head out on the trail because you feel that your horse might miss out on schooling for the day, that doesn’t have to be the case. There are plenty of horse training and schooling exercises that you can put to work on the trail so that your horse gets his training and you get to enjoy the change of scenery. Here are a few exercises to get you started.
Leg yields are a great exercise to work on out on the trail, especially if you’re on a wider trail. Leg yields can help to keep your horse’s attention focused on you, while also developing his responsiveness to your legs. Work on moving your horse from one edge of the trail to the other and back again. Start at the walk, and then progress to leg yields at the trot.
If your horse is trained to perform shoulder ins, put them to work on the trail. Shoulder ins help to further develop your communication with your horse, improving his responsiveness to and awareness of your body position and cues. Shoulder ins can be an excellent way to help an anxious or forward horse to focus and relax while on the trail.
Trail riding provides the perfect time to check in on how well your horse performs gait transitions when he’s out of the arena. Whether you’ll be competing in Western pleasure or plan to head to the cross-country course, the better your horse’s gait transitions are, the better your overall ride can be.
Working on gait transitions on the trail can help to bring underlying issues to light. If your horse tends to rush into gait transitions, this behavior may be amplified by the excitement of being outside of the arena. If your horse’s transitions are a bit uncoordinated, you’re sure to feel this more when faced with uneven trail terrain.
Spend some time working on gait transitions while you’re on the trail. When you can perform excellent gait transitions on trail rides, then you’ll probably be able to replicate them in the arena.
Extension and Collection
Ask your horse to extend and collect his stride within each gait. Focus on maintaining extension and collection for a certain number of strides, and try to get your horse to move between the two without needing to make major changes in your own body. Remember to keep your horse’s pace at the same tempo; the extension and collection should be reflected in his stride, not in his pace or speed.
Your horse’s training doesn’t always have to take place in a riding arena. The trail can be a great place to put these exercises to work.