Illustration by Navah Rae Adams

1. True or false: Being around other horses is naturally calming for your horse, so if he’s nervous on the trail, try going out with larger groups of riders.

T / F

2. Regardless of the exact reasons for your horse’s challenging behavior on the trail, solve the problem by…

A) redirecting his negative energy.

B) encouraging him to walk slowly.

C) keeping a secure hold on the reins.

3. True or false: To keep your antsy horse from bolting, apply firm, equal pressure to both reins.

T / F

4. To ensure trail-ride success, your most important consideration is to…

A) ride with a mecate setup, or else carry a longish line you can longe with if necessary.

B) choose riding companions who know how to be safe and mannerly on the trail.

C) make sure your horse is broke enough to be out on the trail in the first place.

HOW’D YOU DO? (Answers below.)

1. F is correct. The opposite is true: Being around other horses is naturally exciting for a horse, especially if the horses are unfamiliar to him. That means the more horses on the ride, the more anxiety your horse may feel as he fusses over keeping up with or getting ahead of the group. Increase ride size only gradually as you work on and resolve your horse’s anxiety issues.

2. A is correct. No matter why your horse is acting up, solve the problem by redirecting his negative energy. Take control of his feet and make him work—first unmounted if need be for safety’s sake, then under saddle. This takes the edge off his mojo and reminds him you are in charge. Moving his feet briskly overrides the reactive side of his brain—the side worried about his surroundings, other horses, hidden predators, and the like.

3. F is correct. Holding firmly on both reins simply increases your horse’s anxiety, plus sets up a tug-of-war you can’t possibly win. Use one rein to draw your horse into a small circle, then put him to work in both directions, as in #2 above, to help calm him down and redirect his focus to you.

4. C is correct. Always be realistic. Ask yourself, Is my horse well-trained enough to go out on the trail? If he’s lacking basic stop, go, and turn controls, then no amount of preparation will insure fun and safety out in a group, in unfamiliar terrain. If you’re not sure, ask a pro or knowledgeable friend to help assess your horse’s level of training. If it turns out he’s lacking, fill in those holes before going out on the trail.

[Wait! Find more great tips for ensuring trail-ride success.]

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