I have finally gotten around to writing an introduction to myself. I am an avid trail rider (which is the same thing as hacking.) I live over here in the US in Cleveland, OH. It is a pretty good-sized urban area, and we are lucky enough to have a terrific trail system running right through it. We share the trails with lots of different users, so our horses have to be very tolerant. We also ride close to the roads, so they have to be good with traffic, too.
I have 2 horses. Cruiser is a 24-year-old Morab gelding that I have had for 22 years. He has been a terrific equine partner. Even at this age, he has so much energy. I have gradually reduced his distance and speed in the last few years, but I still ride him 5 days a week, and if I can get on the trail, I do. He loves the trail, and lately, he hates the ring work. I suspect there are physical reasons for it, so I just take it easy in there, now. He has earned it. He is insulin resistant, and I control it with diet and exercise.
My new horse, Cole, is also a Morab. When my Paint, Mingo, died last year, I decided that I would try another Morab since Cruiser is so wonderful. I also learned that the typical stock horse just doesn’t have enough get up and go for me. I needed more. I bought Cole as a 4-year-old stallion. He was gelded before delivery. He had never been ridden, and I did all the work, myself. Since I trained Cruiser and Mingo from scratch, I wasn’t too worried. A few months later, I climbed into the saddle for the first time.
Since I love to trail ride, I got Cole on the trail a mere week after I started riding him. He has blossomed into a fine, fine trail horse. He has a lot of energy, seldom spooks and handles unfamiliar situations with common sense. He behaves beautifully with other horses and does well on his own.
The arena was a different story. In the beginning, he spooked and bolted—a lot. He ruined my confidence in there. Though we were doing great on the trail, I was scared to ride him in the ring. Weird, but true. I didn’t give up, but kept working on expanding myself to the far reaches of the ring—where he would spook. I would do fine one day, but the next day, it would be windy and my confidence would go out the window. He got better and better, and finally this summer, I was able to shake my fear. We are doing very well—I can ride all about the arena—even with other horses.
The next thing that surprised me—and didn’t help me with my confidence any—was his trot. It is huge. He is only 14.2, but he trots bigger and more spectacular than any horse I have ever seen in person. I have seen some videos of top dressage horses trotting like he does. Though I love the way he moves, it hasn’t made training any easier. His trot is so big that it isn’t easy to ride. My seat needed to be much stronger to keep from bouncing right out of the saddle. Also, he has trouble keeping it steady. It is only recently that he has been able to go straight, go around 2 corners and go straight without losing it. We have been working on keeping it through a figure eight. We have many challenges—and I haven’t even been able to consistently canter him in the arena. We do it on the trail. When I try to canter in the ring, his trot gets bigger and bigger and bigger—not faster—bigger!
I could use professional help, but can’t afford it. I will just muddle around—like I always have.
He is clicker trained, and it has been an amazing experience to see how clicking can influence training. I am sold, and will do it with all future horses. (Cruiser can’t have treats, so he doesn’t get clicked.)
So, we have our challenges laid out for the winter when I can’t use trail riding as an excuse for working him in the ring. (I have been taking him out on the trail most weekends—and only school him during the week.)
I have written 2 books. The first one is “Trail Training for the Horse and Rider.” Its companion book is “Trail Horse Adventures and Advice.” I have maintained and e-mail newsletter for years. Most of the articles will end up on the blog, but if you want to sign up, just send me an e-mail.