Nothing beats trailering to off-the-farm field trips for increasing a horse’s confidence and competencies… and nothing is more fun!
We just discovered this trip cost calculator. How cool! Our F350 didn’t show up in their automatic fields, but they allow you to enter your own information.
Before you hitch up your horse trailer and load your tack and your horse for a clinic, horse show, or trail ride, plug in your stats. You’ll find out how much fuel you’ll use, how much it’ll cost, and even where to find cheap gas and diesel along the way!
What’s big horsey adventures are YOU planning? Share your plans in our comments!
I started teaching the Knock’s several years ago. Their dream was to trail ride as a family. When we started, they had one young, barely broke, extremely fearful Quarter Horse. Hardly material for group pleasure ride success!
Stormy the been-there-done-that school horse joined the family. The flashy but fiery Tommy “followed them home” from a horse sale and left later, much better behaved but still too exuberent to trust to a family trail ride. Saintly Molly the Mule looked to be the perfect husband horse but a vicious, aggressive tumor took her all too soon.
Through it all, Christa persevered with Ebony, the original QH filly. Natural horsemanship techniques built her confidence and her skills in both the English and Western disciplines. Clicker training gave her a “why” (release of pressure, “good girl” and a scritch weren’t motivation enough for her deeply introverted personality). Christa’s horsemanship and equitation blossomed. When we realized according to an arbitrary rule that Ebony would need to wear a curb bit and do flying lead changes (neither of which she was ready for) to show in the next Western division, we quickly taught both horse and teenager the basics of hunt seat and jumping and sent them to clean up in the English arena.
Christa and the younger Laura (matched with ever-reliable Stormy) dominated the local show circuit. Mom Kathy tested and expanded her horsemanship with Tommy and Molly. Dad joined in for field trips to horse expos and Parelli Tour Stops, but “Family trail ride” lingered untouched on the goal list.
June joined the family this summer. Not the perfect pleasure mount, but she and Kathy clicked. Extra training sessions brought her along quickly. Most importantly, Kathy’s confidence soared. After all this time supporting her daughters and diligently taking lessons, she had a trustworthy horse “of her own!”
At last, the stage was set for the dream to come true.
We woke before the sun to groom and load the horses. Ours was the first trailer to roll into the horse show grounds. I hopped on Gideon first, determined to give him the slow warm-up he responds so well to– and to avoid my mistakes from the county fair horse show. Lucy and Angus practiced waiting patiently at the trailer for their turns.
Gideon schooled beautifully. Natural horse training methods let us lay a solid foundation at home and speed up success in the horse show ring. A game of “touch it with your nose” chased away Gideon’s initial apprehension at the gaily painted barrels around the grounds and in the arena.
The groundskeeper appeared and started shaking new garbage cans into the metal barrels around the ring. Gideon ignored the commotion and gave his most balanced canter yet.
By this time I was getting a little concerned. We still had the showgrounds to ourselves! I introduced myself to the groundskeeper and asked if we had the right weekend. He replied, just as puzzled, “yep, today’s the day of the horse show. They’ve usually started by now!”
There’s no such thing as a no-show. Clearly it was a We-Show! We were there…with a trailer full of promising young horses to school! And school we did, making full use of every opportunity we could create. Angus and then Lucy had their training sessions in the arena. Monavie kept my blood sugar level and my energy up as the heat and humidity skyrocketed.
Eventually another couple arrived with a lovely, half-Connemara yearling out for her first show exposure. We watched from a distance as the power of natural horsemanship –or lack thereof– became clearer and clearer. The filly’s handler held her tightly on a chain shank and walked her in small circles. The filly just got more and more wound up.
Natural horsemanship offers a toolbox to access when trouble kicks up. With a few basic communications in place, that filly could be handled in a way that would help her find harmony with her handlers and her surroundings. Her nervous energy could be channeled in a positive direction.Â Instead, her frustration level mounted, along with her misbehavior.
A few more trailers pulled in with well-dressed riders. Cell phones hummed, new shows were found and the tiny crowd dispersed. We finally learned that the horse show had been cancelled earlier that week due to hurricane warnings, but no one bothered to tell the public!
No worries! Our horses were unloaded, hosed off and grazing in their pastures before worst of the day’s heat, after a thoroughly successful we-show horse show!
Despite visiting family, we managed to work in a quick trip to the Maryland/Pennsylvania Horse Show Circuit show. We brought along Angus, Lucy and Gideon. The show grounds offered an indoor and outdoor arena, and a large field to play in. We left Angus and Lucy contentedly munching hay at the trailer. We set off with Gideon in search of adventure and horse training success. Mark generously joined us with the camera.
Natural Horsemanship challenges us to work with our surroundings to create original and effective ways to train our horses. Yesterday’s heavy rains left a long 4 foot wide pool of water that called to my imagination. While other riders avoided the “icky field” and crowded into the outdoor ring to warm up, Gideon and I took the trail less traveled by. What a perfect opportunity to focus Gideon’s mind away from the nervous chaos of the horse show and towards deeper partnership and communication with his person!
At first Gideon was nervous, but obedient. He responded to my request to cross the water with a willing and careful jump:
Despite his overzealous effort, I rewarded his try with a click and a treat. Success builds confidence and soon Gideon was splashing calmly through the water:
The water crossing exercise engaged Gideon’s mind and brought about obedience and relaxation far more effectively than endless circles around the warm up ring. I mounted up and together Gideon and I wound through the hustle and bustle of the in-gate and along the road. My goal was to seek out every “challenge” the show grounds offered and turn them into games to increase Gideon’s brains and bravery.
We made our way to the gaming arena. The speed events were over, so Gideon had to be comfortable by himself in this unknown arena. Opportunities like this leave no excuse for buddy sour or barn sour horses! We played around with the barrels and the poles, then did a typical “hunter show warm up” just to prove there were no holes left in his foundation.
The horse show folks were wonderful but the class schedule was chaotic. We were looking to show in the hunter classes or the pleasure classes. I even packed along western tack just in case that was our only option!
Our possible classes were pushed far later than we intended to stay. As it was we decided leave without schooling Angus and Lucy. They have both become so calm and consistent at horse shows and other field trips, and we had family to visit with!
An invisible barrier seems to exist in people’s minds between competitive and natural horsemanship. Natural horse trainers shatter that myth with increasing frequency in the worlds of dressage, reining, eventing, hunter-jumpers, and others.
Natural horse trainer Stacy Westfall rocked the house with her winning bridleless freestyle run at Quarter Horse Congress in 2006. This video is an amazing testimony to the power of communication at the pinnacle of competition!