Most horses have a favorite position in a trail ride line up. Some prefer to be in the lead and will prance and jog ceaselessly if they are not in front. Other horses like to bring up the rear, and will balk at going forward if asked to lead. Still others want to be somewhere in the middle, preferring the safety of having a horse in front of and behind them.
Then there are also the horses that don’t want any other horse even close to them, pinning their ears or kicking out if others come up behind or heaven forbid… try to pass!
Trail rides are more safe and fun for everyone, horses included, when each horse is confident and comfortable in any position.
This can be achieved by forcing it – putting the balky horse out front and making him stay there, no matter what. But as with most training challenges, easing in and out of the challenge is more effective than tackling it head on.
For several months, I have been living at a ranch in Southern Mexico, helping to train the young horses here in exchange for learning about distance riding and the opportunity to ride in beautiful, sprawling open spaces.
Most of the horses here on this ranch have been competitive endurance horses, and the owner, Mary Jane, has developed a system of games that teach the horses to be comfortable in any position, as well as passing and being passed. These are key skills for a competitive endurance horse, where throwing a fit out on the trail is not only dangerous, but a senseless waste of energy.
Through these games, horses and riders become more confident and skilled riding out.