Trail Ride Training

Sugar has been really showing how good of a trail horse she is! 

Yesterday I worked with her; climbing hills, herding cattle, working on different gaits (including galloping). We were pretty far out in the hills for a few hours. I was with my friend Amber and her horse Athena.

We climbed a steep hills which really helped Sugar. I've noticed a lot though, that she hates walking in mud or water/puddles. She's actually okay it's a stream but mud and small puddles she tries to avoid. She's not terrified but she'll most likely jump over one if she can't avoid it from me. So my new small goal is now to have her get muddy! 
When I introduce something new to Sugar, I start usually with groundwork depending on what it is and how well she is with it already. So for the puddles I don't actually need to do groundwork although that would help a lot too. She does walk through them but more times out of not she will avoid them. Most of the puddles we encounter are on the trail anyway so I don't want to bring my handy stick out there. So if I do do groundwork, I'll leave the halter on and send her back and forth through the puddle. It's not as good as having a handy stick with me but she's good enough at the ground work to know how and to respect me. I'll make the puddle look easy and everywhere or anywhere else she wants to go looks hard until she wants to go into the puddle. 
So basically I work her a lot outside the puddle and then when I send her into the puddle I make it easy for her. And of course for the first few times she'll avoid them but not too long she'll gladly go into the puddle. The next day I might ask her to go into the same puddle and she might avoid it even though the day before we worked on it. But each time it get's easier and easier until it's not a problem at all for her to walk into the water or mud. 
I can use the same technic in the saddle. I work her outside; moving her feet in circles forwards, backwards, left and right. Then I have her walk in the puddle and try to make it as easy as possible. If she stops, the better. I'll rest her in the puddle! She'll find that the rest is in the puddle and there's nothing to fear. Horse have a hard time with water because they can't tell how deep it is. That's why most horses will act like a puddle could be a 100 feet deep. It's my job to prove to them that there's nothing scary, trust me and teach them to obey me if they want to chose a different way out. 

Sugar has been doing SO well climbing hills! She stills needs some work with ditches however but besides that she's a natural! I'll always have her going up and down hills to have her slow her pace (especially downhill). But even downhill she goes well walking and only when she wants to get back home faster will she really start trotting. 

In the past Sugar was terrified of deer and cattle. I mean she used to get REALLY worked up about them! They could be far off and she's in the round pen, but she'll be snorting, tail high and racing around. NOW she's practically touching (if only they didn't run off). I have her chase them and honestly she now seems really excited cows around that I actually have to stop her!

From a arena horse who's never been out on the trails before in her life to a becoming best trail partner ever! I really think she enjoys the trails a lot more than the arena. If we're in the arena I feel like she get's bored after awhile of work on certain things that I have to keep changing it up. But when we're on the trails we're always exploring and just the excitement of it or calmly and lazily walking down a familiar old trail never get's old with the two of us!