Western Dressage on Trail Horses

Kay T Parmelee

Photo courtesy of WDAA Social Corral & Kay T. Parmalee

I would like to comment on how much better a trail horse will perform that has been trained in dressage.

The other day I joined a group of trail riders as this is what has helped me the most. When riding a trail, even for a few hours, a horse needs to be in shape. Using Western Dressage in between these rides helps with that. You know if your horse is sore, and have a good feel for what the horse needs. For example, not riding hard and fast if you haven’t gotten him or yourself, in shape. Take your time for this. It’s the journey together that counts. Watching for what the horse can do, without excess strain on him, you shouldn’t just jump on cold turkey and go!

If your horse has been trained to flex, relax, and be supple, these rides can be a lot of fun. Side passing, leg yielding, and turns (on haunches and forehand) can come across as training, instead of a way to jerk your horse to obedience. Walking on a loose rein is the norm, unless otherwise needed to contain your horse. Practicing these things at home during schooling and ring work, come as no surprise to the horse when used on the trail.

Your seat check, breathing deeply, small circles, flexing the head lightly inside, straight, then out, side passing, etc. will come in handy, when your horse gets excited and wants to run up ahead of the other horses. But above all, Western Dressage builds a relationship with your horse. You are a team. You want your horse to trust you, and willingly cross a bridge, go through water, etc. That trust has to be there before you start your trail ride.

Submitted by Rainee Mc Geehan on 10/29/2013

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