Trail

stan walchuk, Trail Riding Horse Camping Trekking, the lone trail rider, riding horses alone

We trail riders experience the contradiction: we live in the modern world but experience the solitude and loneness of a trail ride. And this quiet time spent with ourselves in the hugeness and solitude of the outdoors affects us differently, in ways that are unique to each of us.

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There is estimated to be one injury for each 2.5 hours of sport riding, including racing and cross country, and only one injury for every 100 hours of trail or pleasure riding. Let’s look at some practices that will help our relationships with our horses at home.

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Horses can be herd-bound, barn sour, pullers, hard to catch, frightened, or aggressive. This article is the first of a two part series that will look at common problems with using horses at home, including barn sour and herd-bound horses, and some ideas for safe riding near the home front.

Stan Walchuk Jr, Four More Trail Knots, trail riding rope knot, trail riding tips, trail riding safety, Bowline, horse trail riding, tying horse trail knots

If knots are not tied properly they can get you into trouble by coming undone at the worst moments, or by not doing what you expect them to do. Sometimes we blame the knot but usually it is the person who tied it.

Stan Walchuk Jr, four trail knots, 4 trail knots, horse trail knots, horse trail riding, reef knot, tail tying knot, equine trial riding knots

Trail knots remind me of the Dutch kid who stuck his finger in a hole in a dyke to prevent the whole dam from busting: a little thing that if not done, or not done right, can release a flood of trouble. If I had a dollar for each time I turned around and a horse was walking off dragging its lead rope I could buy us both shrimp dinner.

The horse’s foot looks simple: a nice, round, smooth hoof on the outside, but in reality, it is a complex arrangement of bone, soft tissue, ligament, tendon, and hoof. It is precisely this toughness — the hardness of the hoof wall and major tendons — that complicates and compounds problems. When internal problems develop there is no give in these structures, no room for swelling within a hoof wall that is rigid with keratin, or for damaged tendons that were pushed beyond their amazing but rigid capacity.

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If horses could talk they would tell us that the most important part of their body is their feet. The foot allows motion and protection: flight from predators, fighting, feeding, and breeding. In other words, survival itself is only possible through the almighty foot.

equitation science, how to horses learn, learning theory horses, tania millen, international society for equine science ises

What is it and how can it help horses and riders? Riders train horses to act in ways they deem positive, whether it’s jumping a jump, walking down a trail, or performing movements in an arena. But to train horses effectively and safely, riders, trainers, and coaches must understand how they learn and react. Over the past 15 years, equine scientists have researched the learning theory of horses — how horses process, retain knowledge, and learn. Equitation science applies this evidence-based learning theory of horses to horse training, and explains horse behaviour based on horses being horses – without attributing human emotions, ways of thinking, or behaviour, to them. It’s a burgeoning field that is changing the way many riders and trainers think and act.

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At 16 years of age I quit normal school and entered the school of hard knocks. (Don’t get any ideas kids, I have two degrees now). That August found me on a small dirt road that wound its way through central Yukon. A semi-load of horses had made its way up from a horse sale in Saskatchewan and the cowboys I was with had spent the last few days breaking and shoeing them. (In those days “breaking” was an accurate term). We saddled up, packed up, and hit the trail for some high mountain passes and a base camp at a remote lake. If I’d known what was in store for me, I probably would have walked. The outfitter gave me a sturdy palomino mare with pretty, round eyes and the devil in her heart. I’ve had an aversion to blondes ever since.

My favourite aspects of a riding vacation anywhere in the world are experiencing the spectacular scenery of a new country from the back of a native horse, and glimpsing the true culture and everyday life of the local people. The Wild Andes Expedition Ride with host Gabriel Espinosa of Hacienda La Alegria, which I found through Unicorn Trails, offered a close-up view of life in the mountains at all elevations in the Ecuadorian Andes.

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