Kali on trail

Take Your Baby On The Trail Early – Update on Kali and Alex

In the last blog post I introduced you to Alex and her lovely three year old filly, Kalipso.  Within days of starting Kali under saddle, Alex was out riding safely on the trail.  If your baby has a good start they can be safely and successfully introduced to the wonders of the world early on.

Last week I watched Kali wander past a bed frame on the side of the road, sheltered by a giant umbrella, and filled with pumpkins and squash as a roadside display.

She didn’t even take a sideways glance at it!

In Kali’s case she had been lead, ponied and driven out on the trail at different stages of life, even as a foal.  It’s not necessary to do all of those things, but I’m sure that in Kali’s case it has an impact on her quiet attitude.  If you take your young horse out early on in their training they leave the farm more confidently and it doesn’t occur to them to get barn sour.  They just accept trails as a regular part of their interactions with you.

kali and alex walk away kali in the light Alex with Zelly

It’s fundamental that when you start your horse you spend the time with them on the ground so that they have complete faith and trust in you as a leader.  Kali has a significant background in liberty training as well as work on the line. She also has an excellent relationship with Alex so she feels comfortable and safe out in the world.  She doesn’t challenge Alex’s leadership out on the trail, because Alex has set a clear example early on in all of their training.

We’ve also taken the time to teach Kali the signals under saddle and she readily responds to going forward, slowing down, and even leg yielding over sideways.  At first Kali was a bit of a slug under saddle but our first priority was to encourage Kali to step out boldly without Alex having to constantly nag her. Nagging results in either a balky horse that resents the rider or just a horse that is arduous to ride.

It was easy to teach Kali the basics under saddle because she understood the techniques on the ground in training first.  Time out on the trail keeps her under saddle work interesting.  Ring work can be taxing and monotonous for a young horse.  Keep your sessions short and fun!

The trail is a better place to work on conditioning.  In Kali’s case she is only three years old so she has light sessions in the ring combined with light sessions out on the trail and will soon have the remainder of the winter off.  In these photos she has her bridle on, but is being ridden off of her halter.  She has been trained to respond to both from the ground.

I like my green horses to see lots of new things early on and to accept them as part of life.  I ride past bikes, real estate signs and cars.  As long as the foundation in your training and your own skills is strong, you can feel safe and have fun out in the wilderness within the first month of riding.

Happy Trails!



Comments 2

  1. There’s no question that the “trail walks” as I call them have been pivotal in developing and strengthening the relationship my 2 1/2 year old filly and I have. We’ve honed our leading skills, both next to me and behind me, over obstacles, having to stop to clear a fallen branch, etc. The rail offers these natural opportunities to get into body language synch. She see’s the branch or the log, she understands that the trail has become narrow, so I don’t even have to get her to understand what I want; the why is there.
    And of course, calmly working through getting used to chickens appearing on the trail, the neighbor’s boat with billowing tarps, etc. drives the trust quotient up miles at a time. I see the difference when we work in the ring. And going over a wooden bridge is how she figured out the pedestal. So it all translates!
    In anticipation of her arrival I was thinking of friends who have two horses and can’t ride off with one of them. I was determined that that would not be me. When I rode Harley off the first time she ran around and called and called. I did a loop around the woodlot she was in so I could keep and eye on her, then rode around the pasture out of sight at times. The next time she started out calling, but soon was quiet. When we rode in from the trail she came to greet us, but wasn’t upset.
    I started the trail walks the day after she arrived. She was curious to investigate her new home. I looped her around so we kept coming back to the barn. The next day we went a little further. As I recall it wasn’t until a week or two into it that one day after we;d gone about five minutes she stopped and said “no.” I asked her to walk. She didn’t want to go. I tugged her to the side to set her off balance, and on we went. This happened a few times, but now if she hesitates all I have to do is think, “Come on silly, don’t be a wimp!” and on we go.
    Thanks so much for your posts and videos Heather!

    1. Post

      Hi Jodie. Thanks for sharing your story! As you say the trail is such a natural place to experience variety. The obstacles come up organically and they offer an incredible opportunity to school and bond. This is a great place to build confidence if you introduce it at the level you and your horse are comfortable with and then build from there.

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