Horse Training - The Trail Class
 By Fantasy Farms   •   24th Sep 2010   •   30,794 views   •   3 comments
Trail is a very technical, but fun event. In trail you have to be very precise with your movements and your horses movements. Before you begin, there are some things that you and your horse will need to learn how to do before doing trail.

Your horse needs to be able to bend his body left and right easily. Your horse should be able to jog and lope slowly with his or her head down. Your horse must know how to collect or you will not be able to do get through tight obstacles. Your horse should be able to side pass, back, perform a haunch turn and a forehand turn. Plants or trees should not spook your horse. A trail class may use scary decorations, so be prepared. A good trail horse should not be spooky and should take his or her time. Some trail classes are timed and others are not. Either way your horse should be patient and not rush the obstacles. Trail is about accuracy, not how fast you can get through the course.

Traditionally trail is done western, but at some shows you can do trail english. In trail whether you are riding english or western, you always sit the trot. If you are riding western, you should wear a western style shirt, jeans, hat/helmet and boots. Your hair should be pulled back in a bun with a hair bow or with a clip. Gloves, chaps and spurs are optional. You should use a western style saddle and bridle. You may use a bosal or snaffle only if your horse is 5 and under. If your horse is older than 5, you must use a curb bit. To use romel or split reins are up to the rider. If you are doing trail english, you should wear a hunt coat, english boots and a helmet. Your hair should be pulled back into a clip or tucked under your helmet. Spurs and gloves are optional. You should use an english saddle and bridle. Breast collars are optional for english and western. Depending on the show you are showing at, fake tails may or may not be allowed. Ask the horse show office if you are not sure if you can use a fake tail.

The Trail Class

In trail there is many obstacles. Some are easy and others are hard. Most trail classes will have a gate. There are different styles of gates. Some are made of wood or metal. Some are just two standards with a rope across. If you are doing the kind like a traditional metal gate, first get your horse close enough to where you can easily grab the handle. First grab the handle and open the gate. Ask your horse to walk forward and turn so he is parallel to the gate on the other side. Then close the gate. Make sure you don’t let go of the gate or you will lose points.

The Trail Class

Another common obstacle you will see is a bridge. A bridge may be just a flat piece of wood or a rounded bridge. Some bridges are like teeter-totters. If the bridge is flat, your horse should drop his head and walk over it. Your horse should not be rushing and should not hesitate to go over it. If the bridge is round, you should lean slightly forward in your seat and give your horse his head. Your horse should drop his head only slightly and then walk over it. You should always walk over a bridge. A teeter-totter bridge is hard. Some horses are scared of them because they move. This type of bridge is not very common so you shouldn’t have to worry about it. If you do come along one, take is slow as these bridges are scary to some horses.

The Trail Class

The L is a trail obstacle made out of poles or logs. Most of the time it is made out of poles. The L is shaped like a capital L. There is four poles that are laid flat on the ground in the shape of an L. To execute an L, you should get your horse’s hind end straight to the entrance. Then slowly ask your horse to back up. If your horse gets crooked, stop and position him so that he is straight again. Once you get to the curve in the L, ask your horse to move his hindquarters over then his forehand. Its almost like you are doing a small haunch turn and then a forehand turn. After that you continue backing until you are out of the obstacle. Ticking a pole is considered a point deduction. This obstacle can be very tricky to not tick a pole.

The Trail Class

Cones and barrels are often used in a trail course. They can be set in a straight line for you to weave them or in a cloverleaf pattern to back them. They can also be a sidepassing obstacle. A lot of trail patterns have you carry a bucket of grain positioned on a barrel. If you have to carry a bucket of grain, first get your horse close enough so that you can lean down to grab the bucket. Then put your reins into one hand and reach down to grab the bucket. If your horse gets scared of the bucket and starts to act up, try to put the bucket back on the barrel. If you can’t get the bucket back on the barrel then just drop the bucket.

The fan can be one of the hardest obstacles. The fan consists of poles or logs spread out into a fan shape. Most of the time you will have to jog or walk through the fan. Stay to the outside of the fan where it is wider. That way it will give you more room. Ask your horse to bend to the inside of the poles when you are going over a fan. Be careful that your horse doesn’t drift out of the pan or tick a pole. These are all point deductions. Keep your horse collected and bending around the obstacle.

The water box is not a very common trail obstacle. If you happen to come along one, you want your horse to drop his or her head when walking though the water box. Don’t hesitate or rush going through.

The box is fairly common. The box is made out of logs or poles. Depending on your trail pattern, you will be asked to walk, jog or lope into the box. When you stop inside the box, your horse should do a smooth, balanced stop. Once inside the box, you will be asked to perform a haunch turn or a forehand turn. Ideally your horse should not move his pivot foot, but some boxes are too small to do a perfect turn. In that case try your best to do what is asked.

The mailbox is a popular obstacle. Get close enough to the mailbox to reach over to open it. Then reach inside to see if there is a piece of paper or “mail”. Be sure to read it as sometimes there is a message on it. If not then rub it on your horses neck and hindquarter to show that your horse is relaxed and not spooky. Then put the “mail” back inside the mailbox and close it.

The key to trail is taking it slow. If you rush you can make mistakes that can cost you a ribbon. Trail is very technical and based on accuracy. Your horse should be willing to do what you ask. Trail is a good class for the calm and non-spooky horse. Next time you are at a show, enter a trail class!
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Uphill Climb  
I always had such a hard time with the rope gate. at the last show that they had that my horse thought it was an electric fence and freaked out. My poor baby. I dont have him anymore :( I miss him a lot
  Sep 25, 2010  •  28,286 views
Very informative. Thanks :D

I do have a question... Why is there a rule that an older horse must use a curb bit? We have a 14 yr old mare that hates them. She only goes well with a common snaffle.
  Sep 27, 2010  •  28,354 views
Fantasy Farms  
Emeraldeagle: To be honest, im not sure. I'm guessing its because a curb bit is a more advanced bit and gives you more control. If your horse likes a snaffle, try a short shanked snaffle. A lot of horses like that bit as it is not very severe.
  Sep 28, 2010  •  28,273 views
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