Palm Partnership Training™
Building a Partnership with Your Horse
It’s time to apply all the great trail training we have covered to do a fun activity with your horse—going on a picnic. Be sure to follow all of the previous steps for training your horse on the trail covered in previous articles before heading out. Once you have included a warm-up for the horse and a warm up for the rider, it is time for the picnic pack up.
A number of good companies now make saddlebags that allow picnic items to be safely and conveniently carried on horseback. There are bags that fit or attach on either the front or back of the saddle. Generally a western saddle, or a saddle specifically made for trail riding, will give more attachment points for carrying bags.
Plan the packing list of what to bring on the picnic at least one day, if not a week, ahead of the departure date. Try to pack as lightly as possible. When packing, always put heavier items or long items over the pommel or at the horse’s wither area in front of the saddle, rather than off the back of the saddle. Of course, pack heavier items on the bottom of the saddlebag to keep it weighted down. Try to balance the weight within each individual saddlebag. Distribute the weight between saddlebags as evenly as possible.
Besides the picnic goodies, remember to bring some important items for your horse. Put a halter on him, either under or over the bridle, with a good lead and snap attached. Tie the end of the lead around his neck using a knot that will not hang down so low that it gets caught between his legs. Equip him with protective boots, especially if he is wearing shoes.
After the rider’s warm-up is completed and the horse has been warmed up at the walk, trot, and canter in both directions; plan how the ride will be conducted. Whether riding by yourself or with friends, decide what gaits to work in during the ride. Consider the experience levels of the horses and the riders, the trail’s terrain, and the distance to be covered. Options include doing the trail totally at the walk, walk-trot, or walk-trot-canter. The speed within each gait can be varied to add more variety.
Once the horse is packed, do a short under saddle warm-up to make sure everything is secure and will stay in place during the ride. Then it’s time to hit the trail!
Once the picnic destination is reached, find a tree to tie the horse to. Because the halter and lead are already on the horse, you will not have to change tack to tie him. Select a spot to tie him where, within a 360-degree circle, there is enough room between him and the next horse that they cannot touch. Always tie the lead rope high. The knot should be at the ear level of the horse. Always use a slipknot to tie him, putting the end of the lead through the slipknot so he cannot pull on the end and untie himself. The length of the lead allowed between the tree and the horse is also very important. It should be taunt at the horse’s natural head level. If he is tied lower than this, he has the chance of getting a leg over the lead. Secure the reins so the horse cannot get them over his head or step through them.
If your horse is a beginner at being tied on the trail, he will probably move around the tree and/or paw at the ground. These behaviors show his lack of experience and patience. Have the picnic in a spot where you can keep an eye on him. Just watch him, but don’t interfere unless he gets into trouble. Leave him alone and he should settle down in a while. The more you recognize or acknowledge his impatient behavior, the more he will act up.
Here is one of my favorite picnic dishes to make ahead of time and take in my saddlebag on a trail ride picnic. It is super easy to make, tastes great, keeps well, and will give you the energy to ride the rest of the day!
Lynn’s “Crispy Oriental Noodle Salad”
Cut one large head of Napa cabbage into long, thin slices
Slice up the bulbs only of 8-10 green onions.
Melt one stick of butter. Crumble into the melted butter 2 packages of ramen noodles (from a ramen noodle soup package without the seasoning packet). Add in ½-cup of sesame seeds and 2-1/2 ounces of slivered almonds.
Combing 1 cup of oil, 1 cup of sugar, ½-cup of vinegar, and 2-teaspoons of soy sauce.
Mix the ingredients of Steps 1, 2, and 3 together just before serving.
Hint: To keep this salad nice and crispy, I like to pack the ingredients from each step in separate containers and mix them together just before the picnic begins.
Your Next Step…
If a horse that is tied during a trail picnic gets too fretful or uncontrollable, you need to address the issue. Here is how turn the situation into a learning experience for him.
Untie the horse from the tree and lead him to a spot closer to the picnic where he can graze. Let him graze for 10-15 minutes, then tie him again at the tree. Allow him to remain tied for 10-15 minutes, then untie him and let him graze again for the same amount of time. Alternate between short segments of the horse being tied and grazing. This should calm him down while teaching him to accept tying. The more you take the horse on the trail and expose him to being tied, the more he will accept this.
When the picnic is over, it is time to pack up for the trip home. The good news for the horse is that his packs should be lighter. Because of the weight difference, be sure to re-secure all packs and bags to the saddle and make sure they are balanced properly.
After returning from the picnic, be sure to cool out your horse. With cold-water sponge his legs, back, girth area, between his legs, and where the headstall of the bridle lies before putting him back in his stall or into the trailer. Cooling these areas will help prevent stiffness and soreness. Be sure to give him a treat and a pet to say “thank you” for a great picnic trail ride together!
Until then, follow your dreams…
Lynn’s Training Tip…
Be smart with what you pack for a picnic. Carefully secure it on the horse so you do not have a chance of scaring the horse or losing your lunch!
I really like the Bickmore Leather Company’s new Mac Wipe Trail Pack Equine Body Grooming Wipes. The wipes come in a resealable bag designed for packing into a tight area like a saddlebag or an already cramped tack box. Body Grooming Wipes are perfect for long weekends at the show as a fast fix on the way into the arena, before and after a tough workout, or just as a refreshing clean up for your horse. They are also great for any on-the-trail cleaning chores, including mopping up spills. Once back at the barn, treat your trail partner to a soothing bath with Bickmore’s Mac Wipe Body Wash. This mild witch hazel based formula with essential oils leaves your horse’s coat looking and feeling shiny and clean. Applied full strength or diluted, it does not contain any harsh or abrasive chemicals like other washes. It is perfect for taking off the trail dust and leaving your horse feeling refreshed.