Most Common Trail Class Mistake
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Californias Cynthia Cantleberry, the First Lady of trail, identifies the most common mistake made in trail classes and tells you how to prevent it.
What is the most common mistake made in the trail class?
The most common mistake is looking down at the obstacle youre on and not looking where youre going. When you look down at the current obstacle, you can make your horse make a mistake by trying to help him too much. You may think you can correct a position problem if you look down at the obstacle, but the truth is its too late to fix it once you get there.
Heres an example: If your horse isnt lined up properly and is instead in position to hit that log, hes going to hit it. But sometimes hes not going to hit it and you make him hit it by looking down at it. Because you get there and look down and say, "Hes off," and you take hold of him just enough to make him step on it. Whereas if youd left him alone to do it, everything would have been fine. Youve trained him to do it, so let him do it.
Ive done this more than once. Ill be riding a green horse and Ill say, "Boy, this horse is really cruising. Lets see, were doing so good, maybe I better jump in here and help," and about that time its all over.
should you have done instead?
If youre at this point, and your next obstacle is over there, and youre already headed that way, just look over there. Just look where youre going to go, look where you want to be. Your hand will follow your eyes.
When you walk your courses (on foot, before the class starts), find out where you should be, the paths you should take between obstacles. Remember that some horses neck-rein better, some make short distances better, and some make wide distances better. Know your horse. Know your course.
I have always trained my horses to let them do it. So as theyre young horses, I let them clobber the poles, and pretty soon they learn to rate themselves. Pretty soon after theyve clobbered this stuff enough theyll come up and theyll either chip into it or theyll learn to reach for it. And as they become seasoned horses you cant see the chip, you can barely feel the chip, and you cant see them leap at it, because theyll bring themselves into it right, and thats what youre after.
Is there any way to fix this problem once its happened?
If you try to fix it once youre there, its too late, unless youre a heck of a hand and on a really, really broke horse. Normally, if you let your horse alone, hell bail you out. If you put him in wrong, a good seasoned horse will bail you out. It may not look pretty, but hell take care of you. But when youre up on top of these poles, its too late to fix it.
Once youre there and youve made a wrong decision, its too late. Unless youre on a real seasoned horse, theres no correction involved.
What other mistakes or problems have you seen?
Amateurs and kids have a tendency to talk each other into problems. "Oh, gosh, look at that, isnt that terrible?" Well, the other rider had never even thought of it, and they wouldnt have had a problem with it. Dont let your friends talk you into things.
And dont focus on one thing. I do it myself, sometimes. I think, "Oh no, this horse doesnt like to neck rein this way or this horse doesnt like a sharp turn." You get to thinking about it: "Well, this is my bad direction and this is what I have to do to make it right." But if you keep dwelling on it, I guarantee youre going to have a problem with it. So dont dwell on something.
What advice do you have to help people be prepared for trail class competition?
Walk the course on foot if you can. If you have trouble with courses, walk them. That way you know where youre supposed to be, whether you have to make a wide turn or short turn.
Watch the horse in front of you go. If you watch two or three horses through the courseif you dont have to be firstyou get to see where the mistakes are being made. You can say to yourself: "Oh, the distance is wrong on that, theyre going too wide, thats giving them too many strides, or, theyre going too tight, they dont have enough strides." Out here in California we have so many trail horses that if you go in the middle of the pack theres usually a path to follow, so you kind of know where to go. But sometimes youll see that the tracks went too far out on one obstacle. So know your course.
If you dont have the opportunity to watch somebody else go, study the course, walk the course, know where you belong. Know your spots. Lots of the amateurs and most of the kids have trainers that will walk the course with them and help them know where to go.
ahead. Plan where youre going, where your spots are.
Trail horses have to have a really good rein on them nowadays, and they have to have a really good stop on them. In some of the courses, we jog or lope through three boxes and in the fourth one we have to stop. So trail horses have to be pretty well broke and have a good handle on them. Theyre one of the brokest horses there are, and its not all gimmick-broke eitherits not all leg cue or head cue. You have to take a hold of the reins and use them.
About Cynthia Cantleberry
Cynthia Cantleberry won her first American Quarter Horse Association trail world championship in 1976 on Hi Mabel, owned by her husband Red Cantleberry, and Cynthia has been a top trainer and competitor in the event ever since. Hi Mabel produced one of Cynthias superstar horses, Hicando, who repeated his dams open senior trail world championship 20 years later in 1976 and is AQHAs all-time leading point-earner in trail. Cynthia continues to train, show, and coach amateur riders from her ranch in Paso Robles, California.