Dedicated trail horses don't ride like arena horses out in the open. Until today I hadn't really thought about this. I'd seen the symptoms, and I'd put these down to a lack of finesse in my riding. Now I wonder.
I've been riding trail with a couple of horses and riders more accustomed to dressage. Although they were nominally faster horses, I found that Brena tended to get too close behind. She became frustrated when I checked her pace. This has happened several times over the past couple of years.
I leave Brena with a loose rein and allow her to place her feet according to the surface. Out on the trail, when I ask for a trot or a canter, I let Brena choose a speed that is comfortable. Obviously I don't let her do as she wishes, and I don't accept changes to a faster pace without being asked.
Other riders like to go forward on a contact, choosing where their horses step and what pace they proceed at. Often this is slower than the terrain and surface will safely support. But, as one rider said, her horse needing holding back otherwise he might end up out of control.
I hadn't thought about this. Basically I have a horse that is experienced in getting from one place to another on a variety of trails. She restrains her speed based on conditions underfoot. In this respect Brena is quite conservative. When I ask her to go forward fast, and she is confident to do so, Brena has a turn of speed. This approach isn't compatible with arena horses that are used to being told where to go and at what speed. Sometimes we hold them up, and other times we're running up the back of them. Usually it's the former, occasionally the latter.
One could say that I'm simply not exercising as much control as I might. True, I could ride on a contact, but why? I want to ride a horse that can look after itself on the trail.
What to do? Basically there are situations where I need to ask my companions to get a move on. There are places where a trail horse needs to go forward freely. Or it needs to walk, which is always the default.
Am I being reasonable?
I can think of horses that become strong and silly when allowed to go fast. Some horses will be out of control if not continually told what to do by their riders. Perhaps these just aren't cut out to be easy trail horses? Or they have been, in effect, trained not to be trail horses. And there are plenty of horses that can run a lot further than Brena, who is after all a draught-cross.
This seems to cut right down the pool of horses and riders that I can go riding the trails with.