What should I expect on the trail ride?

Horseback Riding isn’t a Sport!

“That’s not a sport,” or, “You just sit on the horse and it does all the work” are not statements horseback riding enthusiasts appreciate, but on a deeper level there’s a sense of danger in it too. The reality is, horseback riding is mentally, emotionally and physically challenging. As a life-long athlete, I’ve played everything under the sun. I’ve always been active, and I know all about “pushing oneself,” self determination, putting aside personal problems to play for the team and so on. As an adult who is now more physically active than EVER, I can promise you that horseback riding is one of the most challenging athletic endeavors you’ll face. The more advanced you become, the more this becomes true.

Three horseback riding students silhouetted in the setting sun of a north Austin dude ranch in Summer 2016
Three horseback riding students in the setting sun

The Nose to Trail and Push Button Horse

So how did this stigma of horseback riding as a passive activity become so prevalent? Two reasons: The Nose to Tail Trail Horse and the Push Button Horse. Both of these horses exist, but neither of them are truly representative of what horseback riding is about. Want to understand these horses a little better? Check back in with this post in the next week and you’ll see links to musings on both. In the meantime, I’d like the focus of this rumination to be on what horseback riding actually is, and what you should actually expect when you come out and ride with Maverick Ranch.

Horses and Responsiveness

Maverick horses, unlike the traditional trail horse, are responsive. This means that they respond to rider cues, whether those cues are correct or incorrect. The typical trail horse is unresponsive. It takes more skill to get him off his course than to keep him on the trail. It won’t matter if you kick him, pull the reins back, or steer, he’s going on that trail. Because that’s all he’s ever done. And that’s all he’ll ever do.

horseback riding students enjoy an evening out on the trail at sunset, pictured here with flea bitten grey gelding named Ghost and ever-faithful chestnut gelding Rocky, who has been helping us with horseback riding lessons for four years
Go for an unforgettable trail ride at our Texas Dude Ranch

A Real Texas Experience

No equestrian enjoys that experience, except for the scenery and the smell of the horse, of course. Most beginners don’t really get a lot from it either. For really nervous folks, it can certainly give a false sense of security. This is great for such folks if it all ends well, but there are some serious cons to that as well, which we can discuss in a future post. So what are most people looking for? A real experience. They want to know what riding horses is all about. Sometimes people come ready to take in the whole experience, but other times they have some misconceptions about what their ride will be like.

You Will Err

It takes the average riding student 30-40 minutes to really get the hang of horseback venturing. Our trails pose many obstacles such as hills, instructions for maneuvering your horse around various elements on the path, and of course learning that really fine line between using just enough pressure and not too much. It’s tough! And riders should feel comfortable knowing that they WILL ERR! Riders are going to make mistakes, and that’s ok. The trick is resisting the temptation to blame the horse. Most trainers and instructors stand by the figure that 80-95% of the struggle in executing a most (turn, stop, walk, sidepass) is rider error. That can be a hard pill to swallo, but if riders ask “What do I need to fix in my cue,” buying arcoxia instead of asking “Why did i get the horse that does xyz,” or “Why isn’t my horse listening?” they will see fast progress and a nice working relationship on the trail.

Child-Friendly Horses and Adult Struggles

Children as young as 10 ride ALL of our trail horses. So, we assure you our horses are as “safe” as horses can be. When adults or children do struggle, it’s almost always an internal process they need to work through. Horses are strong, and equally sensitive. It doesn’t take much to get them to move (imagine driving a boat), but sometimes they do test you out and in those moments you may have to use a lot of force. Riding students are notorious for not applying enough pressure, long enough and also applying too much pressure for too long. Conundrum!

Black and white APHA mare for sale in Texas posing with spotted long horn on Round Rock trail ride
Enjoy many different trails on property and off-property

Your Mood and Your Ride

Your experience will be impacted by your overall mood. Nervousness, anger, excitement, sadness, frustration… they’ll all affect how your horse feels. The added kicker is that when in a group environment, when riding responsive horses, others’ emotions and feelings can also become pervasive. What can you do?

Do a Check in and Focus on Breathing

First, check in with your emotions. If you’re feeling particularly nervous, or upset by some external incident, let your guide know. They can help pair you with a horse that is less affected by emotions. There’s nothing you can do about other people. If another group member is struggling with riding, the best thing you can do is sit up straight, focus on your breathing, and listen to your guide.

When You’re Looking for a Relaxing Ride?

Remember, this IS going to be a challenge. If you’re not looking for a challenge, but you want to ride with us for the tremendous scenery and great environment, simply let us know. We will bring an extra guide on hand to pony you whenever you need.

Private Horseback Riding Trails

Hoping to have a ride that’s not impacted by other riders? Try to book a private ride. In our trails, with our responsive horses, I’ve seen a ride of six people with TWO guides pose great challenges, while rides with one guide and eight people, or rides with TWELVE people have gone smashingly. The real question for you if you might want a private ride is will you be bothered by other member’s failure to follow simple instructions (sit up straight, hand to hip to steer… no… that’s your belly button…. no, that’s your leg, heels down) or will you let this roll like oil off a duck’s back? If it’ll bother you to slow, stop, even change horses to keep another rider safe, then you should opt for a private ride. If you see all of that as part of the experience, then opt for the group, because you could meet some amazing people and more really can be merrier.

John deere tractor sitting off to the side, watching an amazing view of the sunset
Enjoy beautiful sunsets of the valley of our Central Texas riding stables

Right and Wrong

There’s no right or wrong here. It’s really about your expectations. If you can better communicate those expectations to us before you book and then again on the day of your ride, it’ll make it easier for Maverick Guides to help you along whichever path you choose. The decision is yours! We’re just here for the ride 🙂

–Joan Marie MacCoy


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