Whether it’s our main riding pursuit, just something to change up your everyday routine, or a treat you only allow yourself on holidays, most horse riders have at one point been on a trail ride.
And most of us have either a fond memory—or a memorable story—about a trail horse they once rode.
Whether they carry you over mountain paths or sandy beaches, these horses can range from saints to monsters. After years of working at a trail stable and riding around the world, I’ve determined that most trail horses fall into one of these very scientific categories:
1. Ol’ dependable
This horse has been here since the beginning of time. They definitely know your job better than you. When you get lost on the trails, they will look at you like you’re an idiot, and you’ll swear they can roll their eyes as they help lead everyone back to the barn.
2. The one for “experienced riders”
This is the horse that’s got a bit too much… personality for most riders. Personality, while generally not dangerous, may include: excessive eating, shying at horse-eating trees, excessive eating, managing to take their own bridle off mid-ride, excessive eating, pretending they don’t know how to neck rein and veering into the woods, and— oh, right, did I mention the excessive eating?
3. The doofus
This horse is probably a draft, and generally doesn’t know what to do with their giant feet. Easy going and forgiving to all those first-time riders, they never get ruffled by mistimed kicks or sharp pulls on the reins.
4. The pretty boy
He’s the nicest looking horse there—and knows it. People’s eyes light up when they catch a glimpse of this horse approaching the mounting block: his shiny tail and glossy coat would make anyone smile. Unfortunately, this is probably also the single dumbest horse in the barn. Like whinnies-at-their-own-reflection-in-windows, once-almost-backed-off-a-cliff level dumb. (True story).
5. The rescues
Covered in old scars, lumps, and raggedy manes, these are the horses whose pasts are complete mysteries. Likely, they were on their way to a meat truck before fate intervened. They might not be the prettiest, but they do their job well, quietly walking down the trails while accepting all the pats (and, post-ride, carrots).
6. The rejects
Rejects are the horses that look just a little nicer than the rest. Perhaps they’ve got decent breeding and were meant for a promising career in reining or roping—until their owners realized that all they wanted to do was sleep, eat, and get as fat as possible. These gorgeous beasts have absolutely zero work ethic but are dead calm. They’ve likely been relegated to a lead line pony, safely trucking around tiny riders and accepting the multitude of treats that they know they deserve. Those clever bastards.
7. The Frankenhorse
This horse is part-Thoroughbred, part-Appy, part-draft, and—what the heck—part Hackney. This is the horse that will make everyone who claims, “There’s no such thing as an ugly horse!” stop and go, “Oh.” Despite having a massive head, tiny ears, impossibly long legs, and only half a tail, this horse manages to always make it safely down the trails.
Regardless of appearances, every horse has potential. To many, they might look like generally scruffy, low-level trail dudes. But to me, they’re some of the best horses I know. Working all season long, they give so many people beautiful rides, creating what are sure to become cherished memories for years to come…
…well, depending which horse they got to ride.