The Best Horse for Trail Riding, with Trail Riding Videos

Horseback Riding - Trail Riding Horses

I'm a big fan of horseback riding, especially trail riding. I’ve owned, bred, and worked with several breeds of saddle horses. These include the American Quarter Horse, the Appaloosa, the Tennessee Walking Horse, the Arabian, the Thoroughbred, the Paint, the Palomino, draft breeds, the Morgan, the Welsh Pony, and the Shetland Pony. Over the years, I’ve been involved with barrel racing, pole bending, reining, halter competition, Western pleasure, and cutting and herding cattle. My most enjoyable equine activity, however, has always been trail riding.

People have often asked me my opinion about the best breed of horse for trail riding. That’s a difficult question to answer. I’m not talking about endurance trail riding, where Arabians are hands down the best choice – I’m talking about hopping on a horse and tackling a tough trail not for competition, but just for the sheer joy of being in the great outdoors on the back of a good steed.

Much of the answer depends on what you’re looking for in a trail horse and what type of trail ride you'll be experiencing. For example, if you want comfort, the Tennessee Walker is hard to beat. If you need a horse that can climb steep hills, a Quarter Horse or an Appaloosa would be a good choice.

Of all the horses I’ve ever owned or ridden on trails, the very best was a buckskin mare named Poco – or Poker, as I sometimes called her. She was a Quarter Horse-Thoroughbred cross and was an amazing saddle horse. This will undoubtedly surprise some knowledgeable horsemen who are reading, since Thoroughbreds are often known for their high-strung, nervous personalities. This was not the case with my Poker girl. She never got spooked!

Poker was incredibly calm, even as a two-year-old, which was how old she was when I got her. She had only been ridden a couple of times, so it was up to me to formally train her. Even from the beginning, she was unflappable, bombproof. I’m sure much of this came from her Quarter Horse blood, a breed known for its even temperament.

Poco also had nice hindquarters that gave her the power to climb steep inclines – and I mean steep! When I think about all the places Poco and I went, it sometimes scares me. I’ll attribute her musculature to her Quarter Horse ancestry, too.

I think most of the rest of her trail ride attributes came from her Thoroughbred side, however. There’s an old saying that a Thoroughbred throws its heart over a jump or other obstacle first, then its body follows. This certainly seemed to be the case with Poco. She gladly went where other horses feared to tread.

I remember once, the dam we had to walk along to return to the barn had partially collapsed, due to heavy spring rains. All of us riders had to go around the other side of the pond to get back to the barn. The rushing waters had created a deep precipice that was about eight feet wide or so.

My horsey friends and I had a terrible habit of racing back to the barn after a trail ride. I know now how foolish that was, but I was young and daring. Poco and I always won – always. She was super fast. On this particular day, we were racing, as usual, and Poco and I both forgot about the gulch. By the time I remembered it, it was too late – we were upon it. I had no choice but to hang on and utter a quick prayer. Poco sailed over the crevasse and got us safely to the other side, as if it was just all in a day’s work to her. Once we were safe and sound at the barn, I marveled at her great fortitude. Most horses would have balked at the last second, sending their rider flying headlong into the muddy water.

As I said, I was young and foolish, so the next day, I decided to try the jump again. I wondered if Poco would take the leap now that her memory of the precipice had been jogged. I got a slight running start, and Poco once again leapt the deep ditch smoothly. It became common for us to jump the ravine instead of taking the long way round.

Of course, the other riders at the stables took notice and wanted to try their hand at the jump. Winning hunter-jumpers were included in this group, but not a single horse other than Poco would attempt the leap. They would slide to a grinding halt instead of taking the leap of faith. My heart swelled with enormous pride.

At other times, my riding friends and I would encounter wide streams and sections of swamps that stood in our paths on the trails. The other horses would often fidget or paw the water, not wanting to cross the wet obstacle. Poco, however, plowed right in. They never bothered her in the least.

She was also great around traffic. I rode her in shopping mall parking lots, across interstate bridges, and in downtown parades with no problems. Sometimes mean-spirited teenage boys would try to scare the horses with their four-wheelers or by driving up behind our mounts and honking their car horns. Again, while the other horses often shied, Poco paid the noise no attention at all.

I don’t entirely credit Poco’s amazing trail skills to her breeding. I think much of it was due to trust. She totally trusted me and recognized me as both her master and friend. I think she would have been willing to do anything to please me.

I've owned and ridden a lot of horses, but Poco stands out in my memory as the best one of all. She was the sweetest, most willing equine I've ever known. Just spending time grooming her or talking to her was an enjoyable, fulfilling experience, and trail riding her was a real joy.

Read more about horses and training tips by clicking the article links below the Amazon products and horse books:

A buckskin.
A buckskin.
A paint (left) and a buckskin (right).
A paint (left) and a buckskin (right).
My middle daughter starting out on a trail ride.
My middle daughter starting out on a trail ride.

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Comments 47 comments

Isabelle22 profile image

Isabelle22 6 years ago from Somewhere on the coastline

You know going on another trail ride is high on my agenda it has been about five years since I last went. It was the best fun in the world. Thanks habee for the great hub.


habee profile image

habee 6 years ago from Georgia Author

I totally agree, Isabelle! Glad you stopped for a read!


The Rope profile image

The Rope 6 years ago from SE US

Oh for the trail rides on spirited horses. My favorite was a fiesty American Quarter named simply "Red". I never owned any of the horses I rode but found a way every summer to spend it riding all over Lookout Mountain. Kin was the biggest horse I ever rode and not necessarily well behaved on trail rides - he liked his own space. Red wasn't well behaved on trail rides either - he seemed to think he should always be the leader so he'd nip if anyone got too close but he was the best when we were competing in summer rodeos. Little Joe was the sweetest horse I ever rode and tended to be my old stand by when I was taking out new groups. Thanks for a great read!


The Rope profile image

The Rope 6 years ago from SE US

sorry, double post


habee profile image

habee 6 years ago from Georgia Author

Hi, Rope! Glad to discover you're a fellow horse lover!


Hello, hello, profile image

Hello, hello, 6 years ago from London, UK

Habee, you ought to be envied. As you know I am nuts about horses. When we drive into the country and I can smell horses poo my blood tharts raising. It beats any Paris perfume ha ha ha I am sure you will agree.


Hello, hello, profile image

Hello, hello, 6 years ago from London, UK

Habee, you ought to be envied in every way. Thank you for reading an enjoyable hub.

I wrote this comment because I thought my first one vanished. Oh well, now you got two.


breakfastpop profile image

breakfastpop 6 years ago

Good morning habee,

Haven't been on a horse in a long time, but i guess it's never too late to pick it up again.


ethel smith profile image

ethel smith 6 years ago from Kingston-Upon-Hull

Have only ever been on a seaside donkey as a small child. Lucky you


Ken R. Abell profile image

Ken R. Abell 6 years ago from ON THE ROAD

Extremely enjoyable read. Thank you very much. And now I want to go trail riding, which I have not done for years.


habee profile image

habee 6 years ago from Georgia Author

Ah, HH, you're a woman after my own heart! Nothing like the smell of manure, hay, saddle leather, and sweet feed!


habee profile image

habee 6 years ago from Georgia Author

Never too late, Bpop!


habee profile image

habee 6 years ago from Georgia Author

Well, that can be fun, Ethel! But not as much fun as a trail ride on a real horse!


habee profile image

habee 6 years ago from Georgia Author

Thanks, Ken. Ya know, you look a little like a cowboy!!


prettydarkhorse profile image

prettydarkhorse 6 years ago from US

trail riding use to do that when I was in the Phils, thanks habee, great one, Maita


habee profile image

habee 6 years ago from Georgia Author

Hi, Maita! What kind of horses?


Vanne Way 6 years ago

Oh the memories of trail rides. On a cold morning those fingers I broke oh so many years ago ache like nobodies business. If I had a dollar for every mile I'd ridden on a trail I'd be rich!


habee profile image

habee 6 years ago from Georgia Author

We both would be, Vanne! Good times, good times!


prasetio30 profile image

prasetio30 6 years ago from malang-indonesia

my place is far away from ranch. So I never look the big riding horse directly. But you have great information about this horse. I also like the picture. thanks


habee profile image

habee 6 years ago from Georgia Author

You should stop at the ranchone day and ride, Prasetio!


Nicks 6 years ago

A stupid question (maybe) - is a quarter horse the same as a Mustang?


GracieLinda profile image

GracieLinda 6 years ago from Brandon, FL

the best one I had was a National Show Horse (cross between saddle bred and arabian) She was a blood bay with great little feet. Rode like a rocking chair, Lord I miss her.

Great hub!


habee profile image

habee 6 years ago from Georgia Author

Hi, Nicks! A quarter horse and a mustang are two different breeds. Remember, there is no such thing as a stupid question!


habee profile image

habee 6 years ago from Georgia Author

She sounds lovely, Gracie! I miss Poco, too, along with other wonderful horses from my past.


Ashley Howard 6 years ago

I love trail riding. I have a trail riding horse. The horse loves me to death. Trail riding is one of my favorite hobbies and i am leaving this week end to go trail riding at Cave Run this week end! Yay!!!!


habee profile image

habee 6 years ago from Georgia Author

Great, Ashley! Thanks for reading!


thebluestar profile image

thebluestar 6 years ago from Northern Ireland

I totally agree, nothing beats the wind in your hair and the exhileration of trust shared between two like minds. Just goes to show that trust is really what all relationships are based on.


habee profile image

habee 6 years ago from Georgia Author

True, bluestar. A shame more horsemen don't understand that!


Aoaklie 6 years ago

Thanks for the great read habee! I was just thinking what I was going to do with my horses after I retire from team penning. Well, Just good ole trail riding! It was the best when I was a youngster, why not again! And it's a lot easier on the anatomy! : ) Trust level is so important in my book. I have always instilled it in my horses at an early age that I would never lead them into danger, in turn they have given more than I could ask for. Ahhhhh, for the love of horses. : )


habee profile image

habee 6 years ago from Georgia Author

Aoaklie, horses are wonderful creatures! I've had the privilege of owning some outstanding equines! thanks for reading!


Art 4 Life profile image

Art 4 Life 6 years ago from in the middle of nowhere....

Great hub habee!

I trail ride a lot, and I enjoy my Mo.foxtrotter...we do steep rocky terrain, and it just does my mind and soul good to get out and go ride!

I rated you UP!

Art


habee profile image

habee 6 years ago from Georgia Author

Hi, Art! Trailing on a good mount is super relaxing!


supercibor profile image

supercibor 6 years ago from Dominican Republic

awesome hub. Great info


habee profile image

habee 6 years ago from Georgia Author

Thanks, super!


Cowgirl 6 years ago

I'm so jealous. I haven't been riding since I was 12, last time I was on a horse he was a gelding paint, pretty boy and listened very well *sigh* i'll never forget him. Now at 24, married and with a little boy im looking to get my family their own horse. Quarters have always been my fav breed but now i may look into cross bred quarters.


habee profile image

habee 6 years ago from Georgia Author

Girlfriend, you need another horse!


akeetlebeetle profile image

akeetlebeetle 5 years ago from Mesa, AZ

Poker sounds like a wonderful horse. Can you write more about her? Such personality.


habee profile image

habee 5 years ago from Georgia Author

Thanks! Is that your Akita in your avatar?


Glemoh101 profile image

Glemoh101 5 years ago

I like horses , i hope one day i learn how ride horses .


habee profile image

habee 5 years ago from Georgia Author

Glemoh, you should definitely learn horseback riding!


rwygovsky profile image

rwygovsky 5 years ago

What a great article! My best horse ever is my girl Kai-registered appy but more Quarter than anything else...she is the same way, my friend, my companion, and we trust each other completely!


habee profile image

habee 5 years ago from Georgia Author

RW, you're lucky to have such a wonderful equine pal. Appies are my fave!


Miss Lil' Atlanta profile image

Miss Lil' Atlanta 5 years ago from Atlanta, GA

Personally, I don't usually buy horses that strictly specalize in Trail riding, however I still absolutely love a nice trail ride. For me, I'm more of an Equine gal over Western most days of the week, but I can definitely get in a Trail mood when I need some good quiet time to relax while horseback riding.


habee profile image

habee 5 years ago from Georgia Author

Miss Atlanta, I find the older I get, the more I enjoy a nice trail ride! lol


Talullah profile image

Talullah 4 years ago from SW France

A fascinating hub, full of information and some lovely photos! I really enjoyed reading this one!


renee21 profile image

renee21 4 years ago

Great hub. Your horse is very brave!


DrBill-WmL-Smith profile image

DrBill-WmL-Smith 3 years ago from Hollister, MO

I enjoy each horse related hub I can find. I write historical fiction family sage pieces that have horses as key components. Perhaps you'll stop by and say "Hi!" ;-)

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