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The Best Horse for Trail Riding, with Trail Riding Videos

Updated on August 30, 2013

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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    • DrBill-WmL-Smith profile image

      William Leverne Smith 

      5 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!" ;-)

    • renee21 profile image

      renee21 

      6 years ago

      Great hub. Your horse is very brave!

    • Talullah profile image

      Talullah 

      6 years ago from SW France

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

    • habee profile imageAUTHOR

      Holle Abee 

      7 years ago from Georgia

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

    • Miss Lil' Atlanta profile image

      Miss Lil' Atlanta 

      7 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 imageAUTHOR

      Holle Abee 

      7 years ago from Georgia

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

    • rwygovsky profile image

      rwygovsky 

      7 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 imageAUTHOR

      Holle Abee 

      7 years ago from Georgia

      Glemoh, you should definitely learn horseback riding!

    • Glemoh101 profile image

      Glemoh101 

      7 years ago

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

    • habee profile imageAUTHOR

      Holle Abee 

      7 years ago from Georgia

      Thanks! Is that your Akita in your avatar?

    • akeetlebeetle profile image

      akeetlebeetle 

      7 years ago from Mesa, AZ

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

    • habee profile imageAUTHOR

      Holle Abee 

      8 years ago from Georgia

      Girlfriend, you need another horse!

    • profile image

      Cowgirl 

      8 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 imageAUTHOR

      Holle Abee 

      8 years ago from Georgia

      Thanks, super!

    • supercibor profile image

      Hector Herrera 

      8 years ago from Dominican Republic

      awesome hub. Great info

    • habee profile imageAUTHOR

      Holle Abee 

      8 years ago from Georgia

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

    • Art 4 Life profile image

      Art 4 Life 

      8 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 imageAUTHOR

      Holle Abee 

      8 years ago from Georgia

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

    • profile image

      Aoaklie 

      8 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 imageAUTHOR

      Holle Abee 

      8 years ago from Georgia

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

    • thebluestar profile image

      Annette Donaldson 

      8 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 imageAUTHOR

      Holle Abee 

      8 years ago from Georgia

      Great, Ashley! Thanks for reading!

    • profile image

      Ashley Howard 

      8 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 imageAUTHOR

      Holle Abee 

      8 years ago from Georgia

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

    • habee profile imageAUTHOR

      Holle Abee 

      8 years ago from Georgia

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

    • GracieLinda profile image

      GracieLinda 

      8 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!

    • profile image

      Nicks 

      8 years ago

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

    • habee profile imageAUTHOR

      Holle Abee 

      8 years ago from Georgia

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

    • prasetio30 profile image

      prasetio30 

      8 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 imageAUTHOR

      Holle Abee 

      8 years ago from Georgia

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

    • profile image

      Vanne Way 

      8 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 imageAUTHOR

      Holle Abee 

      8 years ago from Georgia

      Hi, Maita! What kind of horses?

    • prettydarkhorse profile image

      prettydarkhorse 

      8 years ago from US

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

    • habee profile imageAUTHOR

      Holle Abee 

      8 years ago from Georgia

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

    • habee profile imageAUTHOR

      Holle Abee 

      8 years ago from Georgia

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

    • habee profile imageAUTHOR

      Holle Abee 

      8 years ago from Georgia

      Never too late, Bpop!

    • habee profile imageAUTHOR

      Holle Abee 

      8 years ago from Georgia

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

    • Ken R. Abell profile image

      Ken R. Abell 

      8 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.

    • ethel smith profile image

      Ethel Smith 

      8 years ago from Kingston-Upon-Hull

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

    • breakfastpop profile image

      breakfastpop 

      8 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.

    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 

      8 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.

    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 

      8 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.

    • habee profile imageAUTHOR

      Holle Abee 

      8 years ago from Georgia

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

    • The Rope profile image

      The Rope 

      8 years ago from SE US

      sorry, double post

    • The Rope profile image

      The Rope 

      8 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!

    • habee profile imageAUTHOR

      Holle Abee 

      8 years ago from Georgia

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

    • Isabelle22 profile image

      Isabelle22 

      8 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.

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