View Full Version : Looking for ideas on a downhill hunter?

Dapple Dawn Farm
Mar. 22, 2011, 09:31 AM
So, my 4 y.o. is about an inch butt high and I'm not convinced that his front end will ever catch up. Any helpful hints/suggestions/bits/equipment for helping him to transfer more weight to his hind end and elevate the forehand?

Mar. 22, 2011, 09:58 AM
There is no shortcut that will really work more than proper flatwork. And whatever you do, stay away from draw-reins! That will just make the situation worse.

Make sure he understands what engaging the hind, lifting the back, and impulsion are. Get him to understand how to move off your leg: both forward and sideways. Teach him to lengthen and shorten his stride while still pushing from behind by incorporating poles on the ground. Do lots of transitions to teach him to pick himself up and back. Etc.

I have ridden several downhill hunters, and when they knew how to work properly on the flat, they were able to transition to doing it o/f.

It is just flatwork, flatwork, and more flatwork.

But don't be too worried, I have had downhill horses suddenly level out at 6 years old. :) It's always a possibility!

Mar. 22, 2011, 09:59 AM
I rode a pony for a while who was built downhill; when I sat on him, I actually felt tipped forward until I got used to him. What was really important with him was to make sure that I kept my weight back so that he was able to really be off his forehand. It was tough to get used to it, but it reflected in his movement and jump when I did not get my weight back enough. I also did a lot of work in a frame with him and got his hind end really strong (I like hill work for that, but I never did that on this particular pony).

In keeping your weight back, you can still be up off the back though... I didn't sit the canter on him, but you can see in my videos of him that I was pretty careful not to get ahead of him. I kept him up and light with a lot of leg.

I feel like I'm not explaining myself very well, but here's a video that shows the way the pony went with me that worked best. You can see that while he still looks huntery, he doesn't have the nose-pointed look that some horses do. It worked best for him though; he jumped a 10 if I had him off his front end.


Good luck!

Mar. 22, 2011, 11:07 AM
Much as I hate the terms, the downhill ones need to be "framed" or "packaged"-they need alot of help to stay ahead of your leg and coming from behind. Left alone, they end up on their noses.

Not a ton of equipment out there that is going to change much but you probably will find something that adds lift is going to make it easier for you after you get him broke and going. But most you can't show a Hunter in...and I think you'll like him in a pelham for showing.

They also take a ton of leg. Your whole goal here is to get him to accept ALL the aids because you will need them. So highly recommend going the Dressage route with your flatwork, the more precise you can get him, the better he will be able to carry himself when you add the fences. Go slow too. Don't rush him.

One word of warning-hocks. It is harder on the downhill ones to rock back and push off, keep an eye on that and, again, go slow building his balance and strength on the flat.

Dapple Dawn Farm
Mar. 22, 2011, 11:23 AM
Findeight...end up on his nose...be both did the other day. I like the mindset of going the dressage route for now. Yes, he does take a ton of leg and at the same time is dull to the leg. We have been working on more responsiveness off of the leg and that has been improving until he had a "greenie" moment and set me on my a@@ instead of him :(

Mar. 22, 2011, 11:50 AM
Dawn...really, having had a couple of these, you need spurs and will love the Dressage whip in fixing that dead to the leg.

They aren't really dead either, it is just harder for them to arrange themselves properly. Not like working with the more athletic, level or uphill ones at all where you can be subtle. It's ALOT more work for the rider when you have to create the engine and everthing has to start with keeping them ahead of your leg and engaged behind. Get you legs of iron though.

He will get easier as he develops strength and balance. Is there somebody you can work with on that flatwork??? Always helps to have a set of eyes on the ground-helps you to stay motivated and do things correctly, also helps in not overdoing it.

I know you realize some of these are a tough ride over fences, the more you can accomplish before you go there, the better on one like this.

Mar. 22, 2011, 11:51 AM
What's his breeding? He may still level out.

Dapple Dawn Farm
Mar. 22, 2011, 11:54 AM
appendix QH...TB sire/ QH dam...

Mar. 22, 2011, 12:00 PM
appendix QH...TB sire/ QH dam...

Not going to say no chance with that but most of the Qhs are done at age 4. not impossible but unlikely.
Specifically what is his breeding? Who were sire and dam???? Any info on them?

Mar. 22, 2011, 12:01 PM
Correct flatwork and a hill! Hike his butt up and down the hill several times a week until its strong enough to hold the rest of him. Lounging him over raised cavaletti (when he's ready) won't hurt either.

Dapple Dawn Farm
Mar. 22, 2011, 12:10 PM
I agree Findeight...hence the post for help with exercises. This will most likely be a long term issue but I love his mind and that makes up for a lot in my book!
Sire, Canadian Sport Horse TB Half Moon Romance
Dam QH Triple Deduction

Mar. 22, 2011, 12:26 PM
A Fine Romance involved with the sire there? Dams side sounds like it's back to Three Bars TB but filtered thru 50 years of selecting for heavy muscle and early maturation-they can be downhill and he is probably done growing. But you can work with it as many others do with some pretty successful horses.

Try a series of trot poles, maybe 4' apart, roll them in if he reaches. He should have to collect and carry himslef so a little shorter is better. Start out with just 2 of them so he does not break into the canter in the middle or try to jump the whole thing. Add a pole every few days until you get 4 or 5. If he is not careful or steps on them, use flower boxes or even real low crossrails. You are trying to get him to use his hocks and keep the front end up all by himself and develop the strength and balance to do so.

I like alot of down transitions, particularly canter to trot. Pick a spot and ask for precise transitions, go from any gait to any other gait at a spot of YOUR choosing. Not a stride early or 2 strides late. Right there. Include the walk, halt and collection/extension of each gait. That gives you 9 gaits plus the halt to go back and forth with and ought to keep you very, very busy for a good long time.

Contrary to popular belief, backing up is not going to do much or build any real strength/balance. You will do better coming forward.

And, yeah, getting out of the ring, working on rough ground or on hills is good for ALL of them, downhill, uphill or level.

Any equipment opr gimmick is just going to let you hold the front up...in fact will force it up. As opposed to developing everything from behind. Turn into a crutch too if you aren't careful...end up about married to an elevator or 3 ring curb if you aren't careful to build that foundation first.

Go slow and build and you can avoid the typical downhill syndrom of loving the long spot so they don't have to rock back and landing on their noses-which is hell in an in and out.

ETA< placement poles are going to be your best friend when you jump anything. He has to take that step to the base and not learn to leave long. Probably 4 to 6 feet out at trot fences...I know 9' at a canter fence is considered "correct" but I bet a bit closer is going to work better for you at a slower canter over lower fences. Another example of needing a good ground person.

Dapple Dawn Farm
Mar. 22, 2011, 02:02 PM
A Fine Romance is a lovely horse but sadly, no immediate relationship.

Mar. 23, 2011, 01:17 AM
I strongly agree with all the posts emphasizing flatwork to teach her to bring up her withers and use her bum. One thing to add though. I used to ride a QH-X pony who had the unfortunate conformation of long back, short neck, and butt several inches higher than his flat withers. I found that all my tack tended to sit so low in front and high in back, that it further tipped me on to his withers, making it even harder for him to lighten his forehand. I found that when I 'leveled' my saddle, it was a lot easier to keep both of us balanced. For schooling, I used a navajo or square pad, folded in half and just layed it over his withers on top of my normal schooling pad. It was enough to raise the front of the saddle a few inches to match where his butt was putting the cantle. While working your mare with all the great exercises already posted, check the fit of your tack, and make sure your saddle is putting you where you're best balanced to help her, not make it harder.

Mar. 23, 2011, 03:00 PM
So, my 4 y.o. is about an inch butt high and I'm not convinced that his front end will ever catch up. Any helpful hints/suggestions/bits/equipment for helping him to transfer more weight to his hind end and elevate the forehand?

Proper flatwork. Try dressage.

Bits and equipment should not be what is relied upon to teach ANY horse to shift it's weight back. You ride the horse back to front.

101 Dressage Exercises and Progressive Schooling Exercises for Dressage & Jumping (Islay Auty) are great books ime.

He is only 4 though, so right now you should be developing PUSHING power as opposed to CARRYING power. Conditioning, strengthening. After say 2 years (optimally, as per the old ways of doing it) of foundational training where the horse has developed sufficient pushing power, THEN you can start developing that into carrying power via lateral work, progressive exercises such as in the aforementioned books, etc. You can work a little on that now, but your primary goal at this point should be developing that pushing power to start. Trail rides, going over SMALL jumps, riding forward in rhythm on large circles and on trails/canter with a light seat.

Apr. 16, 2011, 01:21 PM
In addition to above exercises, anyone have experiences or suggestions on how hind feet should be trimmed or shod?

Apr. 16, 2011, 02:08 PM
In addition to above exercises, anyone have experiences or suggestions on how hind feet should be trimmed or shod?

As his conformation dictates is best. Other then being done with a proper trim by a knowledgable farrier, nothing is really going to effect the fact he is downhill. Oh, some say shoes, some no shoes and some will go back with the toe trim a little to help the foot break over. Just don't fall for an "I can fix that". Nope they can't.