View Full Version : Preparing horse for hunter derbies?

M. Owen
Mar. 23, 2011, 10:13 AM
Since hunter derbies are all the rage now, one of our nearby show venues started offering hunter derbies within the last couple of years at their A and (now) AA shows. They offer various levels from ponies to I believe 3'6" and have some natural jumps as well as obstacles such as opening a gate and a bridge.

I have a young horse that I would like prepare to do a derby there eventually. Anyone have suggestions for preparing and what types of interesting obstacles you have seen at derbies?

As far as natural jumps- things like drops, grobs, logs- I am thinking school over some XC jumps. I also think hacking out in general would be good and some "despooking." At the show close to me, in addition to some natural jumps and natural looking hunter jumps, last year they always used a gate and a bridge (bridge was made of wood, had a slight arch and railings). Preparing for those two really stump me. I am thinking for the bridge from a noise, color, and footing change perspective maybe walk over a piece of plywood. Has anyone figured out how to mimic a gate short of building one? I saw some horses get really rattled about the gate last year and ruin nice rounds.

Thanks! Any fun ideas are much appreciated.

Mar. 23, 2011, 10:40 AM
You can purchase similar bridges from garden stores. (http://www.egardenbridges.com/ Look at the Harrison Bridges). Though they're slightly pricey, we reinforced ours and used them not only under jumps, but to practice walking over. They're sure pretty in the ring, and they were the best practice! I've seen them as fillers at horse shows before and no horse I've owned has batted an eye yet.

Practice walking in and out of gates on the farm. We had a few 4' wide and 8' wide gates that we worked with. Just practice with those... Can't get much cheaper than that ;)

Mar. 23, 2011, 10:54 AM
See if you can find someone who does western trail classes. They should have bridges, or at the very least some sturdy raised platforms. I know when my friend was training her horse for trail classes she used a rope suspended between two posts for a "gate" at first. That way they could get the lateral work down before worrying about how to handle a big awkward gate.

Mar. 23, 2011, 12:56 PM
You could always take him foxhunting.

Mar. 23, 2011, 01:07 PM
You can find bridges on a lot of trails. Most of the parks we go to in the area have bridges we have to cross.

Is the gate a normal metal type gate? How about practicing every time you enter/exit the ring opening and closing the gate on your guy? Make it a routine so he won't be phased by a gate.

I think getting out of the ring, jumping natural obstacles on the trail and just getting him used to working in a natural environment and answering the questions posed outside would be your best bet.

Good luck!

Personal Champ
Mar. 23, 2011, 02:11 PM
Do you have a local 4H? We have a ton and there is a bridge required for the trail class. Perhaps you could borrow and/or go to their showgrounds to use?? DH built me one, not fancy, out of 2x4 and 2x6 planks. Heavier than hell. I don't move it often.

Re: gates - I always practiced with the arena gate.

Mar. 23, 2011, 03:39 PM
I see your in MA- there is a great place in Haverhill that has all kinds of jumps in a field that I believe is free to use...I can't remember the name of it, but would be a great place to train, condition etc.

Mar. 23, 2011, 03:50 PM
I used to school some of my derby horses and even my JR/AO hunters up on the cross country course at Valinor in Plymouth, Ma. They not only loved the change of pace and the chance to gallop around in a field, but they also got the exposure and experience for the derbies as well. I also know a trainer in Rehoboth that is fabulous to work with (event trainer), but will allow you to work with him and school the XC course they have. He really opened up a lot of unleashed talent in both me and my horses. Great guy. Feel free to PM me. I've found that cross-training has changed all of my horses for the better and really broadened their experiences.

Not too sure which facilities you're talking about, but I did have some opportunities to school in a derby field a few times. I called the facility and spoke to the owner and they allowed me to come and school up there as long as I had an instructor with me. There was a fee, but it allowed me to expose my horse to the actual ring they would be showing in.

All of my horses go trail riding a few days a week and are out and about off the property more than they are worked in the ring sometimes!

Training your eye to jump on uneven ground is super helpful as well. Learning to jump up hills and down hills, all the natural obstacles, etc. All the obvious.

Best of luck! Hope to see you in some of the derbies this year!

M. Owen
Mar. 23, 2011, 09:08 PM
Thanks everyone! The show venue in MA with the hunter derbies is Fieldstone, they are having hunter derbies in their jumper field now. I think I know who you mean in Rehoboth, have worked with him before on one of his horses. Valinor is gorgeous but a bit far from me, I am close to Apple Knoll as well as the Norfolk hunt grounds, so would like to get over there once the weather improves a bit more. I am also lucky to board at a facility with loads of trails and fields, so lots of space to hack out.

Great suggestion on the rope idea to start the lateral work on the gate, I think I may trying something like that before trying real gates. My horse has a bit of a training hole wrt lateral work, so I think some baby steps may be in order on that front. I like those bridges too- may not spring for that cost but my dad is awfully handy, maybe he can come up with something.

Thanks all!

Mar. 24, 2011, 12:58 AM
I think you have the right idea, no matter what disipline you ride i believe all horses should get exposed to as much as possible, school some little logs, use a tarp and ground poles and make a faut liverpool, barrels...lots of trail rides

Mar. 24, 2011, 11:54 AM
For a bridge, see if you can find someone who does Combined Driving. I understand that a bridge is a pretty standard obstacle for them.

Mar. 24, 2011, 02:49 PM
I'm a little embarrassed to say this but we jump my horse over anything we can find around the farm that he wont get hurt on if he knocks it. So far we've racked up a bike, a giant tire from a tractor, a chair, a christmas tree, and a bench, we'll be moving on to 4 wheelers and tarps this week. He's the type of guy where he is either going to stop, and not dirty stop, he'll give you a good long notice, or he's going to over jump it.

Personally, we just worked on tight turns, galloping up to fences, trot jumps, and everything in between. I let myself into and out of the outdoor regularly and he is made to go out in the fields when I have nothing serious to work on in the ring.

My guy takes a joke and when we do crazy things we keep the jumps low. We also make him jump anything he spooks at. And we have a little forewarning about a miniderby I'm doing in April and some of the jumps they have been building for it.

Mar. 24, 2011, 03:13 PM
I don't think opening/closing gates is allowed anymore per USHJA Hunter Derby Specs.


I recall that they may have been some sort of safety concern?