Naughty horse etiquette?
I would love to join my local hunt, and am starting out hill topping at their first outing tomorrow. I am sure I will learn lots by watching!
I think my horse will absolutely LOVE hunting... He is a former eventer, though we don't really do much anymore as he is getting up there in age and I have kids now. So I thought hunting might be a great fit for us! But I'm worried that he might love it too much. As in, he might be a total spaz the first few times before he settles in. Or he might throw a random tantrum. It's also possibly that he could be a perfect gentleman.... He has a bit of an unpredictable streak. I can handle him when this happens but I'd also like to be invited back. ;)
What is proper etiquette should this happen? What would you do? Can I do a few trot circles away from the group to get his brain back? Do I need to excuse myself?
It might help by understanding the 'whys' of what's expected in your horse, first.
The good hunter needs to stand still at checks because movement creates noise and can make it difficult to hear the hounds. (And of course it's annoying for others if your horse bumps them).
The good hunter needs to be controllable (and there is some latitude here, I hunted one for 20 years that didn't always have brakes but did always have steering:)) so as to not be a danger to other horses and riders, and to not interfere with sport (you don't want to pass the field master and risk disturbing hounds, whether on a run or trying to find their quarry).
Importantly for the rider, you want to be able to enjoy watching the hounds, it's never pleasant to spend hours having to work hard to keep a horse under control.
#1 universal rule of hunting: hounds have right of way and you need a horse that can grind to a halt NOW to let a hound pass, a horse that won't kick hounds, and a horse that's okay with hounds materializing from any direction at any given time, a horse that's okay with the sound of 40 or more hounds in chorus and running hard.
With all of that in mind- sure, if a horse is being a spaz in a group of other horses, taking it back behind and getting where you can just do small circles quietly is the way to go. You'll see at Arapahoe that the country is well suited to this.
It's also important to set your horse up for success- if you've done a fair amount of eventing, your horse may be okay with another horse some distance away jumping xc at the same time as you. But, is your horse accustomed to moving at speed in a group is a question you need to know the answer to. And can your horse handle lots of hounds, the horn, staff galloping by, etc. You'll get that picture when you car follow.
It's always a good idea to arrive knowing what your horse will do in a group, so trail rides in advance of hunting (at all speeds) are good. For your horse's first hunt, the ideal day is probably one during the week when there are fewer people out, and the ideal scenario is, ride in the back of the hilltopper field with someone on a real steady eddy experienced hunter who knows the game. Hopefully that person will be someone who, if you find your horse is just miserable/fried/whatever, will go back to the trailers with you if need be.
I'm articulating the 'be prepared for anything' scenario- you may indeed find that your horse takes to it like a duck to water in which case you just go with the flow! Important caveat, however. Many horses are 'just fine' for the first 3 to 5 outings and there's a threshhold to be met after that- when they know where they are going and what they are going to be doing- that is an acid test for most. I had one on trial years ago, went nicely the first two times, third time, stepped off the trailer in a lather and, long story short, after 30 minutes I took him back to trailers- his brain just wasn't wired for hunting.
1. Call the Secretary and ask this question.
2. Arrive plenty early so you can acclimate yourself and horse and introduce yourself around. In your intro you can say " Dobbin and I have never hunted, I think he'll love it, but he can x, y and z when excited."
3. Stay to the back if possible.
4. Go in early to avoid accident and injury if Dobbin doesn't seem to be able to be able to cope.
I hope all goes well and you have a great day. And of course a hunt report will be forthcoming?
The "it will take several outings to really see how he'll handle it" advice bears repeating. A lot of horses, especially brave ones, don't provide their, ahem, 'finest moments' in the first outing or two. It's only later, as they *think* they have it all figured out, that things get really interesting. I am a huge fan of taking it slowly the first half dozen or more hunts, so the horse can wrap its brain around going and stopping and noise and hounds and going and stopping again, and, and, and; without also being all "OMG, whee! Running!!"
Do ask your field master and other members of the field where they would like you to ride. At our hunt, it's considered very rude to park yourself in the front of the group without invitation as that preferred location is reserved for senior members with colors. New horses are often at the rear, which makes having an experienced partner who will buffer the crack-the-whip effect and generally babysit your horse an absolute godsend, especially going faster than hilltopping or if you need to excuse yourself. ETA: Our hilltoppers are a mix of the, ah, 'more sedate' riders and riders on greener horses, and never the twain shall mix. So it's a really good idea to be mounted early enough to identify fellow hilltoppers and let them figure how how to arrange the field so that, if your horse has an orangutan moment, no one else's ride is ruined.
Do ride at the back of second field or in the rear of the hilltoppers if you aren't sure your horse will stand. That way you have some room to work on walk around/stand/walk around/stand without annoying the rest of the field too much. However, if you're in the back, do keep your eyes and ears open for hounds and staff so you can get out of the way promptly and are prepared in case your horse spooks or kicks (carry a whip--if he kicks, you're expected to discipline immediately and harshly).
Above all, be polite, don't be afraid to ask questions or for instructions, and have fun! The people I know who weren't invited back were the ones who expected special accomodations for their little poopsie's bad behavior, who complained, or were generally pains in the butt. I recall one potential member last spring who shoved a lead rope at me with a snotty "Here, hold this" so she could hose off her horse after the hunt. Shockingly, she wasn't invited back...
:lol:Practice saying "Excuse me, pardon me, I'm so sorry!":D
:lol: to Jawa's reply, which I second!
Could you try a hunter pace first? Would that work for the two of you?
I was hunting a friends draft cross in 2nd flight. We were at the back of the flight (even though it was his 2nd season). We went through a field that was occupied by some calves that were being weaned. They WERE VERY CURIOUS. I could feel my horse tense up, so I turned him to face the calves. They had made a semi circle around 2nd flight. My horse became VERY UNNERVED. He just knew he was about to be eaten. He trotted in REVERSE all the way to the 2nd flight master. I was kicking like a little kid on a pony saying "Excuse.me.pardon.me.i'm.so.sorry!!" as fast as I could.
I should clarify, my hilltopping outing tomorrow is via car only. I am sure it will help a lot to see it all in advance!
My horse is a coming-20 year old TB though he doesn't act like it very often. We have done plenty of eventing, hunter paces, XC clinics, trail rides, etc., so I can say with some confidence that at some point he will have a tantrum, we will have words, and then he will get over it. I don't think he'll be an idiot the entire time though. I hope not at least. Crap, I hope I didn't just jinx it.
Is there a point at which a naughty horse is no longer welcome with the group and should be excused? I don't mean to the level of being dangerous, but more of a PITA? I totally plan to hide in the back, but what if we even annoy the people in the back?
If your horse's behavior endangers the riders around you, then you should excuse yourself. For example at the hunt I rode in today we had several occasions where we had to make way in tight quarters for fast moving staff and one horse came unhinged and began spinning, backing into other horses who started kicking in self defense...etc it was a mess and that person was quickly asked to excuse themselves. Depending on your territory or fixture you don't always have the luxury of room to circle safely away from others. We have had several prospective members that we had to gently tell that they would be welcome to join once they acquired a more suitable hunt horse.
Originally Posted by rhymeswithfizz
It's a good time to go hill topping, as its early in the season and there are apt to be a few new-to-hunting horses in the field. Pay attention to the greenies and how they are handled by their rider and how their behavior is treated from the other Hunt members. It's will give you a clue as to the level of tolerance the Hunt, as a group, will tolerate a horse who has a tantrum. Each Hunt is different with their level of tolerance with behavioral issues.
A couple of things to add:
If you need to go in, it is best if a hunt member takes you in so that you can find your way (and your horse will follow theirs easier than going in by himself), plus you will be less likely to interfere with the hunting, line, hounds, etc.
Many, many horses are perfect the first two or three hunts, then spaz out after that before they settle in. Resist the urge to go full out because he is "acting so good."
Pick your battles. Be sure not to over ride him; don't keep him "on the bit" or otherwise insist he be ring-perfect. Try to stay relaxed.
Watch the hounds and Have fun!
oh, and if you are at the back with children on ponies, shenanigans are less tolerated. Some horses go better with a buddy behind them so they don't feel like they are being left behind.
In our hunt you would be invited, or you could ask, to go on hound exercises first.
Surprised no one has suggested yet- ride an experienced hunt horse your first few hunts so you know what to expect and, hopefully, observe how other people handle their horse's-spaz outs without getting kicked out :) Then take your horse hunting.
Originally Posted by linquest
I joined a local hunt and was graciously offered a free lease from a staff member of his made hunt horse. After several outings it was quite clear just how much work goes in to bringing a hunt horse along, and how vastly inappropriate it would have been for me to ride my green bean. We all must start somewhere, but I think it's best for the rider to gain their experience on a seasoned mount before giving it a go with their own.
Thank you!! Great ideas and suggestions! Can't wait to get out there and give it a go :)
A lot of good advise here so take your pick. Every hunt has experienced unruly horses from time to time if not one or two at every meet. It’s not as much about the horse but rather the rider and how the rider handles the situation. Unless the hunt is full of prima donnas unruly horses happen and should be tolerated to a point. Few horses are perfect fox hunters from the get go and even seasoned ones have their moments. What is frowned upon is when a rider does not except/know their skill level and the effects it has on others along with interfering with the hunt. IMO a green fox hunter should be backed by an person experienced in the field. But that is not to say you shouldn’t give it a try. If you know your horse and your skill/comfort level have at it. A lot of hunts have 3rd Flights for new horses, new people and or people who just want an easy go of it. These are usually lead by “mother hens” who enjoy looking after and teaching those who are new to the sport. Ask one of the Masters or the Secretary who that might be in the hunt and get an introduction. Be proactive and know when it is time to call it a day. IMO hunting is about having fun. Admiring good horses, good hounds, good riders and cleaver foxes. Its about tradition, etiquette without being snobbish and camaraderie. It is not about pomp and ceremony.
THis is excellent information. I am very sensitive about green horses right now b/c I'm riding one.
Originally Posted by gumtree
One tip that hasn't been mentioned is using Ace. It can be a very handy tool in your toolbox for the first few times out. Do a search on here and you'll find all the information you need. It's especially handy if you HAVE to be in the group at all times when you begin. If you can go third or even fourth flight, it's more like a group trail ride, and he's apt to remain more calm.
In the hunt I ride with we braid in a green ribbon of the tail of our green horses. This is a message to others that the horse or rider is a greenie. You should probably check with the hunt to be sure this is acceptable, but we find that it is an easy way of pointing out greenness to all participants.