want to learn to hunt
I recently purchased a horse and I am looking for guidance from hunters. I have found out that there are two somewhat local (non sanctioned) hunts with whom I can cap. That being said, my horse is a green bean but surprisingly quiet and sound. I realized he may be a good hunting horse when several hounds got loose from a neighboring farm and were running around him and howling and he was NOT phased at all. He enjoys trail rides as well. All of this aside, I would like to cap in January and want to know what exercises I should do to get my horse in shape and prepared. Any thoughts?
There are several threads on the most recent couple of pages about hunt prospects (horse and human), as well as the leasing a hunt horse thread, that discuss this topic (training the horse, checking out the hunts, etc). Maybe give them a look and come back with more specific questions?
The challenging part about fox hunting for a green horse is not really the hounds, it's learning to go quietly in company at speed.
The best preparation for a hunting prospect is to hack out in company, taking turns leading and going behind, passing at speed, getting off the trail for staff to pass, waiting quietly while other horses move off or jump in front of it, jumping from a trot and holding hard, etc. A good solid 3 - 6 months should be spent developing those kind of trail and group manners before attempting to hilltop, IMO.
As suggested by McGurk....it takes TIME to develop a field hunter. IMO taking a green horse out in mid-season in Virginia is a better way to ruin his potential as a field hunter, than not. Spent the next months riding him cross country with company and also spent a lot of ring time training and educating him. When the formal hunt season winds down, inquire about Hunt sponsored trail rides and Hunter Paces, then start him out roading at the end of the summer, then cubbing THEN regular season!! It takes a LONG time to make a good field hunter...it only takes one bad day to ruin a potentially good prospect. Good Luck and enjoy the journey.
Thank you!!!! I think the information about starting on trails is a great help! I honestly had no idea where to start, except to know that both of us need to get in much better shape. Show ring shape is not field shape. I will work on the trail exercises you all mentioned and look at schooling some cross country. I believe there are several pony clubs locally that sponsor rides throughout the winter. Also, thank you for telling me to wait until next years cubbing season. No one has suggested that so I'm glad to hear from experienced field hunters. The last thing I want to do is blow his mind, or worse, mine!
I'll add that meanwhile, you should certainly go to the meets, and car follow, it's fun in its own right and a good way to get the lay of the land. And don't turn down any opportunities to hunt on a made hunter, also an excellent way for you to see 'what should be' and better determine what prep your own hose needs.
I second spending some time car following, and hunting on a made hunter if someone makes you that exceedingly generous offer.
Fitness is an issue, but only if it's a really good day with a good run. I prefer that young horses not be hard fit when they start going out.
When you hack out to prep for hunting, it's important that you have other fox hunters in the group who understand what's required. Most pleasure riders will not, and will not have the kind of of control in a group that you need.
If you wanted to design something to amp up every herd instinct and every prey instinct a horse has and cube it, you couldn't come up with anything better than fox hunting. It turns the sweetest, most dead head beginner's school horse into a fire breathing dragon that must be ridden in a Pelham. Some horses don't make it as hunters because they don't like it, others like it way, way, way too much!
Back in the day, my plan for a new field hunter who was schooled and mannerly out and ready to be introduced to the hunt field was to hack to a meet a few times (back in the day when you COULD hack to a lot of meets), mill around, eat a ham biscuit, watch hounds off, and hack home on the road. Next, I might hack to the first cover, next stay out for 30 - 45 minutes, etc. The hardest thing to do is to pull up during a screaming hot run, but it's something you must do if you want to preserve a young horse's brain.
So go slowly and carefully. If you really think you want to do this, consider leasing a made hunter for a season and then introducing your own horse to hounds slowly.
You have gotten very good advice.
Going to a few hunter paces where you have the opportunity to ride at your own pace (you can approximate a hunting pace) with a friend or two is also a fun way to get used to moving along cross country.
When people start with our hunt, I also advise them to start with hunts that are mostly on wooded trails, rather than big open fields. I've seen a lot of horses completely lose their minds in the fields (especially on brisk fall days) and that's not fun for anyone! Our hunt also offers a third field for new riders/horses so you can start at a slower pace.
Practice galloping. Really galloping. And know that you can bring your horse back from that gait easily. We had a new rider this year who had to bail from her horse when it went out of control in a large field and she couldn't handle the speed. I don't think she had ever really galloped before. That's not good for the rider, the horse, or anyone else in the field. I teach my horses a verbal slow down cue so that when I see the horses in front of my start to check, I can ask him to slow down without hauling on his mouth. I work on transitions when I condition. We do "surges" of flat out galloping, brought back to a collected canter or trot. You don't want to learn this skill in the hunt field.
Experiment with bitting so you know how much you need to keep your horse listening while not getting them too backed off. I hunt in a Kimberwicke because my horse respects it. I ride in a snaffle at home.
Hunting is wickedly fun, but you need to set yourself up for success.
Good advice all!! But Bogie!! I ADORE your last sentence!!
How very, very true!! Love that!
Hunting IS wickedly fun, sinfully fun, total kick in the pants makes ya chuckle & giggle fun! Can't wipe the smile off yer face fun!
But it does call for preparation so git to it!
Carry on and report back!
I third the car following so you can see & assess what you need to do or be ready for.
Have you hunted before? If not, you should probably familiarize yourself with what is involved before bringing out your horse. It is usually not like a nice trail ride through the woods.
The suggestions to car follow are great. Once you have done that, see if you can get a member to take you out on a seasoned hunt horse. Also, some of us here on the thread have learned to hunt from Hunter's Rest, who posts on COTH. She is in No. VA and holds fox-hunting camps for people who are interested in trying out the sport. Her horses are wonderful and the weekends are a blast!
My hunt has a fox hunting camp in the summer for either green horses or green riders, so you could see if your local ones do that, too.
Hunting is not for the faint of heart - galloping full speed over all kinds of terrain can be fun or terrifying. Even third flight can experience challenging creek crossings and "bush - whacking". Best to experience it on a made hunt horse first to see if you like it before you bring out a greenie.
I'm in the same boat. Some people at my barn field hunt, and it seems like SUCH fun. I'm gradually working on my fear issues so I can all-out gallop in the field one day..YEE HAW.
Some hunts also offer hunt clinics. If there's one in your area it is a good place to start. Every time we offer one we usually find that there are a few people who really cannot yet manage their horse in a crowd -- even with relatively calm circumstances. That's always a good indicator that they/their horses aren't ready. Then there are a few who find the clinic so easy that it's boring. We see most of them out in the hunt field soon after.
I think if you can hunt on an experienced field hunter before taking a green bean out in the field that is a great opportunity. My first hunt horse took to it right from the start and was fine from day one. My current hunt horse is much more excitable and if I'd had to learn to hunt and teach him to hunt at the same time, it would have been a lot more challenging.
Bogie, does your hunt offer guest horses for guests? I too am in the Boston area, and would love to hunt as a guest, but don't have the horseflesh for it.
Not officially, but I could probably find you someone who would give you a day rate on a horse. Our season just ended but if you PM me (or email me at email@example.com), I can give you some suggestions.
Originally Posted by BigBayHanoMare
Thank you so much! I will try and send you an email at some point today; probably this evening when I get home from work.
Originally Posted by Bogie