I have hunted my mare a few times. Started hill topping on a couple summer rides, hill topped her once for cubbing and once for the blessing. Last week, rode at the back of the first flight and jumped only small jumps, under 2ft..except for one where there was no alternative route. (maybe jumped about 75% of the jumps total).
The horse is doing great and am not having any problems with being marish or kicking, she easily keeps up with the group and is not hesitating with the jumps, she stands quietly at checks and is laid back most of the time...she's quite fun. I do have another horse i hunt also, but i wonder if being a 4 year old if it is too stressful on her and i should only occassionally hunter her or not worry about it. she's a warmblood cross and quite sturdy without being bulky.
Sounds like so far you've done about as much as we have with our young Hanoverian/TB 4 y/o. He's been trail riding, cubbing (jumping some, but not the BIG jumps, too many in our country), and doing a bit of ring work. Our plan is to get him out a few more times this season, but then to stop hunting him until next year. He's still got some growing up to do, and while a saint (and has even led the field), we don't want to over do it. He'll continue to get hacked and worked, then spend the spring and summer showing/doing ring work, then go back to hunting next fall. We also have a 4 y/o OTTB, who is coming along great, and definitely more mature physically, we don't want to push him either (various reasons). So he's following the same path as the other 4 y/o.
Previously, I have hunted 4 y/o's entire seasons, but that was prior to joining our current hunt. Our old hunt was a bit slower, didn't have too many long runs, and not too too many jumps (even in first flight), so it wasn't much of an issue. However, the new hunt is by far faster, has longer runs, and more jumps.
I think you just have to evaluate the situation, if you're hunting only once a week, or less than that, I think she'd be fine. Good luck! Sounds like she's going to make a fine hunter!
I agree with SteeleRdr to just do what you are doing - evaluate the situation and do what you feel is best for your horse. Perhaps consult the vet. It sounds like you are taking it pretty easy on her - just going out once a week and the jumps are small. I don't think it sounds like too much.
I am in a similar situation in that I am also hunting a 4 year old this year - a draft cross (shire/pony cross). We are in 2nd field though, so few to any jumps and when we do come across them they are small. He only goes out once a week - last week went out 2x because of opening meet and cubbing a few days before). Anyway, second field in this hunt isn't too crazy - we do gallop along but the field master doesn't overdo it. We do normally have a 3rd field that is very quiet and easy going, so I can drop back to that field if pony gets tired.
My vet told me to that foxhunting - the galloping and working - would actually be good for this horse to do right now.
I am currently hunting a 4 yr old KWPN/TB mare (turned 4 in mid-June). I hilltop her only, but she has schooled over coops when hacking out. Our territory can have tricky approaches to fences, so I don't think she's quite experienced enough to be in the first field, although she loves to jump and is very smart and sure-footed. I take her out about every 3rd week, so she doesn't have experience overload, and I must say she has been pretty wonderful. I MIGHT move her up to the first field at the end of the season, but most likely I'll wait until next season. I don't see any point in rushing the good ones!
I've had my four year old out twice this season. She's a 1/2 Tb paint so I think they mature a little faster than the warmbloods and drafts. I really think using common sense is in order and don't be afraid to drop back a field or go in early.
I've hunted mine first flight but our first field is the amallest and most predictable and the jumps don't seem to be an issue for her.
We have one fixture that is relatively flat with no jumps. I usually try to take the young inexperienced horses there to break them in. My first hunt this season with the four year old was there and we had a 3 mile run. She hung in there very well.
So I don't see a problem with it as long as common sense and good judgment are involved.
My two and three year olds beagle regularly but we rarely even canter and only stay out about an hour. Actually the four year old has been out with the beagles probably 20 or 30 times, she doesn't bat an eye at foxhounds now.
Set youself apart from the crowd, ride a paint horse, you're sure to be spotted
Thank you for your replies and it sounds like i am on the right track and can tell that the mare really likes her job. her future may be in eventing, but right now i think she's enjoying this job. I have already competed some simple walk/trot dressage tests with her earlier this year too, where she was cool as a cucumber. i make sure i work with her alone too, so she's not herd bound (at least not yet), but i have been fortunate to have done all the ground work and backing, so she really trusts me. I can already tell she has been gaining confindence each time out. I will continue to take it easy with her and not hunt her everyweek or when the footing is questionable (she's barefoot). I have been fortunate that some of the older hunt members know the fixtures well and give me guidance on which fixtures to take her to and also will give me a heads up on some of the runs if we'll have anything crazy.
Actually, as the ground worsens, that can be a good time to get them out but stay in second or third flight. Of course if it is awful you would stay home, but I find as the ground hardens that is a good opportunity (and reason enough) to go back to a slower flight and concentrate on their manners. That way they still get out and do the drill - hack or trailer to the hunt, stand at checks, see all the activity and hear the noises but no jumping or hard galloping.
Our four year old, 17.3h, Holsteiner/Oldenburg gelding hunted first flight with my husband, Grosvenor, at Thornton Hill yesterday.
We bred and raised him, started him slowly with many trail riding miles. We hilltoppped him half a dozen times as three year old, took him to Aiken this past winter to hang out and trail ride. Started this season hilltopping and finally got him steadily jumping his coops last week.
After a night of rain, the scent was dismal, so going first flight was not all that crazy, though the country is quite rough. Grosvenor took him in after about 2 hours 'cause he pulled a shoe.
He is quite handsome and we are excited that we are hunting one of our own.
He will go down to Tennessee after Christmas to live at the TVH kennels and get more exposure to the pack (perhaps even hunt hounds).
I've always waited til age 5 to hunt and/or jump one hard. I do start them under saddle at 2. Can't give you any strong arguments for the extra year, just that it has always worked for me, my horses typically hunt well into their 20s. But, if I lived closer to huntin' country, I would certainly hilltop a 4 yo.
I think you are right on track~
Im in the same situation, ive been riding a young horse for a master in our hunt and took him out for the first time last weekend to a hound walk and then a ride. He was wonderful, jumped small jumps and ditches and kept up with the field.
I used my judgement with him, there were some bigger coops im sure he could have handled, but i wanted to keep the ride positive.
I think you have good judgement, and i think some good points were made about paying attention to the terrain, choose and pick your rides and set yourself up for success!
best of luck!
and Rosie, I can't wait to see your boy down here at the Kennels!
Over the years I have made a good number of hunting horses, and I would like to offer a few thoughts.
Don't try to start your horse hunting until he is trustworthy going 'cross country both in company and alone. Make sure you have jumped the usual jumps and can cross creeks and streams alone and in company. Make sure your horse will turn and walk away from a group of horses without a problem.
Make a point of hacking near the kennels so your horse will at least have an idea about he sights, sounds and smells of hounds. If your hunt allows horses to go along when the puppies are walked - Do it.
The beginning weeks and months are the most important. Those memories sometimes last a life time.
I never go out on a first timer alone.
Always go with another very quiet horse as a baby sitter, make sure you have the trusty earplugs, a standing martingale and if at all possible make sure your horse has been turned out the previous night to help him be a little quieter.
Make sure you get to the meet 15 - 20 minutes early so he has time to look around. If he is nervous, go off and let him jog in a large circle to get rid of excess energy and nervousness. If your horse completely loses it - go home, and start the process again.
I think the most important part is NEVER go first flight, no matter how quiet your horse seems, for the first few hunts ! I never go first flight with a youngster for at least half of the first season. Cruise around with your baby sitter friend and relax.
The first few months are so important. If you have a reasonably quiet horse, take the time to teach him manners, you may have a great hunter for the rest of your hunting days.
Try to remember that some horses just aren't meant to hunt, some are a little crazy and dangerous to you, other members of the field and hounds.
If that is the case you will have to either hunt way at the back of the field or find another job for him.
I want to know when the book is coming out Triplicate, I love your advice. Going through this with a "green outside the ring" TB who is nine is my challenge but I am getting so much help and reassurance from the COTH forum. My bit of advice is always try to end on a positive note. There are good days and not so good but still okay and that's what I strive for. Let's face it, anything can happen out there and it will sooner or later so keeping your wits about you is your best defense.
Hi. I guess, in case one may worry, that i should delved deeper into my mare's training too. My mare has had alot of ground work and was ground driving when she was 2 (we'd go all over the property). I also ponied her with my other horse. She was backed when she was coming 3 and lightly ridden, mostly walking around the property with a quiet buddy or just with me. ocassionally she'd free jump or jump in hand and it was always a game. I board at a breeding facility, so she has been worked with stallions in the same arena without any problems.
this year is when she started more work. in may, she competed in a walk trot dressage test..not only did she score a 67.5% in nasty wind, the judge commented on her quiet composure and she won the blue at her first show. we also took the opprotunity to ride with a buddy who schooled the cross country course. she rode her stallion and neither horse paid any attention to each other. and neither cared if they were alone or together. it took a few tries to get into the water complex, but then she thought it was great fun! the summer consisted of going to some clinics or shows with my other horse..i'd ride him in the clinic and take her out later for a hack. and, of course a summer hunt.
I made sure her basics were in place before taking her in a field hunt situation. i felt her background was stong..some people just comment..oh, just too young...but i've felt confident in my mare's mental maturity and was more concerned over her physical maturity, so i'm being careful..there are so many opinions out there that it can be mind boggling! thanks again!
The physical and mental are the same. You don't gallop first flight because your are on a young horse, because of what you would do to it's body AND brain.
The slower you go forward the less you have to fix later.
I used hill top my young ones, hang out on the road watching hounds work and usually seeing more foxes than anyone else.
I always went in early, sometimes to get on another young one and head back out.
The best part was someone allways wanted to buy one of my young ones, mainly because no one wants to spend the time to make a nice field hunter.
Young horses ( 4 year olds or younger ) are not ready mentally or physically to " go on and hunt ", but they can go out and learn the entire drill, so when they are physically ready, their brain will be ready as well. Then off you go !!
Yeah, I have a nice quiet pack of beagles that I hunt with. Mine are totally hound broke before they go in the field. Plus I take them roading in the summer when it is hot and there are fewer horses and less frenzy.
My current four year old missed the roading this summer though because she refused to get caught when she had the opportunity. Howeve she's been on a half dozen hunter paces.
I don't have a ring so mine are out on the trails mostly by themselves from the time they are two. In fact my two year old is a regular bulldozer when it comes to trailblazing in the woods. With beagling they have to be able to cut through the woods ands stuff too, probably more so that foxhunting.
Set youself apart from the crowd, ride a paint horse, you're sure to be spotted