My OTTB was out for the first time on Sunday, we were in the third field. In some respects, he was absolutely awesome. He is normally a very quiet guy as far as ex's go, so I didn't really think he'd be insane, and he wasn't. He is brave, nothing really spooks him, he totally rose to the occasion of water crossing, sliding down muddy hills and scrambling through some rocks. He stood pretty well at checks.
But... I didn't really feel like he got better as the day went on.. in fact we left a little early, while we were still on a good note. The hound pack REALLY had his attention (singly, not so much as he is very used to dogs), but the herd dynamic of go stop go stop started to get to him. The other field jumping got him wound up. He hated anyone behind him. And this was during quiet time, no runs. I'm not sure what would have happened if something big happened! I had forgotten he came to me a teeth grinder, he has stopped that over the years I've had him, until Sunday. He did it the entire time. Bottom line, he just didn't seem like he was having a good time at all. And he is such a good egg about so many things, I was kind of bummed. When I finally pulled him out and walked him home, he relaxed and seemed very relieved.
So how many times do you go out approximately before you decide? It sounds sappy, I know, but I really want him to like it, not stress about it the whole time. And I felt like his stress escalated until it was worse after an hour than when we started, even though he was basically well behaved. Thanks for the thoughts.
We're spending our money on horses and bourbon. The rest we're just wasting. www.dleestudio.com
At the beginning of the second season for both my horse and I, an MFH told me that the second year you could tell. By then they knew what was coming and either got better at it or worse but after two years you would know.
My older horse went from quaking on the trailer in anticipation to being Mr. nonchalant. My 6 yr old who is in his second season revs up when he sees the trailer but is absolutely steady in the hunt field. So he seems to have gotten it figured out and likes it.
It seems to take my horses till the 3rd time to "get their feet under the table", and then they either steady down or get cocky(!). Once they've been half a dozen times they are more predictable and then most settle down and work well.
I agree with Elghund2, though, the start of the second season can surprise you - I had 2 who hunted beautifully last season and finished working like pros, and were complete muppets when they came out this season - the excitement of starting again, I suppose, They've now settled down again, but the initial thrill made them behave like newbies again :-)
Last season, my 7 yr. old WB/TB cross gelding made it to hunt #9 for him, opening meet. After an hour out, he had a complete meltdown and began tooth grinding.....something he never did before....and continues to do it to this day now when he's stressed. He didn't just tooth grind to show his stress, he became dangerous, running backwards not giving a thought as to what was behind us, leaping sideways, again with no clue what impending cliff was next to us. Needless to say, I went in and vowed never to hunt him again. I no longer own him. He's now eventing and loving life.
My current "hunt horse" is a 6 yr. old QH gelding, ex roping/cattle cutting horse. He's a green bean and we have been out cubbing 4 times so far. He continues to get better in the field, however now when we get ready in the AM, he shakes the whole time I'm tacking him up and on the trailer ride over. He also shakes the whole trailer ride back until we get into the barn. Its not a trailer issue, he loads and rides like a dream. I don't know if he loves to hunt or hates it at this point, but until or unless he does something worse to let me know otherwise, we'll continue on with the program. I'm told it normallly takes 5-10 hunts before you have a clue as to whether they will either work out or not. My other gelding got worse the more we went out, my current gelding gets better.
This is my first season Hunting. I've taken my mare out roading, cubbing and we just had our Opening Day. To start I thought she would kill me.... saw the hounds leap out of the trailer and spun around repeatedly, shaking like a leaf. "We" got over the initial shock of the hounds - and the worst problem I had roading with her was her big stride not trying to overtake the entire field... walk or trot it didn't matter - She's both a chicken and lion at heart at the same time.
When getting ready in the morning she would stand on the cross ties trembleing.. still not sure if that's excitement or fear... we spun around at checks and for a while she was getting worse not better. Not sure when it happened, but she finally figured it out, and is an angel at checks, doesn't leave slobber on the arse in front of her and is absolutely PERFECT.
So, in my experience (yes, I'm sure my nerves played into her behavior) it took us both about 8 - 10 outings before we really figured out what to expect. We now have more faith in each other than we did for the three years leading up to hunting... stayed in the ring for far too long with this girl!
I always like reading what people have to say on this issue. This seaon I plan to hunt a few of my horses and last year went so well I think I was spoiled.
Last season, I hunted a 5 yr ottb who was in his first 6 months of off the track training at the beginning of hunt season and he just took to it right away. He was in his element out hunting and never seemed to get upset by anything. I was expecting a change as he figured out what we were doing but he never did change maybe a bit of a change for the better as he stood quieter at checks as the season went out. He was a lovely hunt horse and I really miss riding him. He showed me what hunting could really be like when you were able to just enjoy yourself.
I also hunted my big TB gelding about 6 times throughout the season both in first and second field. He was a quiet his first two times, wild the third and forth and then settled down. He seemed to like the open field better than the woods for whatever reason. In the woods, he wanted to really go when the horses in front of him got out of sight going around corners.
I also hunted a smaller TB but only three or four times before he was sold and he was completely non phased by it all. The funny thing about him was that he would go hard for about an hour and then get so tired I would have to drop him back to second flight where he would just be hanging out on a loose rein sight seeing.
I took my conn/tb cubbing this Sunday which was his first time out. Hounds were not an issue, the noise not an issue at all but being in the back..oh boy my body is still feeling that one. He listened really well for about 1.5 h rs in first flight doing everything that I asked. Then he started to have a mental meltdown with bucking and running blindly. I asked to go back to 2nd field but I couldn't find them. I went about 15 hacking around but they had went another way. I joined back up with 1st field and by then he had taken a deep breathe and settled himself back down. One thing I figured out quickly with him was that holding him back at the jumps was not wise. He is rehabbing from a knee injury but I couldn't hold him to go around when everyone else went over so I figured letting him jump was a bit safer. He wasn't being bad just galloping out of hand to catch up if I navigated around. That made him more nervous then just letting him stay with the pack. I am interested to see if he improves or get worse. He is very smart so I think he will figure it out but he is also a hot type of horse so it could blow his mind a bit. It just happened to be a day where we were running so good that it would have been difficult to leave the group and go in without interfering with the chase so I stayed out.
The other horse I want to hunt is a 3 yr only 3 months off the track. He would only go second field (we don't have a 3rd field) and I would probably keep him out very short amounts of time.
I think there is also that stage when your horse really understands hunting. My older horse will start moving when the hounds speak or on the horn calls. Also, if you want to know where the hounds are just look at him and his ears. They are always pointed at the hounds.
The six year old is finally getting to understand that the hounds are involved in what he is doing. Last year I think he thought everything was a trail ride but these dogs keep showing up. Now when he can hear or see the hounds he pays attention. No hounds in sight must mean it is time to eat.
there is also that stage when your horse really understands hunting
We have a lovely, though slightly bonkers, Belgian warmblood called Jack who came to us labelled "dangerous and psychotic" - he's not, of course (although he is a nappy little toad to ride out) but he is now (after years of only being in an arena!) a die hard hunter and will spend literally hours watching hounds - http://rockleyfarm.blogspot.com/2009...done-that.html.
We're lucky that even if the horses aren't out hunting, the hunt often comes to us, and ends up in the hills opposite entertaining the horses left at home on the track :-)
Jack will take himself off to wherever he has an uninterrupted view of the huntsman and hounds, and even if there are no other horses anywhere near, will stand and drink in the view :-)
If they are good the first hunt, usually it's the third hunt where the meltdown will occur, if it does. after that, it takes at least a whole season of hunting regularly (meaning at least once a week) before they really start to get a clue. Of course that all depends on how you bring him along, I've known people who had decent horses, took them out first field and ran like a nut the first few hunts and now the horse is a fruit loop every time they take him out.
I"m all for bringing them along slow, and doing it right the first time. You can always do it slow and do it right, it takes much longer to go back and fix it once you screw them up.
"Perhaps the final test of anybody's love of dogs is their willingness to permit them to make a camping ground of the bed" -Henry T. Merwin
So agree with Jaegermonster! I, too, subscribe to bringing them along slowly. Well worth it in the long run. I have seen too many newbies out their immediately going first flight--and for what? A nut job in the making. Yes, some take to it right away but for those that don't: take it slow. Even if it means walking. It will be worth it in the long run.
Over the years, of the few "new to fox hunting" horses I have hunted (I'm just a backyard owner) I figured by the 6th hunt I had a pretty good idea if the horse was suitable. The two we hunt now are "accidental fox hunters" with trail riding, rodeo, parade and all things rural in their background. Nothing show ring or formal about them. The important characteristics they have is they go in a group or solo, will lead follow or leave a group. Stand at checks. Walk through whatever I put in front of them- and I mean walk through- no Dolphin leaping unless I kick on and say "Flipper jump!!" No buck, spin, rear or bolt. They don't have to be ridden in between hunts to keep their brains engaged, ditto hunt morning- tack them up at home, unload at the hunt, mount up and go join the group. They sure aren't fancy horses but they are honest and trustworthy souls.
Out back with them is a coming 3 year old quarter horse colt- we owned his dam and bred her. I have ponyed him over hell and high water since he was a long weanling, hauled him to places to pony him and generally proofed him on all things "odd and loud" that I can find. He got A+'s from a friend who put 7 or 8 rides on him this August and I hope I can cowgirl up and take him roading next summer and maybe hilltop him some next year. Like others have said, baby steps.
In my experience(30 years), they all go through a "this is really excitng" phase-sometimes right away, sometimes durung their second season. If during this phase they get even a little bit better each time, they will probably work out fine. If they just get worse and worse, they probably need a diifferent job. I actually prefer one that is a whako to begin with because it takes a lot less time to decide whether they are on the road to improvement or not. One I had that was sort of a heartbreaker hunted great his first season, but got more and more wound up the next year- he actually was kickalong at home and just couldn't handle the excitement in his second year and went back to his life as a beginner horse. Horses off the track have always been great for me-once they figure it out, hunting is not as exciting as racing.