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hunting has improved my horses' dressage

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  • hunting has improved my horses' dressage

    cross post from hunting forum on a dare....

    I think that hunting this year has improved both my horse's dressage. (or my riding )

    horse#1. 17hh ottb. competes novice eventing and moving up, has 3 lovely gaits. he has always just pissed and moaned about dressage. we would get decent scores in competition but alot of "against hand or needs to be more through" comments etc.

    it has always been an effort to get him to stay soft, leg yields were easy peasy but he just hated lateral movements and acted like a shoulder-in was just a HUGE pain and effort to do (pin ears, swish tail and groan). he rarely would do a lead change without running into it, etc. (but on xc / hunt no problem). He was never a bad boy, but sometimes keeping his attention on the flat work was an effort. ... I haven't had a dressage lesson since october and have been schooling many movements but nothing outstanding has happened..then yesterday OMG.

    finally did some indoor arena work (lately been practicing dressage in the fields, arena gives me asthma probs). He was round, soft, through the back, huge trot strides even for sitting trot. Unbelievably attentive.. I could collect, extend, shoulder-in that were perfect and light (no groaning, hollowing or fighting)....i even got a correct half pass (bend in the direction but not as deep cross-over as one sees in Grand Prix but correct). I could half pass to centerline, change bend and half pass back to wall without losing temp or bend. He gave me a perfect right to left lead change up and through his back. the other direction is his harder direction and only got the back to change at first..but still. Then he'd stretch way down for stretchy trot and walk. he rarely attempted to hollow his back too. a friend was there who has seen my past rides. she watched us and when I finished we looked at each other and said " WHERE THE H*LL DID THAT COME FROM?" It was a blast and he was so happy. I worked him half the time i usually do, but he was so wonderful I wasn't going to jinx it and stopped!

    horse #2: young wb, first year hunting. she just couldn't figure out why the effort for a half halt or that gaits weren't walk, trot and run like mad. she has learned that a half halt to rebalance isn't something to get all mad about and ignore. now she could whoa on a dime and that wasn't a problem. She learned that she was half-halted that it was to rebalance before a fence (which made it easier to jump) or to slow down/listen/collect up..she was tripped a few times due to running up on horses due to ignoring her rider. lately she has been easy peasy, stretching out for trot work, lovely balanced canters and no flat runs. she is so sensitive to the rider now that i just need to barely wiggle my pinky and sit up and she'll half halt..and not run around like a nut! she'll collect and lengthen without getting too fast. she loves to jump and has gone from "weee lets jump" and go at it mock 5 to waiting for her rider. she will leg yield and is learning shoulder-in and is understanding the bend and not just throwing her shoulder out. I believe that the hunting helped her connect the dots why we school things.

    can't wait for my next dressage lesson just to be brought back to earth
    I love my OTTB! I get my dressage test done faster!

  • #2
    I'm not surprised at all, my OTTB loves hunter paces and feels so refreshed when we get back into the dressage arena after a good gallop. I also read an article that says galloping is good for the sacroiliac region as well as the rest of the back, so I keep going out to the hunter paces! Good for you for finding a part-time job that your horses love. (Although it might be hard for you to keep it a part-time job, I hear hunting is addicting).


    • #3
      Hunting helped my 4 y/o (now nearly 5 ) be more willing to accept contact. Isn't it fun?


      • #4
        i like this post

        I notice on C.O.T.H. a lot of debate about which dicipline starts their young horses "better".
        It has always been my opinion that, as long as your young one's growth plates are closed and they are physically ready, the more you expose them to -the better.
        Young ones will tend to get really stale if only presented with work in one dicipline. Everyone (horses + riders) need to cut loose and have some fun sometimes. Thumbs up for your recent breakthrough.


        • #5
          My horse has a craptastic canter until we get out for a good gallop in the spring. Hunting took my sometimes lazy horse and perked him up, so his dressage tests got crisper and he was more forward and engaged with less work from me. It was a win win no question.

          Now I'm snowed in during a Canadian winter though, and our canter sucks! Looking forward to spring...


          • #6
            I think a lot of horses get really locked up when constantly traveling "between reins and leg" in a dressage arena. It is not an intentional thing we riders do.

            It seems that when riding over rough terrain, both horse and rider need to loosen up and work together to avoid injuries. We do less meddling and mostly give cues when something is really going to change that the horse can notice - a jump, a turn, bad patch of ground. So it makes sense to them to listen up.

            I read an old book that advocated teaching the horse to listen to the reins for turning in the woods, I think their idea was something like ask the horse to turn, and if they don't listen, ignore, brace - they just happen to walk into a tree, takes them no time at all to start listening. I tried it on one of my youngsters that was sweet and willing, but at times a little dull - he actually enjoyed our little game, in a short time I would just look which way I wanted to go, and he happily would. We did it at a walk in a fairly dense woods and it was fun for both of us.

            I like cross training a lot. Mine do trail rides - calm as well as galloping, some free jumping too. I would love to hunt, but I think I would faint galloping in a group to a jump
            Horses should be trained in such a way that they not only love their riders, but look forward to the time they are with them.
            ~ Xenophon, 350 B.C.


            • #7
              My youngster's dressage improved radically when we started jumping... it's like she now gets "the point" as to why I'm asking for half halts, or balanced turns... It also helps me to stop meddling and to just ride!
              "Adulthood? You're playing with ponies. That is, like, every 9 year old girl's dream. Adulthood?? You're rocking the HELL out of grade 6, girl."


              • #8
                Bigbaytb - We've had pretty much the exact same experience this season!! I've been amazed at how much my mare has learned to balance herself without me overanalyzing every step! Everything about our dressage has improved in one season foxhunting. Of course I didn't think we'd make it through day one, but we're now both addicts!

                Lateral work, suppling, improving half halts... it can all be done out in the field while having the time of your life!


                • Original Poster

                  Originally posted by pleasantmeadowfarm View Post
                  Bigbaytb - We've had pretty much the exact same experience this season!! I've been amazed at how much my mare has learned to balance herself without me overanalyzing every step! Everything about our dressage has improved in one season foxhunting. Of course I didn't think we'd make it through day one, but we're now both addicts!

                  Lateral work, suppling, improving half halts... it can all be done out in the field while having the time of your life!

                  especially when a BNT said : "dont hunt your horses, it ruins them"..boy, was that like waiving the red flag.!
                  I love my OTTB! I get my dressage test done faster!


                  • #10
                    I think it has to do with preventing boredom! I used to rehab horses for people and many of them were ridden in the arena only - dressage work. They would pay me to trail ride, jump, event, hunt and it did wonders for the horses brains.
                    "Hell, when I move my things go in boxes and I always make sure and bubble wrap my dog feces so it don't get broke." runwayz


                    • #11

                      Feeling kinda queesey...think...my....head....is...going
                      I'm so glad for you, really.
                      I think it's a mental thing. From boredom to the other end of the spectrum of excitement! Makes them easy-peasey to ride don't it!!???


                      • #12
                        I was hoping to take maresy hilltopping this year (I don't jump), do a lot of trail riding etc. We had a couple of stretches of good weather in January and February and I could take her into the back field and work her up and down the slight incline there, and she loved it. The indoor arena is boring and often crowded.

                        But no, curse Whoever decided that horses' soundness should depend so much on the suspensory ligament BTW the problem was NOT caused by my riding her outside.

                        In any case, yes, take your horses forth into the fields and woods and have a great time!
                        You have to have experiences to gain experience.

                        1998 Morgan mare Mythic Feronia "More Valley Girl Than Girl Scout!"


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by bigbaytb View Post

                          especially when a BNT said : "dont hunt your horses, it ruins them"..boy, was that like waiving the red flag.!

                          Just skeered.
                          ... _. ._ .._. .._