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Horse career change from Eventer to HJ

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  • Horse career change from Eventer to HJ

    I have an Irish Sport Horse who loves 2 phases of Eventing - the dressage and the Stadium jumping, but despises the XCountry. I decided a year ago to stop trying to force him around cross-country, and focus on what he is good at. I'm considering preparing him for a new career as a Hunter/Jumper. I must confess that I don't know that much about it.

    I'm wondering what riders look for in the flatwork / what is important. I'm guessing that flying lead changes are one thing? What about amount and type of contact?

    Also, does anyone have ideas for shows (or types of shows) to start him in. He currently jumps at 2'7" or 2'11" in Stadium for eventing. I'd like to get him a bit of experience, work on making him a more correct hunter/jumper and possibly sell him to someone with interest in this discipline. Or who knows, maybe I'll enjoy it and do it with him??

    I appreciate all advice.
    Last edited by Finn'sMom; Apr. 2, 2009, 02:26 PM. Reason: don't want it to seem like a sales ad - he's not for sale. taking out some details.

  • #2
    Making the change

    Yep, I've got one of those buggers too, so I sympathize!

    Rythm, cadence, and "effortless" are what you'll need for the hunter ring. Loose rein, light contact. Flying changes. BIG stride, make sure he makes the lines. Lots of gymnastic work. Ride into your corners. I would start out at the local level and enter the 2ft open or something. See how you do?
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    • #3
      I would not attempt to summarize the h/j disciplines in one post (although I totally agree with IW's emphasis on rythm and effortlessness especially in the hunter ring) -- If you want to start showing under 3', then I would recommend starting in the hunter ring --

      It would help if you could watch a few shows or do some other 'research' -- Books I would recommend are AJ White-Mullin's The _Complete Guide to Hunter Seat Training, Showing, and Judging: On the Flat and Over Fences_ or George Morris' _Hunter Seat Equitation_ -- (AJ also has a new book which may have a lot of the same info) -- Rodney Jenkin's video _Selecting Hunters and Jumpers _ is VERY informative, but good luck finding a copy for under $100 --

      I don't know the shows in your area -- Starting at local shows is often the better option if they have good courses and footing -- If you go to watch a local show, check out the course diagrams to see how the lines measure -- Part of your homework is figuring out how big/small you can adjust your horse's stride -- If he has to flatten out to make a 12' stride, he's not a good candidate for higher rated shows --
      "I never mind if an adult uses safety stirrups." GM


      • #4
        Your dressage training will help some. Hunters need to carry themselves and be very broke, but with less contact and micromanaging than the framed up dressage horse.

        One thing that seems to differ in the eventing and hunter worlds is the idea about who does the work of teaching horses to find a distance. The event riders I know (with no clue about how they compare to "good ones") tend to ride their horse to the base of the fence, often by being accurate themselves and using visible leg and hand. That isn't how its done in hunter world. The best trainers use poles and less help from the rider to let the horse take more responsibility for getting to the fence.

        The books another poster recommended are good. If your horse currently takes an active ride to get around the stadium, it will be important that you slow his training down, go back to basics so that he learns to go quietly to the fences with minimal help from you.

        The armchair saddler
        Politically Pro-Cat


        • #5
          I bought my horse because he just wasn't cut out for the eventing world. He was fine on cross country unless there were hills Easing into the hunter world would be best done at a local schooling show. They're a lot cheaper than an A show. Start him lower than what you're schooling, like 2'3"-2'6". There was still some stuff that my horse would look at even though he'd seen way scarier stuff on the cross country course and gone over it Silly horse lol. Definitely agree with reading George Morris' book. Good luck!
          No hour of life is wasted that is spent in the saddle. ~Winston Churchill
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          • #6
            We have helped several former event horses transition to the hunter, jumper, and Big Eq rings (and vice versa). The thing we find is good training is good training is good training. If your show jumping work has been focused on riding a rhythm and being smooth the transition to the hunter ring should be fairly easy with a little practice. Your dressage work will come in very handy. You don't need to throw the reins away, but do let your horse have a longer, looser frame. Work on getting BIG, RELAXED, LOOSE steps that eat up the ground but look quiet, soft, and effortless (easier said then done!). Work on his changes and work on walk to canter transitions.

            I will go against the grain just a bit and say don't start him off TOO small in the hunter ring. He's not baby green and if he's been at all brave you might find you have way too much horse for the small stuff. I'd start somewhere near where he's been eventing (2'6"-2'9"). I have experienced this problem first hand with a horse of mine who has the makings of a nice hunter, but is uber-brave and bold. If the fences are too small, he'll get strong and bargy which is NOT what you want in the hunter ring. Anything he'll find in the hunter ring will be a piece of cake for him (or it should be).

            The thing that has helped me RIDE somewhat like a hunter without embarrassing myself too much is a little bit of hunter help. Take a few lessons from someone you click with before venturing off into the world too much on your own. Amazingly, it can be quite daunting to walk in to the show ring and try to just "sit there" (at least it was for me and my hunter friends thought it was hilarious that I was so nervous about a couple of hunter courses when I think nothing of galloping down to big xc fences!). A little good coaching can help you learn the feel you need.

            It is actually kinda fun and it is GOOD practice for things we should try to be better about as event riders. Good hunter rounds are great examples of "relentless pursuit of rhythm." Just because eventers gallop and jump xc and do show jumping does not mean that our courses should not also be about the relentless pursuit of rhythm...our rhythm is just a big different.


            • Original Poster

              Thanks for all the great advice. I will definitely get started with reading some of those books. I think Seamus may excel at this - he definitely goes with a nice rhythm and finds his own good distances - doesn't need a lot of "pulling and kicking".

              I also like your idea, yellowbritches, of doing some training with a hunter trainer. I do feel daunted by the unknown - going into a hunter ring, whereas I am totally comfortable jumping a stadium course with him at an event. I also will go watch some local shows to see what to expect.

              does anyone know a good schooling show in my area (I'm in southern NH) that you would recommend I start out at?

              Again, thanks so much for the help. I better go get busy!


              • #8
                I'd find a good hunter/jumper trainer and go from there. A lot of the advice that has been given to you on this thread is spot on, but then there are other comments I would blatantly disagree upon. Your best bet is to find a knowledgeable professional that can see exactly the way of going of Seamus and can tell you exactly what you need to do to make a switch to the hunter ring.

                For instance, absolutely in a flat class you want to have a very relaxed contact. This does not mean the horse isn't on the bit and engaged. And when you are schooling at home on the flat you should have much more contact than you would in a flat class at a show, but not too much to be too "dressagey." In a fences class you want them to be in somewhat of a frame but still making the overall picture look effortless. A good trainer will help you understand the different kinds of contact you want in different situations. You'll also still be riding to the base of a jump, especially if you start jumping higher, but there would be a different method on how you'd accomplish that from x country and what it would look like-- once again figuring out how to make your ride look effortless but you are still being an effective rider.

                Another thing a trainer can help you with would be to evaluate if he is cut out for the hunter ring-- and on what level, or would he be jumper ring only material. Once again, you'd ride a hunter round drastically different from a jumper round, so you can get the instruction on that as well even though you should have most of the bases covered with jumper rounds from the stadium riding you've done.

                Good luck!


                • #9
                  Originally posted by ImJumpin View Post
                  I'd find a good hunter/jumper trainer and go from there.
                  Good call. Even a few lessons or coaching at your first H/J show will go a long way IMO! You already have riding skills, your horse already has jumping skills, but ultimately, you will likely save a lot of time (and even $) if you skip playing the guessing game about how to make the change, especially if you want to try the Hunters or Eq vs jumpers. (I'm a H/J trainer who has helped a lot of event riders, mostly those who are still active in eventing, but do jumper classes at H/J shows for extra schooling/mileage).

                  The best horse I ever had was a former event horse who transitioned very successfully from Intermediate level eventing to the Big Eq and Junior Jumpers. Bravest, steadiest horse I've ever sat on, which I'm sure had a lot to do with his excellent event training

                  If you are in southern NH, Mark Jungherr/Starlite Farm may be convenient to you for training if you want to stay local.
                  Ristra Ranch Equestrian Jewelry


                  • #10
                    I had a horse like the OPs; good in dressage, great in stadium, hated XC. I felt like I literally had to pick him up and carry him the whole time; not good. I thought about transitioning him to the hunter ring (he has a gorgeous knees to the eyeballs jump and would go quietly on a long rein on the flat) but I decided that I liked eventing too much, so I sold him to be a foxhunter, which he loves. So, OP, not that I am saying that you should sell your guy, but if you do, he would probably do very well in a foxhunting home.


                    • Original Poster

                      Originally posted by Catalina View Post
                      So, OP, not that I am saying that you should sell your guy, but if you do, he would probably do very well in a foxhunting home.
                      I had thought of that - seems like a possible good fit. He gets a little crazy though if he's in a group and someone passes him! Maybe with some experience he would get over that.

                      I don't quite have my mind around actually selling him yet. I have another horse that I am eventing, and am just trying to figure it what best to do with him. I'm attached to the little bugger!


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Vandy View Post
                        The best horse I ever had was a former event horse who transitioned very successfully from Intermediate level eventing to the Big Eq and Junior Jumpers. Bravest, steadiest horse I've ever sat on, which I'm sure had a lot to do with his excellent event training
                        I had a similar experience except mine was an ex-prelim mount. Wonderful, wonderful horse I think ex event horses are a potential and often overlooked goldmine for the eq crowds. Broke to death, brave and very adjustable and they usually have all the required moves down (counter canter, changes etc).


                        • #13
                          You might want to check out www.NHHJA.com for some local shows in southern NH. There are also a few shows in Woodstock, VT at GMHA. And then of course there should be plenty to choose from in Eastern Ma.

                          I do love those Irish Horses, good luck!!


                          • #14

                            does anyone know a good schooling show in my area (I'm in southern NH) that you would recommend I start out at?QUOTE]

                            Finn's Mom -

                            I'm in Southern Central NH. There is a clinic with an "A" circuit trainer who shows both Hunters and Jumpers on the 25-26th of April not far from me that I plan on going to. There are still opennings if you are interested. Less stress than a show but informative and a great experience nonetheless. Also, if you are looking for trainers or local H/J shows I may be able to help too. If you want more info, PM me.