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Newbie hunter shakes with excitement - dangerous?

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  • Newbie hunter shakes with excitement - dangerous?

    Hi, please can someone help me with peace of mind more than anything?

    I have a mid teens horse who is new to hunting and is brilliant at it, well mannered yet bold, but as soon as we jump anything he gets very excited. Not in the sense that he's rearing and running off, he will still walk trot gallop sensibly on a long rein, but he gets very sweaty and and you can feel his adrenaline. This is only when we are jumping - when just walking he calms down.

    Even though he is the most amazing ride I spend the entire meet worried about him having a heart attack and trying to calm him down instead of enjoying myself! I know this is probably overprotective but I know someone with a horse that this did happen to so it's in the back of my mind.

    Would you say this horse is at risk, or am I just being silly? Also would he be more or less at risk if he were fitter? For context, it is an ex- competition horse, only in light work but somehow still surprisingly fit perhaps due to 24/7 turnout. (If he were still competing I wouldn't want him much fitter than he is now, perhaps with a bit more topline). Tends to settle as soon as he's back at the lorry and gets cold hosed immediately after. Gets turned out as soon as we get home and is calm as anything, no overnight sweating. He's always been a very hot horse and sweats clipped out in winter anyway.

    Any advice would be great...I understand no horse is 100% safe especially doing a dangerous sport, and I'd rather him go out having a fun time, but obviously I love him so am concerned! Thanks in advance.
    Last edited by island44; Sep. 14, 2018, 07:53 AM.

  • #2
    Sounds like a kind soul trying to do what you ask of him but is scared to death. He isn't excited. He is frightened.


    • Original Poster

      Thanks for your response! I must say I respectfully disagree. Having owned the horse for 10 years I know his response to fear and it is very different to this. If I thought for one moment he wasn't enjoying it I wouldn't take him. He used to be very similar whilst in the ring, but obviously for a shorter time frame so I wasn't worried for his heart health. Whilst walking in between and even cantering he is placid and calm, its only when we see something to jump does the heart rate come up. The sweat stays for the duration but if I'm being fair the horse has been known to sweat similarly on a hack / schooling.


      • #4
        To me, he sounds as if he is nervous jumping the natural jumps or in a group environment. Your being nervous about his trembling is not going to help him get over his nerves. He needs a confident ride.

        It may help to school him over natural jumps alone. If he doesn't display the trembling, move on to schooling natural jumps with a partner. Once he is chill with that, school in a small group. Once he is chill with that, then attempt hunting. This may seem like a long process, but it will provide him with the opportunity to be brave and confident out hunting.

        It may help to hunt in flights without jumping being involved a hunt or two. Then start hunting without jumping and move up to 1st flight near the end of the hunt.


        • #5
          Quivering with excitement = loves it. But I'd definitely take a horse like that a season, or a while, in third field (or second, or your equivalent of a quiet/slow group) and let him learn 'the game'. It is *not* about running around and jumping, it's about coursing a fox and a pack of hounds. Horses like that are super smart, and once he understands the actual game, he'll settle into his work.
          I've had a dozen horses like that thru the years. Slow it way down so his brain can process, then turn the heat back up.
          Such fun with a smart horse who learns to love it so quickly.
          * -- Virginia hunt country's best Bed-and-Breakfast-and-Barn.


          • #6
            I agree with HR. Give him some time in second/third flight. One that I had would stand quivering on the trailer before a meet. When he came off he walked around quietly. When the huntsman blew his horn, he would about tear my arms out of the socket. By his third season he was a great first flight hunter but he spent a season and a half in second flight. At the end of the second season I would start him in second and then partway through the hunt move him up to first.

            It's not about the jumping. That same horse I could cruise around a prelim XC course or take him in the 3' 6" jumpers no problem. It just took him some time to just to the excitement and adrenaline levels. All of my foxhunters have spent a year or two going second flight before going first flight.
            A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky dangerous animals and you know it.


            • Original Poster

              Thanks all. I feel a bit easier now a few people have agreed what I thought that he loves it - everyone who has seen him out says what a happy face he has going round.
              FitToBeTied to be honest he is a LOT calmer than the horse you are describing - sounds like you did a wonderful job with him! Sounds like going behind and learning to calm is the best option. Agree its not the jumping - he was a fairly big track jumper in his day.
              Thanks for everyone's help - sounds like I'm being paranoid and he is just over excited and needs to settle.


              • #8
                Keep him in a slower field for awhile. It takes 6 or so hunts for horses to really figure out what's going on and there's a lot for a horse to process out hunting -- hounds, other horses, jumps. Taking away some of the variables at first will help him understand his new job. One of my friends had a mare who would always quiver with excitement in the trailer. she KNEW she was hunting. My own mare sometimes quivers. To keep her from anticipating, I take her other places during hunt season so she doesn't think that every time we get on the trailer we are going to hunt. My OTTB used to get very UP at hunts. Then we went on a 4 1/2 hunt and he got good and tired. He learned to conserve his energy and relax. Good luck with your boy, sounds like he will make a great hunt horse.
                Equine Ink - My soapbox for equestrian writings & reviews.
                EquestrianHow2 - Operating instructions for your horse.


                • #9
                  Ditto what Hunters Rest shared. A horse will always go faster in a hunt field so I'll trot them for as long as it takes for them to become ho-hum. The last horse I started was 15 years old and coming out of another career. I only ride Hilltopper field which means some hunts we are on the heels of second field while other hunts we are on a ridge. Anyway, I started her in October and it was late Feb before I cantered her in the field and she's been fine since then.


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Hunter's Rest View Post
                    Quivering with excitement = loves it. But I'd definitely take a horse like that a season, or a while, in third field (or second, or your equivalent of a quiet/slow group) and let him learn 'the game'. It is *not* about running around and jumping, it's about coursing a fox and a pack of hounds. Horses like that are super smart, and once he understands the actual game, he'll settle into his work.
                    I've had a dozen horses like that thru the years. Slow it way down so his brain can process, then turn the heat back up.
                    Such fun with a smart horse who learns to love it so quickly.
                    They definitely DO understand the game. Once I let my TB whip a few times he decided that the only place he wanted to be was right up close with the hounds. He gets quite annoyed if I ride him back in the field because I"m doing it wrong! BTW, he loves to gallop and jump, but he really, really loves watching the hounds.
                    Equine Ink - My soapbox for equestrian writings & reviews.
                    EquestrianHow2 - Operating instructions for your horse.


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by dotneko View Post
                      Sounds like a kind soul trying to do what you ask of him but is scared to death. He isn't excited. He is frightened.
                      "scared to death" being a little dramatic... sounds more like the horse is just a bit anxious. Hunting is a lot to process.

                      It's totally normal. I've taken a few for their first time and the first time especially can be mind-blowing even when you do everything right and try to desensitize them beforehand. The shakes happen! Sometimes it is just the absolute adrenaline pounding through them.. I notice this more with the TBs than the drafty types. I will say it takes a few outings for a horse to settle and catch their stride.

                      AETERNUM VALE, INVICTUS - 7/10/2012