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Non-hunted field hunter prospect-tell me to "leave it" update post 19

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  • Non-hunted field hunter prospect-tell me to "leave it" update post 19

    Merry Christmas, all!

    I find myself in the market for a horse for next season, one able to be a staff horse. I've come to terms with what I'll be paying for a horse with hunting experience, and there are some lovely rides to be had. But-the one I like best, even disregarding price, has never hunted. Am I foolish to entertain taking this guy on instead of one who's already hunted?

    I know, I know-but I *want* him...
    Last edited by lesson junkie; Jan. 10, 2019, 11:21 PM.

  • #2
    What breed is he? How old is he? What experience does he have? Have you ridden him out at all? How long do you have to school him between now and next season?

    I would say we need pics but don't want to risk somebody else in the market seeing them and grabbing him up!
    Rack on!


    • #3
      Boy, did you come to the wrong place to get talked out of a horse... Now is a great time to start a horse for next season.

      Of the 7-8 hunt horses I've owned, only one already had hunt experience and she was the second-hardest ride of the bunch.


      • Original Poster

        Originally posted by Kodiak View Post
        Boy, did you come to the wrong place to get talked out of a horse... Now is a great time to start a horse for next season.

        Of the 7-8 hunt horses I've owned, only one already had hunt experience and she was the second-hardest ride of the bunch.
        Why do you think I asked here?


        • Original Poster

          I've never bought a made horse before either, and I have the time and all the necessary moving parts to make a field hunter. This horse is kind and quiet, and is the best quality animal I've looked at to date. He is an OTTB, my preference everything else being equal. He hasn't been off the track long, is cantering to small jumps, hacking out quietly in a group. He hasn't been with hounds, and he hasn't crossed water.


          • #6
            No trying to talk you out of it from me, that was pretty much my boy's bio when I bought him. I was hoping he might make a nice horse for the field, last year he had a bit of positive experience before a pasture injury sidelined us for the rest of the season. This year we are riding as staff and he is rising to the challenge very nicely.

            His greenness comes out in leaping water and ditches like a shark is circling, then landing on the opposite bank past the intended target zone, often in a bush. But we calmly crawl out and are on our way. When I tried him out I was struck by his curiosity and intelligence. When he spooks its a small one and then he wants to get closer and look at whatever surprised him. He watches everything out hunting, and enjoys being out. That same intelligence makes ringwork umm shall we say 'entertaining'.

            Sounds like you already have a good sense of what he is, but if you haven't ridden him out yet maybe you can before saying yes. Try leaving the group, and go off roading through the woods. You should get a sense if he has the goods mentally to do the job. My huntsman is understanding of our occasional greenness, and we often are in the 2nd position rather then point. My bet is if he has the right kind of mind for the job, you will end up with a lovely horse, "Forrard On.'


            • #7
              OTTB=best non-hunting/pre-hunting experience ever. Do it.
              * www.huntersrest.net -- Virginia hunt country's best Bed-and-Breakfast-and-Barn.


              • Original Poster

                What I am needing ultimately-say, by this time next year-is a first flight field master's horse. I think whipping would give me a little more flexibility. I lead second flight on a pony, and she does a great job for me. She can manage first, but doing first flight pace chasing a coyote can red line her. I don't want to ask that of her more than rarely. I am not going to abuse her game heart.


                • #9
                  This is my first full season hunting. I took my 5 year old ottb out on a hunt when he'd been off the track 6 months and laid off most of that time, and i personally had a half dozen rides on the guy. Even now, when he knows what he's up to, he goes in a snaffle, rides off by himself, stands quietly at checks, ignores hounds underfoot. . . I fell in love with his brain, and it's paid off.


                  • #10
                    None of my three hunt horses had hunted before I started them. One was off the track and he was the hardest because he really, really wanted to be first all the time. I fixed that with trail rides before taking him out and he's been an awesome hunt horse.
                    Equine Ink - My soapbox for equestrian writings & reviews.
                    EquestrianHow2 - Operating instructions for your horse.


                    • #11
                      I dunno, am I the only one who thinks it might be a stretch to take a fresh OTTB and expect them to a be a staff horse in a year's time? Your instincts might be right, I put a fair amount of stock in in that. Just seems like maybe a few too many unknowns to me. Then again, even a horse with some hunting experience isn't a sure bet, esp. for a staff horse.


                      • #12
                        Here' the thing that people forget:

                        Yes, OTTBs generally are forward horses, but usually, they are *broke* horses with good ground manners. For the most part they understand hurry up and wait, they definitely understand galloping in a group, horses coming up behind, horses passing, horses bumping. They're used to the track shed row, with a hundred things going on at once, cars, tractors, goats, music, noise etc.

                        Here's what they don't understand so well - bending and turning, soft passive contact, whoaing with the reins, a long stretchy cross country trot and jumping.

                        If a horse off the track has a good brain, is generally pretty brave, has good ground manners, can w/t/c both directions without drama, go on a loose rein and doesn't have a big spook; reclaiming them as a fox hunter is fairly easy. You have to teach the whoa from reins, introduce hounds, teach them to cross water and teach them to jump, but that can be done fairly quickly if the brain is there.

                        I've never had an OTTB that didn't learn to love hacking out pretty quickly. You've eliminated several question marks by saying he'll be a staff horse, he won't have to deal with being bumped or crowded or the field reversing.

                        So if you really like this horse and think he's worth a try, why not?

                        Worst case scenario is that he'll need more time and you'll need to find another horse for next season, which could also be true of a lot of the other things you try.

                        The plural of anecdote is not data.


                        • Original Poster

                          McGurk-that is my feeling about this horse, and I have an instructor with lots of TB experience, so I have excellent help for continuing the reschool. I know I won't be stuck with him, he's kind and brave, pretty and jumps great. I would be left in the same boat as right now, and I'm not going to over face my pony.

                          This discussion brings into focus just how rare our good field hunters are, and how much time and effort go into making one. A successful professional once told me that the only job harder to teach a horse than being a field hunter was making a polo pony. I know nothing about polo, but it certainly is an interesting topic.


                          • #14
                            In March of '17 a First Flight hunt member bought a 4 year old TB who never made it past try outs on the tracks but she is a lovely mare. She hilltopped the mare for about 5 hunts then the season ended. This year the mare has been in First Field and doing fine with the member. A total natural hunt horse who does fine no matter which field she is going in that day and can also whip in.

                            My current hunt horse had zero hunt experience when I got her but the person who connected me with her said "this mare will hunt!". She was dead on correct. I had a junior member ride her on her first hunt and the mare was on tip toes the entire 2 hours. Not bad, just busy. She's never done that again. I'm a Field Master for our hunts Third Field/Hilltoppers and my mare will go front. back or middle with no problem.

                            For me it's all about the brains first. More and more a comfortable ride is important because I'm getting old.


                            • #15
                              I just took my horse on his first hunt this weekend. He went in a basic French link snaffle. It is a small unrecognized hunt. One of the whips was on a horse that last raced in September. His horse did great.
                              My horse is also an OTTB and he did great too. Staff coming up behind him, staff coming towards him and he was chill.
                              He levitated once when a hound appeared next to him. We were all trotting through the woods on a tractor path. None of the field saw the hound until it appeared next to Carson. Poor guy. I never saw the hound.

                              He was better than my other horse who I sporatically hunted for about 6 years. He was always tough to hunt.

                              I left the field after about 3 hours and went back to the trailer by myself. He had enough mentally and I wanted to keep it a good experience. We were hunting in the PA state game lands on Sunday. I was parked in the parking lot of the gun range in the game lands. No hunting on Sunday but target shooting is fine. Of course they were target shooting when I headed back and had to load him by himself in the trailer. It was loud and I was less than 100 yards from where they were shooting. He never flinched.
                              I have taken him to Fairhill xc schooling and he jumped everything I pointed him at including a ditch. The only sticking point we have right now is he needs a lead through water the first time. We will work on that.

                              I could see an OTTB that is already restarted and going well hunting next season even first flight. If he is naturally a sensible horse I would think he would do fine. OTTBs are exposed to so much on the track I think it takes a lot to rattle them. OP also says she has experience with OTTBs and so does her trainer.
                              Oh, well, clearly you're not thoroughly indoctrinated to COTH yet, because finger pointing and drawing conclusions are the cornerstones of this great online community. (Tidy Rabbit)


                              • #16
                                I won't talk you out of it either. he sounds like a great candidate and you've already said you're confident that you have the skills to bring him along. If he works out, he's great! If your other option is spending more on a "made" hunt horse, well I guess you could do that just as well next year if he doesn't work out.


                                • Original Poster

                                  You guys are the best! Thanks a bunch


                                  • #18
                                    I was gifted an OTTB by my landlord, who didn't know how to ride, and who'd gotten him not knowing that you couldn't really just hop on a horse off the track and go. My trainer put 30 days on him & then we looked to sell the horse since he wasn't what I needed at the time. He was an athletic jumper but wasn't spectacular at show jumping due to what we suspected was a depth perception issue. The working student took him out with Piedmont and apparently everything just clicked for the gelding. He loved it. IIRC they moved up to 1st flight within his first few outtings. The hounds didn't phase him and he stood like a rock at the checks. And whatever caused him to misjudge fences in the arena didn't affect him in the field. He was fine with being anywhere within the field, too. I bet he would've done fine as a staff horse.


                                    • Original Poster

                                      Well-I did it-I bought the horse 3 months off the track, and I believe it was the right choice. Time will tell.

                                      My instructor isn't going to divorce me over it, much as she'd like, so that's a good thing.

                                      Thanks for all the replies-see you out in the field.