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Getting into hunting.... without a suitable horse

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  • Getting into hunting.... without a suitable horse

    I'm a lifelong hunter/jumper rider (definitely on the hunter side) and I'm very interested in getting into hunting. There is a hunt in my area, just about 20 minutes away, so finding somewhere to go isn't the issue. The problem is that the horses I ride (leasing plus exercising others for friends) are definitely arena horses, to the point that I wouldn't even trust them to tolerate a trail ride (nervous/looky). I don't see any of them being a good fit, even with lots of additional work towards that goal. Is there a way around this predicament? I have seen via some online research that other hunts around the country sometimes have experienced horses for hire on a per-day basis, though I have not found any in my area. I have also tried to look for barns that specialize in that sort of thing, to no avail.

    Any advice would be greatly appreciated. This is something I would really love to learn to do, but I definitely would need to have an appropriate partner.

  • #2
    I would look around for a horse to lease. I've even seen free leases for 3rd and 2nd flight hunters.

    Comment


    • #3
      Have you gotten in touch with anyone from your local hunt directly?
      The hunts local to me have a designated new person contact, who may have some ideas of where to look for a lease, or may know of members who have horses previous guests have ridden.

      Every local foxhunter I've met has been very welcoming and excited to meet an interested person, even though it's much more of a long term goal for me than a proximate interest. I get the impression that fox hunters are quite a generous group when it comes to introducing others to their sport, at least in my neck of the woods!

      Comment


      • #4
        Many hunts offer Learn to Hunt clinics and that is both an excellent way to connect with them AND figure out if your horse is suited to the sport in a safe and controlled way. You could also contact your local hunt and ask about walking or roading hounds--another good way to make contact and test a horse out.

        In my experience, it's really usually one or two (or maybe both) things that really make a horse fail at hunting:

        1. An inability to be polite around/deal with hounds
        2. An inability to be polite in/deal with groups of other horses

        I mean...sure...sometimes they just can't cope with being out in nature, but I haven't seen that happen in my hunt yet. (Full disclosure, I have only been doing this for 6 years....so there is probably a lot I haven't seen.) When horses explode out in the field, it's usually because they are upset by other horses going by/being close to them/being in front of them or because a hound pops up out of nowhere and scares the bejesus out of them. Both have happened to me.

        It's definitely a skill set--and not one that horses get from ring and show work--but there are plenty of horses in every hunt who have more than one job and go from show ring to hunt field on a regular basis. It usually takes a horse new to hunting a season or so to figure it out...so it might actually be more doable than you think on your current mount.

        Comment


        • #5
          At our hunt, there are generally people who will loan out a horse to a good rider. I suggest contacting the secretary and asking if he/she knows of someone who would do so, and include your "credentials."

          Continue to read if you want to hear me rant ---

          Having said that, I personally no longer loan out my second flight horse. Based on previous experience, I have found riders who borrow my horse to be less than expected --either they have misrepresented their riding ability (#1 reason I no longer share my horse) or they denigrate my horse (#2 reason)--while I do realize that the borrower may have a much superior horse at home or in the past or plan to be buying one --I don't want to hear my horse criticized. I am up front about what the borrower can expect from my second flight horse --he keeps a good distance from the horse in front, he passes no one in red, he stops for hounds, he jumps what he's put to. I am aware that he is small, fat, and a QH, not a George Stubbs Ideal Hunter..

          --other reasons I no longer loan my horses are are failure to care for my horse before and after a hunt --I end up doing the saddling, bridling, etc --and undoing the same --you borrowed a horse not a groom. Not following my "rules" for my horses ---don't let them eat with their bridles on (just repaired another bridle b/c someone thought rotund horse needed to graze on a trail ride) --not being particularly helpful or aware ---ignoring cleaning the hunt club stall after the hunt (clearly told to do so), or apparently unaware of what a muck bucket is and that one does not load a horse in a poop filled trailer - and one more --the rider who decides my hunter needs to be trained by him/her on the hunt field. Maybe that should be #1 --almost took a rider off my horse with my boot when I saw her stick him with spurs and slam on the bit because she said she wanted him "in a frame." Poor horse was clueless as to what he'd done wrong and had no idea how to relieve the pressure the rider was putting on him with spur and bit. I (re) explained that he's a field hunter, he doesn't need to be in a frame (especially since he was standing still at the time). Her response was to try to "correct" him when she was out of my view. Ultimately, he --who has never lost a rider in 15 years of hunting --managed to drop her --she said he bucked. He never had before --so not sure as I didn't see it --but don't blame him if he did!

          --so if you do decide to borrow someone's hunter --try to make the experience positive for both you and the person who loans you the horse.

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by Foxglove View Post
            At our hunt, there are generally people who will loan out a horse to a good rider. I suggest contacting the secretary and asking if he/she knows of someone who would do so, and include your "credentials."

            Continue to read if you want to hear me rant ---

            Having said that, I personally no longer loan out my second flight horse. Based on previous experience, I have found riders who borrow my horse to be less than expected --either they have misrepresented their riding ability (#1 reason I no longer share my horse) or they denigrate my horse (#2 reason)--while I do realize that the borrower may have a much superior horse at home or in the past or plan to be buying one --I don't want to hear my horse criticized. I am up front about what the borrower can expect from my second flight horse --he keeps a good distance from the horse in front, he passes no one in red, he stops for hounds, he jumps what he's put to. I am aware that he is small, fat, and a QH, not a George Stubbs Ideal Hunter..

            --other reasons I no longer loan my horses are are failure to care for my horse before and after a hunt --I end up doing the saddling, bridling, etc --and undoing the same --you borrowed a horse not a groom. Not following my "rules" for my horses ---don't let them eat with their bridles on (just repaired another bridle b/c someone thought rotund horse needed to graze on a trail ride) --not being particularly helpful or aware ---ignoring cleaning the hunt club stall after the hunt (clearly told to do so), or apparently unaware of what a muck bucket is and that one does not load a horse in a poop filled trailer - and one more --the rider who decides my hunter needs to be trained by him/her on the hunt field. Maybe that should be #1 --almost took a rider off my horse with my boot when I saw her stick him with spurs and slam on the bit because she said she wanted him "in a frame." Poor horse was clueless as to what he'd done wrong and had no idea how to relieve the pressure the rider was putting on him with spur and bit. I (re) explained that he's a field hunter, he doesn't need to be in a frame (especially since he was standing still at the time). Her response was to try to "correct" him when she was out of my view. Ultimately, he --who has never lost a rider in 15 years of hunting --managed to drop her --she said he bucked. He never had before --so not sure as I didn't see it --but don't blame him if he did!

            --so if you do decide to borrow someone's hunter --try to make the experience positive for both you and the person who loans you the horse.
            Part of the problem is that a lot of people don't understand that a good field hunter seldom bears any resemblance to a good show hunter these days. In our area the hunting heritage runs deep enough that the old school field hunters are still favored by many. You see big Irish Drafts, draft/TB crosses, and OTTBs. Ponies are mostly Welsh and Welsh/TB crosses. They aren't usually "fancy" and they probably wouldn't "win the hack" or "find eight". They will, however, have some combination of steadiness, sturdiness, scope, and bravery to keep you from breaking your neck out there.

            Up until recently one famous local hunt explained the etiquette to newbies thus: "if you're having trouble stopping your horse you need more bit or less horse". Piedmont and Orange both had reputations for having hard core first flights and you probably needed a well-conditioned TB to keep up. I'm not sure if that's true anymore, but every time I've seen Piedmont they've been rolling along at a brisk pace over some challenging terrain. It's a whole ''nother ball of wax from even cross country. I suppose a lot of folks can't conceptualize it until they're thrown into it. Which is unfortunate.

            Comment


            • #7
              Definitely contact your local hunt and see if they can put you in touch with someone who will lease/loan a horse to try hunting. Going out on an experienced hunt horse is a treat and makes it much easier when you are learning. I've loaned my horse to a couple of friends, and had people share their horses with me when mine was injured. Just make sure to treat them like gold!
              Equine Ink - My soapbox for equestrian writings & reviews.
              EquestrianHow2 - Operating instructions for your horse.

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by Foxglove View Post
                Ultimately, he --who has never lost a rider in 15 years of hunting --managed to drop her --she said he bucked. He never had before --so not sure as I didn't see it --but don't blame him if he did!
                Clever field hunter! Brains and gumption, just what one needs to get the job done when out with the hounds.
                "Good young horses are bred, but good advanced horses are trained" Sam Griffiths

                Comment


                • #9
                  A case for Hunter's Rest...https://www.chronofhorse.com/forum/m...-hunter-s-rest
                  ... _. ._ .._. .._

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    I'm not sure where you are located but you may also find if there is a stable associated with the hunt, that there may be safe experienced livery available for a fee. Red Rock Hunt north of Reno has livery available for visitors. It's quite common to have visitors from other parts of the country hunt with RRH during the hunt season - both experienced and new-to-hunting riders.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      OP, your background sounds very much like mine. For many reasons, I decided I wanted to give hunting a try. I actually live in the territory of a hunt, so I made contact with the secretary and explained my situation (and attached a video of myself riding). Like you, I had ample riding/showing experience but no hunt experience whatsoever. I did own a couple of horses, but I didn't accurately know whether they were suitable. Basically, I wanted to try hunting out on an experienced mount that would make me feel comfortable and allow me to properly determine if I had a suitable mount. One of the masters graciously lended me a horse. He was perfect and I was hooked. I was sure to be very respectful, thankful, and brought a gift. I was invited back to ride the horse a 2nd time for a fee (I again brought a thank you gift). Fast forward, I am now a member of the hunt and found a horse of my own to lease. It is possible! Network, network, network. Thank everyone profusely. I think that most hunts would be grateful for a serious, respectful rider to be involved who may become a future member. Good luck!

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        If your local hunt does not have a website, you can look up the secretary's contact info on www.mfha.org. She/he will know if some of their members have suitable horses for hire. I'd definitely recommend going on an experienced horse your first time out. Hunt sponsored trail rides and/or roading hounds are great ways to introduce a new horse to hunting. I'd ask to go car/foot following to see what this particular hunt is all about (terrain, speed, formality etc). That will give you a better idea of how your skill and your horses temperament might fit in to a particular hunt.

                        Either way the hunt secretary is the place to start. Most hunts are very welcoming!! As a former show hunter who got the fox hunting bug and ended up as secretary I should know : )

                        If for some reason your local hunt isn't accommodating, there are various professional barns that can help you get started over a weekend stay in VA or similar area. If it comes to that come back here to ask for recommendations. I second Hunters Rest.

                        Once you've been out a few times (and get hooked!) there are lots of ways to hunt without having to purchase another horse. From hiring each ride, leasing a suitable horse, or just keeping one fit for a kid at college/new mom etc, most hunt's have networks you can use to find a mount. The key is getting out a few times and meeting people.

                        Good luck!!

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          If you tell us your general area we may be able to help you get connected with someone who could help with getting you out hunting.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            You might try excersizing hunt horses for people. Lots of people who work need thier horses ridden and it would be a good way to get in. They might need you to ride a steady Eddy when they are getting a green horse used to hunting, or you might have to ride the green horse. Hunting actually involves a lot of training of the horse, the main difference is the group thing. I know people who don't have their own horse but who can get free rides because they can go out with a hunt member and ride the greenie or the calming older hunter to ride with the greenie. Heck, you might even get payed if you are good. Wish you lived near me.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Totally agree with the posters who suggested a hunt clinic - IME many of the hunts offering up a clinic will do so in August as a way to encourage new members. And speaking of membership- you'll need to find out what the requirements are to join. Some want a couple of current hunt members refer/nominate you for membership, some don't require any reference/nomination by member(s), and they have different membership levels - full hunt membership to social/associate (no hunting privileges, just social activities) For someone first getting into hunting a membership that offers cubbing and x number of hunts is usually a good option. Also need to see if there's an initial fee and what the membership fees are.

                              Best thing is to check out the hunt's website and contact the secretary. Most are excited to share their love of the sport.

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                Foxglove,

                                Your post made we wince. Your second flight horse sounds lovely, and a perfect introduction to hunting. I would no longer lease him out to riders either and I'd have been tempted to take that rider off him then and there.

                                To the OP,

                                A lot of great suggestions here. The overarching theme is that finding a suitable horse to borrow to hunt requires developing a network among local foxhunters, establishing a reputation as a good and considerate horseperson and some common sense and courtesy, and that will take time.

                                All that said, I highly recommend Hunter's Rest in Virginia - http://huntersrest.net/

                                You could spend a couple of days there during cubbing, hack out and hunt once or twice. The local hunt has very reasonable capping fees and has lifted restrictions on capping for September. Not only would you get a fabulous, suitable, experienced field hunter, you would get a knowledgeable guide who will instruct you in the etiquette, explain what's going on, position you to see hounds and do everything humanly possible to ensure you have a good experience. Also, Hunter's Rest either hosts or is in hacking distance to a lot of meets, which just makes hunting mornings simpler.

                                With a couple of Hunter's Rest weekends under your belt, I think you'll be in a much better position to pursue hunting opportunities at home.
                                The plural of anecdote is not data.

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  Thanks, McGurk! My second flight horse is a great hunting horse! I am sad that he is aging (as am I) and hoped that we would end our hunting days together. However, he is currently my second horse as I have a young fellow who is working out nicely. I no longer worry about heat, distance, speed, or age as I ride --the young horse, is, well, YOUNG. I think the second flight horse enjoys hunting --seeing other horses, hanging out in the hunt club barn with his buddies --so a kind rider is welcomed to take him out.

                                  The last rider who took him out at the Blessing of the Hounds was fantastic.

                                  But the young woman who rode him before that --well, I think she has mental problems --lives in a fantasy world --talks non-stop about joining the hunt (has no horse, trailer, and very little $); about her "show horse" at home (no longer owned by her but boarded at a stable where she works, was apparently a good horse when she was a teenager, now very, very old), and her plans to compete internationally . . .(on what, exactly?).

                                  I saw her ride and she seemed solid, but as I said, she "over did" at the hunt and seemed to forget everything I'd told her about riding my horse--perhaps trying to impress the other riders . . .the cherry on top of this whole unpleasant experience was her request that her husband be allowed to ride out on my horse. I only have two hunters ---her thought was she and he could ride out on my horses [she on my first flight horse] and he could try hunting ---really? I asked if he'd ridden before --her answer, "He said he has, but I haven't seen him ride."

                                  The whole request was so outlandish I was gob-smacked. She expected I would haul horses for her, a woman I knew casually, and her husband whom I didn't know, 90 min, then sit at my trailer (I guess) and wait for them to come in from the hunt. I truly think this was the single most bizarre request anyone ever made of me in any situation --even the request for my white horse to participate in a Wicca ceremony was less strange. [He did participate and was well compensated for his white-horse presence].

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    Foxglove,

                                    I had an extraordinarily polite TB gelding who, among other things, packed me around the schooling jumpers with great good will. He was an OTTB, so objected to a deep or driving seat or a lot of contact, but was otherwise a gentleman. I was strong armed into letting the BO's relative ride him; she was *VERY* sure of herself and would take no advice from me. She rode in a very European/dressage based style and was very bad at reading the horse's reactions - when he objected, she just sat into him more and took a firmer hold.

                                    When he had enough, he planted her. Quite deliberately, as in "Bi^&*, get off my back - now!" First, last and only time in his life. What I wanted to say was "If you don't want to listen to me about how he needs to be ridden, perhaps you'd like to listen to him?"

                                    So I like your second horse even better for that story.
                                    Last edited by McGurk; Jul. 24, 2019, 02:22 PM.
                                    The plural of anecdote is not data.

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      McGurk --love it ! What a great horse! There was a thread awhile back about horses that don't like certain people even the first time they meet them . . .neither of my horses liked this girl. While both boys are generally gregarious, pleasant, beg-for-scratches types --neither one wanted anything to do with her. Not that they bit her or kicked her, but even when she was tacking up, there was tail-swishing and a little evil-eye-ness when she touched them. I didn't catch it the first time, but the second time, either the boys were leery of her or I was more watchful. They flat out did not like her.

                                      She seems to have melted into the mist . . .hear bits and pieces now and then . . .too many health problems to count . . .So maybe she's getting some kind of treatment.

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        One thing I did when visiting hunts in NC and SC last fall was ride along with a road whip. After riding with the road whip, another member with an extra horse felt more comfortable letting me borrow a horse for a hunt on a different day. If the hunt in your area has road whips I think it would be great to ride along during a couple hunts. Then you can meet some hunt members and maybe get a chance to ride one of their horses at a non-hunt event and graduate to riding a borrowed horse to actually hunt. As other posters here have said, many people have had bad experiences letting others borrow horses, but if you get to know some seasoned members you could still get a chance to borrow.
                                        Other ideas to get your foot in the door would be to help exercise hounds during the off season, attend hunt clinics (if they have them). Basically anything you can do to get involved and meet the people in the hunt!
                                        I'm in Texas so if you are in this area let me know!

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