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prejudice and foxhunting

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  • prejudice and foxhunting

    Hi there again, I'm kind of lurking over here since I'm new to the foxhunting thing and all. I'm going out for my 2nd time ever on Wednesday and I can't wait. Sometimes I get the impression from folks of other disciplines that foxhunters are not as strict in their training of horses as in they don't teach their horses how to jump properly, etc. I had a dressage instructor tell me that alot of foxhunting horses have incorrect muscular development as in their underneck muscles are too big ,they throw themselves over fences, etc. It seems to me that to have a good horse at foxhunting means having a horse who really knows how to jump over varying terrain in a variety of ever changing conditions and also have the mental amptitude to deal with all of this in a sensible manner. It reminds me of that saying "just a trail horse'. In my limited experience a good trail horse is worth their weight in gold and I bet the same about a good foxhunting horse as well. Anyway has anyone else run into these "prejudices".

  • #2
    A lot of my students come to me to for dressage lessons on their foxhunters.Basically, I help them to develop their horses' hindquarters and become better balanced and off their forehand. Once we have established this, coupled with the riders' understanding of the seat and leg aids (so many of them are too much hand)I do a lot of caveletti and grid work, both on level ground and up and down hill. The horses and the riders are much happier and safer in the hunt field as a result.. In essence, what your dressage person was telling you has a lot of truth to it, as there are many, many foxhunt riders who rarely take any form of instruction .


    • #3
      many, many foxhunt riders who rarely take any form of instruction .
      Hay! I resemble that comment!

      But realy, foxhunting horses are siants! After all, who but saints could put up with most foxhunting riders?


      • #4
        I think alot depends on who you hunt with and where. I have found in my experience hunting that you get a wide variety of riders and just as wide a variety of horses, and an even wider variety of skills and abilities.
        Our hunt has people who have/still are actively eventing, pony clubbers, pleasure trail riders, hunter riders, and on and on. We even have a few who have never had a lesson in their lives and don't care for any thank you very much. The horses are just as varied. Personally, if I am going to do something I like to try to learn as much as I can and to do it correctly. I come from a hunter background, grew up showing as a kid for years and years and now just foxhunt. But I still have good, albeit rusty after all these years, basics and take lessons when I can. Then we have others who can ride well enough to stay on their long suffering saint of a horse and that's good enough for them.
        I guess one of the most positive things about hunting is that it isn't a competition. As long as you are respectful of the hunt, and the hounds and you and your horse aren't a danger to yourself or anyone else it's ok. Some people ride to hunt, others hunt to ride, that's just the way it is.
        "Perhaps the final test of anybody's love of dogs is their willingness to permit them to make a camping ground of the bed" -Henry T. Merwin


        • #5
          I remember some joke going around that described the attitude of the riders of each discipline. Show hunters didn't like the field hunters because they ran their horses at fences, field hunters didn't like the show hunters because they couldn't get over a course if their trainer didn't tell them how many strides there were, no one liked the dressage riders because they didn't ride real horses - remember that one? It was pretty funny. Maybe because it held a kernel of truth - I dunno.

          I've seen some of the best riding in the hunt field. I mean really classy, elegant, lovely equitation. Poetry in motion. I've seen people that could use a little help (me among them to be honest) etc. And the horses - well - you know - a field hunter is priceless. Which is why I had to make my own - can't afford one.

          I think a lot of people who complain about field hunters are also the ones insisting that their clients take endless lessons, only do certain shows, get rid of a horse that doesn't have whatever the trainer thinks it needs to have (but they just happen to have the perfect horse for you) etc. Or maybe they have become so used to the arena, perfect footing, and the desire to show that they forgot what a good cross country gallop feels like. If they ever knew it at all.

          Oddly enough, I think many of these apparantly substandard horses end up in the hunt field - where they carry their riders boldly and joyfully over hill and dale - with the wind in their manes and the sounds of the horn and thundering hooves in their ears. The riders may not have the perfect equitation, but they can get their horse fit, keep it sound, take a fence at high speed in uncertain footing without batting an eye (although a stiff drink afterward is an option)

          Perhaps I'm romanticizing - yeah - almost time for bed. Sleepy. Sorry.

          I recently saw my old dressage instructor - I learned a lot from him. But he was strict - I was forbidden to canter my horse for a year (yeah - like that was going to happen)

          Anyway - he told me how disappointed he was to hear I took up hunting and how I'd wasted all the money I'd spent on dressage training. I said no way - I use more dressage in the field than I ever did in the arena. He looked surprised.

          But really - there are all kinds of horses and riders hunting - and the skills and abilities vary. I'm not an adrenaline junkie myself - but there is a bit of an "extreme sport" aspect of foxhunting that many people just don't identify with. That's perfectly ok. As much as I love dressage - I'd rather apply it as it was meant to be used than practice it endlessly. Just my preference.

          As far as the field hunters not training their horses to jump properly - consider this. If your horse messes up in the arena you knock a rail down. Foxhunting - a mistake can kill you. Those coops and fences are meant to keep livestock in. They don't budge. And you are far from ambulances and helicopters. Nah - the horses may not be flashy jumpers - but they're good ones. Generally. If not - they hilltop.
          Brothers and sisters, I bid you beware
          Of giving your heart to a dog to tear.
          -Rudyard Kipling


          • #6
            I have overheard instructors (Was I taking a lesson?) criticize riders after foxhunting: seat has reverted to a more defensive posture.

            I have heard instructors criticize a horse taken hunting: horse is not paying enough attention to rider and rider is giving indistinct signal.

            Well, thats foxhunting. The rider sits there and enjoys the scenery while the horse does all the work of getting from where you are to where you want to be. Speed, terrain and obstacles fall under "duty of horse" while enjoying scenery and sights fall under "duty of rider". Its lucky horses enjoy foxhunting as much as us and willing to take us with them.

            Not show hunter stuff. Not dressage.


            • #7
              Delphi - that's priceless! "seat has reverted to a more defensive posture". Damn straight. No way in heck am I posing over a jump. I have enough trouble already.

              Dressage, hunters, jumpers, eventing, - those are disciplines. Foxhunting is a job for a working horse. Completely different thing - although the horse and rider utilize aspects of every discipline when foxhunting. Not as pretty, perhaps - but effective. And in the field - effective works.

              A confession - I've only hunted 3 seasons and cheerfully defer to the more experienced foxhunters.
              Brothers and sisters, I bid you beware
              Of giving your heart to a dog to tear.
              -Rudyard Kipling


              • #8
                That same attitude contributes to the idea that because you have jumped/evented/(fill-in-the-blank) the horse, you must be able to hunt him.
                So people show up never having, say, galloped in a group.
                Actually, most people are surprised that fox hunting even exists, even horse people. They think we all bring a "dog" and carry guns. No kidding.
                As far as lessons and form goes, I find that the more correct your form the safer and more efficient the occasion. btw, I have *awful* form over fences but at least I recognise it and endlessly endevor to imporve!


                • #9
                  I'm laughing at the "defensive riding" comment, because the first time I took a lesson with a 4-star eventer from Britain, he watched me for about 5 minutes and said, "Right. Well. You have obviously been riding a lot of green horses and foxhunting and you have excellent defensive riding technique. That's great, we don't want to take that away from you, but you don't need to ride like that ALL the time. You can ride with a bit more finesse most of the time, and you'll find those defensive skills are still there the moment you need them." LOL

                  You do find a huge range of riding ability and horse training in the hunt field, as Jaegermonster said. People have different standards of what they'll put up with from a mount, and what they expect from them. The longer I've hunted the higher my standards have become. When I think about some of the greenies I rode when I was young and fearless and broke and had just started hunting, well, you'd better believe I developed some serious defensive riding techniques or, quite frankly, I wouldn't be here today! Almost two decades later, I do not want to deal with that crap anymore. Older and wiser. Those techniques are there in a pinch, but not something I need every hunt any more.
                  Hindsight bad, foresight good.


                  • #10
                    I have to say everyone that has posted is pretty much right on. When I first discovered foxhunting about 8 years ago, it was a whole different style of riding that I never really knew existed. It made my horse much braver and bolder, and it made me much stronger and tight as a tick over fences. And you absolutely do learn to ride alot more defensively and not pose-y. Catching your horse at a show in a ring is one thing, catching it in thousands of acres of hunt territory is another entirely
                    Now the jumps that used to be scary to me at shows are like "Is that it?", and it's almost offensive they are called "hunter" shows. Most of those horses and riders have never seen a hunt field and couldn't handle it if they did. Note I said most and not a slam at any trainers or anything, I know many trainers do hunt and do it well. But the little mistakes and incorrectness that you can hide or get away with at a show could get you killed in the hunt field when you're tearing along at a dead gallop flying fences with 50 other horses. And forget about this recent trend of lying down on the horses neck over fences (which also looks yucky to me by the way)
                    I really think most people that have those prejudices about hunting either a) don't know what they are talking about because they are too chicken to try it, or b) are jealous of those of us that hunt so talk badly about it
                    "Perhaps the final test of anybody's love of dogs is their willingness to permit them to make a camping ground of the bed" -Henry T. Merwin


                    • #11
                      trainers and boarding barns that rely on training income do not favor fox hunters [generalization, sorry] clearly there is little training revenue from those who want to just rest before the next meet and let down all summer. I just retired my horse after 10 years of hunting. outside of working with a trainer the year after purchase, I am one of those fox hunters who has avoided the training cult, where the training is the end product, ribbons are the measuring stick, and fun/cost ratio minuscule. looking at a new horse sunday.
                      more hay, less grain


                      • #12
                        Your thoughts on prejudices existing are right on I think. Somehow we are more comfortable with just our own kind! I prefer the company of foxhunters absolutely! And that snobbishness to me means they just don't understand....or get it...or even had the chance to try it. Different strokes! I really admire those of you who venture out into "dressage-land" or "eventing-land"! Isn't it SCARY!!??
                        But I do, of course, think the other disciplines are much, much more snobby or haughty about their endeavors than we foxhunters! We are friendlier! Well....some of us are!!


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Delphi:

                          Well, thats foxhunting. The rider sits there and enjoys the scenery while the horse does all the work of getting from where you are to where you want to be. Speed, terrain and obstacles fall under "duty of horse" while enjoying scenery and sights fall under "duty of rider". Its lucky horses enjoy foxhunting as much as us and willing to take us with them.
                          Personally, as someone who is young, but has been foxhunting for 8 years and around foxhunters (the horses) for 12 (I'm only 22), by saying that I just sit there in the field is kind of insulting, and most that are on here should take offense. I have made nearly every horse I have ridden out hunting, minus one horse that I had to ride becasue no one would ride him because although he is a seasoned hunter, he is a pain in the ass. Anyways, I have a 6 y/o TB that is wonderful and one of the most comfortable rides you will ever have out hunting, but if you just "sit there and enjoy the scenery," you may end up in a tree or on the ground. I'm not out there for the scenery, I'm out there for the sport and the hounds, and I know to most this sounds crazy coming from someone who is young, but that is how I was raised. I know I'm not going to go out and win an equitation championship, but I do try to look good over fences because you end of getting hurt if you do something wrong. Foxhunters are priceless, but they can make mistakes too.

                          As for training, every horse I train is first started on trails, and jumped over logs to teach them they can't crash through jumps. Then they go in the ring where they start their dressage work and grid work. Also, after working with a race horse trainer for years, every horse of mine is fit to go hunting and is worked on hills so we don't lag behind out hunting.

                          And as for foxhunters not being pretty, some don't, I agree. But, go tell that to Beth DeStanley, or Elise Daniels, who both show the "big stuff." Not to mention the top eventers that foxhunt. The master we board horses for is one of the most stylish foxhunters I have seen, and come to find out he used to be a big time jumper rider. Go figure. He also expects his horses to hunt, but be able to do other stuff just as well.

                          Have any of you been to any Hunt Nights? I don't see any of those winning teams looking "sloppy" over fences.

                          Sorry to rant, but it kind of irritates me when foxhunters get generalized, just as show hunters, eventers, and dressage people do.


                          • #14
                            Not everyone agrees what combination of notes and tone make music. One may listen for a while and conclude it could be music if just developed better in a different way. Everyone is entitled to their own opinions and "prejudices".

                            Dessage is opera (lots of drama)

                            Show hunter is pop song ( rhythm, short lyric then repeat)

                            Western pleasure is country (some one done me wrong song)

                            Foxhunting is jazz ( it just happens ).


                            • #15
                              Well - I hunt my horses in the winter, show them in dressage in the summer and take jumping lessons between shows. What does that make me?

                              My horses hunt on the bit, are forward in dressage, and don't rush fences!
                              ... _. ._ .._. .._


                              • #16
                                I'm with you Equibrit...horses can be multitalented...

                                Opinions are great and to each their own, and prejudices are there...what is being said here is more of a stereotype than an opinion or prejudice.

                                Equibrit, your horses are well rounded, which is why they are probably some of the best foxhunters!


                                • #17
                                  bovon -

                                  There are quite a few prejudices about foxhunters and their mounts. I run into this all the time. I have hunted for many years and have capped with numerous hunts and the dressage instructor's comment with respect to a lot of foxhunters not training their horses how to jump properly is very inaccurate.

                                  A number of foxhunters come from hunter/jumper backgrounds, dressage backgrounds, eventing, etc. Their mounts, also have had been trained to jump properly. You will get a few riders/mounts that do not have perfect form over the fences, but that does not matter out the hunt field -- as long as they execute the jump safely and don't hold up the rest of the field -- That is what is important in foxhunting.


                                  • #18
                                    Equibrit - stop - you're messing up the streotype about foxhunters! What you are is a good horseman and your horses are well-trained mounts.

                                    I'm one of those people that can't ride worth a damn regardless of discipline. Lessons can't make up for a complete and utter lack of talent. I mess up the bell curve I guess - maybe people like me are the ones people refer to when they talk about poor riding in the hunt field.
                                    Brothers and sisters, I bid you beware
                                    Of giving your heart to a dog to tear.
                                    -Rudyard Kipling


                                    • #19
                                      Great topic! I am one who does take lessons, mostly during the off season, and feel it is an absolute necessity for me. I have a young Perch/TB that I just started this past year as a hilltopper, and although he's been great, we have plenty to work on.

                                      Last weekend I observed the first flight taking a rather large coop downhill into a big open cow pasture. Horses were pulling, rushing,refusing, overjumping and hanging their hind feet on it. There was every type of rider form you could imagine. Then there was the cute, fit mare, out for her 3rd time, at the very back of the field who strided evenly to the coop, and jumped it perfectly! So did her rider. I happen to know that this pair works consistently in the ring and X-country. It shows and is paying off in the hunt field.

                                      Anyone see the article in the March issue of "Covertside", "It's About Horses...Pulling and Rushing"? Great article on schooling for hunt horses and riders.

                                      Happy hunting everyone!


                                      • Original Poster

                                        This has been an interesting thread..thanks for all the posts. I take lessons as often as I can afford to 3-4 times per month.. dressage and jumping lessons alternately..I have to otherwise I'd get killed out in the open field. I also work my horses up and down hills and out in the woods as much as I can. Some of us need alot of help with riding! One thing I like about foxhunting (in my very limited esperience) is that I get to expose my horse and myself to something new plus work on our abilities together. I always hope we'll be up to the task but at the same time I don't have to think about being judged and scored like at an actual show. Plus it's outside with nature and hounds and other horsey people and this may be weird but I just love the turn-out especially the pink coats. (It's about the only activity I like getting "dressed up" for otherwise I'm kind of a jeans and sweatshirt gal) That's just way too cool and beautiful with the horses and the hounds. So here I am like a kid counting the days till I can foxhunt again..