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  • Following too closely...

    My horse and I are fairly new to hunting - we did a three-day fox hunting clinic before the start of the season, then a hunter pace, and have since hunted 2nd flight and more recently fallen back to hilltopping. He's an OTTB that raced for nearly 8 years but is very sane and quiet.

    Our issue is he insists on following so closely that his nose is above the horses tail in front of him. Obviously this is terrible etiquette and can be dangerous, so we've been working on it for weeks.

    Unfortunately nothing is working. He just gets pissed and starts head tossing and tail swishing. This past weekend he even started jogging and sidestepping. It just seems to be getting worse. Any advice for things to try/practice???
    "No hour of life is wasted that is spent in the saddle" - Winston Churchill

    Check out Central Virginia Horse Rescue

  • #2
    Not to be a wet blanket, but...with that behavior it is time to stop hunting and go back to the basics of training, training, training!! When you've got "that" covered, start trail riding in company. When he is obedient and under control, start Hunt trail rides, roading, cubbing then hilltopping NEXT year. At his present rate, he is being trained for bad behavior...crowding another horse is absolutely unacceptable and dangerous. Go back to square one and hope he does better with the additional training. I've been known to freak out on a rider who runs up my horse's rear end. ps - Many years ago, I was an RN in the ICU unit and an avid foxhunter. One day in the field a horse....doing what yours is doing, failed to see a big 4 rail fence ahead. The first horse jumped, second did not, but flipped over, landed on his rider, rolled back over his rider and stomped all over her as he rose to his feet. The woman was in critical condition when I got to the ICU for duty that night!!! Left a heck of an impression on me against such behavior!! Good luck with your project.
    www.crosscreeksporthorses.com
    Breeders of Painted Thoroughbreds and Uniquely Painted Irish Sport Horses in Northeast Oklahoma

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by OTTBcooper View Post
      Any advice for things to try/practice???
      Get with a friend on their horse, in a ring, and practice, practice, practice following at a full horse-body distance behind one another at the walk, trot and canter. Swap places and you lead. Practice, practice, practice standing in the middle of the ring while friend walks, trots, and canters around you. Swap places.

      Then invite another friend to join you, and do this all again. Your horse needs to learn that a horse behind him and a horse in front of him needs space and room, and he has to be agreeable to doing that.

      Don't allow him to follow that closely in the hunt field. He WILL be kicked - that's a given - and you are also in the line of fire being that close.

      Comment

      • Original Poster

        #4
        Thank you, crosscreek. That type of "training, training, training" is what we've been doing the past two years. I didn't just join a hunt club with an untrained horse. This bad habit is a new thing. I asked for advice on how to help curb a bad behavior not for criticism.
        "No hour of life is wasted that is spent in the saddle" - Winston Churchill

        Check out Central Virginia Horse Rescue

        Comment

        • Original Poster

          #5
          Originally posted by pdq View Post
          Get with a friend on their horse, in a ring, and practice, practice, practice following at a full horse-body distance behind one another at the walk, trot and canter. Swap places and you lead. Practice, practice, practice standing in the middle of the ring while friend walks, trots, and canters around you. Swap places.

          Then invite another friend to join you, and do this all again. Your horse needs to learn that a horse behind him and a horse in front of him needs space and room, and he has to be agreeable to doing that.

          Don't allow him to follow that closely in the hunt field. He WILL be kicked - that's a given - and you are also in the line of fire being that close.
          Thank you!! We practice in open fields and trails but haven't tried doing this in the ring. Great idea. Appreciate the advice!
          "No hour of life is wasted that is spent in the saddle" - Winston Churchill

          Check out Central Virginia Horse Rescue

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by OTTBcooper View Post
            Thank you, crosscreek. That type of "training, training, training" is what we've been doing the past two years. I didn't just join a hunt club with an untrained horse. This bad habit is a new thing. I asked for advice on how to help curb a bad behavior not for criticism.
            No criticism intended...Just fact. When your training isn't enough to keep bad habits from forming you just have to go back to the drawing board and do MORE training. To continue to hunt will just encourage an escalation of bad behavior. No reflection on what you've done...you just need more of it before proceeding.
            www.crosscreeksporthorses.com
            Breeders of Painted Thoroughbreds and Uniquely Painted Irish Sport Horses in Northeast Oklahoma

            Comment


            • #7
              When I first got my OTTB he would not go behind another horse -- he would throw a full blown tantrum.

              I worked him through it by working with friends who "leap frogged" our positions like the poster described above. My horse would go behind until he couldn't stand it and then got to be in front for awhile. Eventually, I could keep him behind for longer periods. i thought this would keep him from ever being a hunt horse but he learned that he didn't have to go first. The beauty of practicing it with friends is that if he's bad you have the chance to discipline him, whereas in the hunt field, that's not always possible. I'm a big fan of the one-rein stop for a horse that needs a time out. You don't have to be rough about it, but if my horse is being naughty it generally only takes one of those to remind him that he has manners.

              I insist when we are out hunting that he always leaves a respectful distance. If that means he jigs or bounces, so be it. He is never, ever allowed to ride up on another horse. Sometimes as bit of lateral work can also help -- make it harder for him to misbehave!

              Does he get more worked up as the hunt goes on? Or does he settle and get better. The first few times I hunted my horse I left after the first check because he'd been so good. I didn't want to risk ending it on a bad note. My horse also got noticeably better after his first four hour hunt. I think he realized that he should conserve his energy.

              Have you thought about more bit? My horse hunted fine in a loose ring snaffle for a season . . . and then I thought he'd pull my arms out. For my horse, hunting in a Waterford snaffle or a Kimberwicke seems to do the trick; it doesn't back him off the bit but he also listens.

              Finally, I suggest teaching your horse a verbal slowdown cue. I use a trilling/chirping sound and use it like a half halt. When I make that noise my horse knows to check.

              Crosscreeksh is right. Riding up on the horse in front of you is dangerous and extremely rude to the rider in front. It is really not fair to crowd the horse in front of you as if you do it repeatedly, you will may cause their horse to misbehave. A horse will take only so much of that before they really start to object.

              There's an old saying that you don't know if you have a hunt horse until you've hunted for a season. The reason is that your horse may be backed off by all the activity the first few times but may start to take over the ride after it thinks it knows its job. I hilltopped for an entire season with my OTTB because I didn't want him to think hunting was like racing. Then I moved him up to first field in territories with no open fields . . . then gradually started letting him jump in the pick and choose field. You may have to take a few steps back and reinforce the basics. Your horse may be trained for hunter paces but apparently is not yet trained to hunt. Don't give up!
              Equine Ink - My soapbox for equestrian writings & reviews.
              EquestrianHow2 - Operating instructions for your horse.

              Comment


              • #8
                A past trainer always had us do an exercise that she called "hunter pass". Everyone lined up along the rail(in the ring) and started walking. The last horse would move inward and walk past the other horses to the head of the line. This continued until everyone had done the exercise. Then everyone keep walking and last horse move in and trot past to the front. Then everyone trot and the end horse extends trot and moves to the front. Can continue this with group trot end horse canters past and group canter and end horse hand gallops past. It really helps a horse learn that it must stay in the position that you place it in and not get figity about changing or having other horses move past.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Agree with the above...keep him out of the hunt field until you have that under control. Dangerous, rude, and makes it really hard for those of us with well behaved horses, or acceptably behaved horses , to keep them that way. If you keep running up on their butts, even a very good humored horse is justified if it looses it and kicks at you. At the very least, it worries the horse in front and takes it's attention off where it puts it's feet, also dangerous... Can you tell this really annoys me...sorry...

                  PS The suggested exercise sounds like a really good way of working on your problem and you could probably get a few folks to help you with that hound walking next summer!
                  Kate

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    What kind of bit are you using? Is it possible to step it up? My now retired horse had three bits - one for home, one for eventing and one for hunting.

                    I will also add that giving them something to do besides following the horse in front helps. My newest hunt horse gets to do a fair amount of dressage in the hunt field. It is a lot of pay attention to me and not what's in front of you. Work on the bit, leg yields, etc. Get the focus back on you in a productive manner.

                    Also, some horse do well when they have a job to do in the field. Be the gate person. It helps your horse to realize that hunting is not just running and jumping with the herd.
                    A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky dangerous animals and you know it.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      JMHO!! Grrrrrrrr!!

                      Yes what they all said for sure! You have to TRAIN a horse to do this sport just like any other. It's a process. I have a green bean that's working me to death right now that she's figured out some of it. I take her back. She CAN'T run up on others. I will pull her teeth out if I have to!! Too bad if she jigs or throws her head around. This is MY call; not hers. She's got what I call "Close-up-itis" that is knows' she's supposed to stay up but is anticipating being left behind or some decent spacing between us and the horse ahead. The rule of thumb is one horse length at all times! More with speed, imho. I'm gradually biting up as she gets fitter too. I suspect this is anxiety and will abate with experience. They do learn to conserve themselves....eventually!!!
                      Horses following too close will step on the heels of the one in front and cause terrible cuts/slasshes. Seen it. Can even pull shoes. I once had a woman on a horse keep bumping into me despite my cautions and my horse threatening to kick. Over & over I tried to avoid her. I warned her....eventually I bonked her horse over the top of the head with my whip lightly which caused her total shock! Good! She avoided me from that point on!! Message received! Grrrrrrrr!!

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Kudos on acknowledging this and addressing this. Anyone with much experience in the hunt field is familiar with riders who seem to have no awareness that their horse is behaving dangerously.

                        Given what you described of your horse's behavior (and in particular that it is getting worse rather than better with experience), I would consider the strong possibility that he is getting pretty mentally stressed by hunting. This does not mean that he won't be (with time and taking it slowly) a good field hunter. But right now, he needs for things to slow down so he can mentally "breathe" and decompress.

                        Every horse reacts to hunting differently, and there is no training rule that says a horse has to go out regularly or for the full season, especially in his first season. My now retired field hunter (who became terrific first flight horse) intentionally spent his first year out cubbing and then hunting with the hilltoppers, and then we stopped mid-season with him doing very well. I had no intention of moving him up at first, as I wanted him to become fully comfortable with a slower pace before asking for him (mentally) to handle more.

                        Even though the physical aspect of foxhunting can be challenging, from the horse's perspective, my impression is the the mental aspect is significantly more so. And in training them to be a good field hunter, we need to be really aware and ready to adjust the program in response to how the horse is handling things mentally.

                        If your horse's behavior is a manifestation of him getting mentally stressed by hunting, in addition to the exercises described in the earlier posts, consider taking a couple of weeks (or even a month) off from hunting. Let him decompress. When you come back to it, consider staying in the hilltoppers until he is fully comfortable with that. (Given that he is a OTTB, you ride him regularly, and that you would be with the hilltoppers, he still would be plenty fit. And that little temporary loss of foxhunting fitness may work to your advantage.)

                        I learned to foxhunt from a husband and wife team who trained horses to be excellent field hunters. Typically these horses where athletically very talented but had developed serious behavioral problems from having been mentally fried from being pushed too much too soon . I learned a lot from these trainers, and it really impressed upon me how slowly a horse needs to be brought along, and how aware we need to be of when they are showing signs of mental stress / decompensation (which not uncommonly manifested by them demonstrating dangerous behaviors). It does not mean that we completely back off with the training program, but it does mean that we need to change and adjust the program so it accommodates the needs (physical and mental) of the individual horse.

                        Hope this is of some help.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          There are a couple of things to try.

                          First, hack with someone. I would suggest cross country rather than a ring.

                          Make the horse allow the other horse to move off and then make him maintain three or four horse lengths spacing.

                          I would also suggest another bit.

                          I hunted a horse for 10 years that was the most dull, boring miserable hack when by himself that I ever had. I had to kick him every stride. He hated exercise more than I did.

                          He hacked in a snaffle.

                          If you tried to hunt him in that snaffle, he was almost unmanageable and would have been for a weak rider. The only thing I could hunt him in was a gag.

                          So try another bit.

                          In my opinion, not shared by others I am sure, the best thing you can do is get one of your hunt's whips to take him for a season.

                          He will make him gallop away from the field, gallop to the field, pass the field, go the opposite direction from the field, stand on a hill and watch everyone go by, etc., and ride him hard until he gives up.

                          A season of that and he will go anyway you aim him.

                          Comment

                          • Original Poster

                            #14
                            Bogie and Simbalism - thank you for the suggested exercises! I am really looking forward to focusing on this type of training, and hoping that next year we can start back at square one with hilltopping and see how he does. I really appreciate the time you took to offer some very helpful suggestions!

                            Kt-rose and wateryglen - totally understand this type of behavior is both rude and dangerous in the hunt field (as I acknowledged in my very first post). I have only ever followed behind a fellow boarders horse who, luckily, has been very tolerant though I know that will not always be the case (hence the reason I trying to find ways to fix it).

                            FitToBeTied: I've considered bitting up and agree that might be another thing worth trying. Great idea about giving him a job! I like that. He does best in the ring when focused and challenged so why not do the same thing in the field.

                            WhistleJacket: Your advice is sincerely appreciated. I agree he must be too over-stimulated and/or stressed with the whole experience. Do you think I should take him out once more, hilltopping, for the season and end as soon as he's done well to avoid leaving the last hunt experience as me fighting with him nearly the entire time? Or better to just focus on practicing before next cubbing season? Thank you for giving me hope that he might, eventually, make a good hunt horse and that I shouldn't just give up After several successful hilltopping and 2nd flight experiences (which now I'm realizing I should have trusted my gut and not rushed him up to 2nd) I was starting to feel like it might be something he couldn't handle.

                            Thank you COTH'ers for your wonderful suggestions and words of encouragement. I'm looking forward to trying out some new excersizes! I'm very pleased with all of the advice I have gotten!
                            "No hour of life is wasted that is spent in the saddle" - Winston Churchill

                            Check out Central Virginia Horse Rescue

                            Comment

                            • Original Poster

                              #15
                              Originally posted by cssutton View Post
                              There are a couple of things to try.

                              First, hack with someone. I would suggest cross country rather than a ring.

                              Make the horse allow the other horse to move off and then make him maintain three or four horse lengths spacing.

                              I would also suggest another bit.

                              I hunted a horse for 10 years that was the most dull, boring miserable hack when by himself that I ever had. I had to kick him every stride. He hated exercise more than I did.

                              He hacked in a snaffle.

                              If you tried to hunt him in that snaffle, he was almost unmanageable and would have been for a weak rider. The only thing I could hunt him in was a gag.

                              So try another bit.

                              In my opinion, not shared by others I am sure, the best thing you can do is get one of your hunt's whips to take him for a season.

                              He will make him gallop away from the field, gallop to the field, pass the field, go the opposite direction from the field, stand on a hill and watch everyone go by, etc., and ride him hard until he gives up.

                              A season of that and he will go anyway you aim him.
                              Today started day one of hacking out with a friend. He pulled the same stunt almost immediately and I repeatedly circled so that we were at several horse lengths and then would do the same thing every time he tried to run up on the other horse. Boy was he mad. By the end though he realized if he gave into the bit and moved forward it was actually more comfortable and less work. He definitely needs a stronger bit!! What would you suggest trying? I've always ridden in an egg but snaffle or D ring snaffle but obviously that is not going to be enough anymore.
                              "No hour of life is wasted that is spent in the saddle" - Winston Churchill

                              Check out Central Virginia Horse Rescue

                              Comment

                              • Original Poster

                                #16
                                Originally posted by Whistlejacket View Post
                                Kudos on acknowledging this and addressing this. Anyone with much experience in the hunt field is familiar with riders who seem to have no awareness that their horse is behaving dangerously.

                                Given what you described of your horse's behavior (and in particular that it is getting worse rather than better with experience), I would consider the strong possibility that he is getting pretty mentally stressed by hunting. This does not mean that he won't be (with time and taking it slowly) a good field hunter. But right now, he needs for things to slow down so he can mentally "breathe" and decompress.

                                Hope this is of some help.
                                Thank you for giving me back some hope! I've been rather discouraged. I think you are exactly right that he mentally just cannot handle it. I think I unknowingly threw him into it far too fast and should have stuck with hilltopping where he was doing an excellent job. Lesson learned! Hopefully some time off, practicing and bitting up will better prepare us for next season, where we will stay as a hilltopper!
                                "No hour of life is wasted that is spent in the saddle" - Winston Churchill

                                Check out Central Virginia Horse Rescue

                                Comment

                                • Original Poster

                                  #17
                                  Originally posted by wateryglen View Post
                                  I once had a woman on a horse keep bumping into me despite my cautions and my horse threatening to kick. Over & over I tried to avoid her. I warned her....eventually I bonked her horse over the top of the head with my whip lightly which caused her total shock! Good! She avoided me from that point on!! Message received! Grrrrrrrr!!
                                  I saw this happen in our hunt field once Good for you.
                                  "No hour of life is wasted that is spent in the saddle" - Winston Churchill

                                  Check out Central Virginia Horse Rescue

                                  Comment

                                  • Original Poster

                                    #18
                                    [QUOTE=FitToBeTied;6725008]What kind of bit are you using? Is it possible to step it up? My now retired horse had three bits - one for home, one for eventing and one for hunting./QUOTE]

                                    I've been using our standard D snaffle. What would you suggest trying next? He has a fairly sensitive/soft mouth (or so I thought!).
                                    "No hour of life is wasted that is spent in the saddle" - Winston Churchill

                                    Check out Central Virginia Horse Rescue

                                    Comment

                                    • Original Poster

                                      #19
                                      Originally posted by crosscreeksh View Post
                                      No criticism intended...Just fact. When your training isn't enough to keep bad habits from forming you just have to go back to the drawing board and do MORE training. To continue to hunt will just encourage an escalation of bad behavior. No reflection on what you've done...you just need more of it before proceeding.
                                      Agree!
                                      "No hour of life is wasted that is spent in the saddle" - Winston Churchill

                                      Check out Central Virginia Horse Rescue

                                      Comment

                                      • Original Poster

                                        #20
                                        Originally posted by Bogie View Post
                                        When I first got my OTTB he would not go behind another horse -- he would throw a full blown tantrum.

                                        I worked him through it by working with friends who "leap frogged" our positions like the poster described above. My horse would go behind until he couldn't stand it and then got to be in front for awhile. Eventually, I could keep him behind for longer periods. i thought this would keep him from ever being a hunt horse but he learned that he didn't have to go first. The beauty of practicing it with friends is that if he's bad you have the chance to discipline him, whereas in the hunt field, that's not always possible. I'm a big fan of the one-rein stop for a horse that needs a time out. You don't have to be rough about it, but if my horse is being naughty it generally only takes one of those to remind him that he has manners.

                                        You may have to take a few steps back and reinforce the basics. Your horse may be trained for hunter paces but apparently is not yet trained to hunt. Don't give up!
                                        Thank you, thank you! It's nice to hear that someone else has had a similar experience. I agree with all the advice posted and think we will go back to hacking out and trails with a focus on following distances, appropriate mental stimulation, and a new bit!
                                        "No hour of life is wasted that is spent in the saddle" - Winston Churchill

                                        Check out Central Virginia Horse Rescue

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