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Where/how do you condition your field hunter

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  • Where/how do you condition your field hunter

    Thinking about defecting (back) to field hunting from show hunters. I have many questions, so I'll start with this one:

    When you guys are picking a boarding barn or farm to buy, do you think about access to open land and trails? Or do you commit to hauling out for that?

    I always looked for barns with trails for my show horses, and I find those becoming more rare. Perhaps we show sissies can survive with the rare trail ride, but how do you guys do it?

    As a kid riding in Woodside, CA I always had access to trails, including a good sized mountain and the Guernsey Field/CTETA Horse Park. So I don't know how to keep a field hunter in good conscience without something similar.
    The armchair saddler
    Politically Pro-Cat

  • #2
    I've always been lucky enough to board where I can get them out for conditioning, whether on trails or in large pastures or just low-traffic roads.

    Absent that- or in current boarding situation where I can 'normally' ride out but the weather is subzero and the footing awful from old snow cover/ice- I can and do simply ride in 'conditioning' mode in the small indoor arena. Mostly 'trot set' equivalent- just going 'round, crossing along the diagonal to change rein, 15-20 minutes at a time. And lengthy walks or canters too. I also use longeing and round pen for conditioning as well- every little bit helps.

    Example- I have a hunting trip planned as of a few days ago for first week in April. So, second week in February (since I'll be out of town first week) I will start such work in the indoor (in combination with some basic flatwork which never hurts!). Mine will be barefoot til March so if I choose to haul somewhere it will be to a nearby park that has sand and mulch for footing. But I'll also walk them barefoot on the paved streets around the neighborhood- long hacks at a walk are really the starting point for building the necessary base for hunting.

    Comment


    • #3
      I've found also that you can get a darn good workout in a tiny indoor arena. I put out ground poles and an hour of hard dressage schooling especially with ground poles wears out my Arab a lot faster than a day out hunting. The first endurance ride of the season is usually conditioned for largely in the arena doing trot sets and dressage schooling.

      I condition out on country roads too when I can.

      Comment


      • #4
        Firstly - come back to the darkside! So much more fun

        Secondly - it's totally possible to have a fit hunter without everyday access to trails - it's just a bit harder!

        The last place I kept my horse had a big arena and big fields but no access to trails. My general routine was 3 x interval training days, 2 x flat/jump schooling/lesson days, 1 x hack out somewhere fun.

        Interval training I used was X minutes trot, 2 min walk, X-2 min canter, 2 min walk, X min trot, cool out and finish. So the trots will start in summer at about 5min, the canter at 3min, then build up another minute per set each week. Eg after 4 weeks the horse will be doing 9min trot and 7 min canter. By opening hunt I was hopefully doing around 15min trot, 13min canter. This is plenty for our opening hunt! The horse is expected to work over the back and round during the sets, with half halts, changes of pace etc, then with a totally loose rein for a nice marching walk. Trot is usually a mix of 2pt and rising, which helps me build my own leg endurance.

        I find that this gives me a program to adhere to (which helps with my motivation!) and allows me to make the best use of the facilities. It's also easy to judge how the horse's fitness is going and not overdo it one day and under do it the next.

        Like Candysgirl and Beverly I've done a fair bit of this in the arena under lights when it's too dark after work and/or the ground has become too wet. It does get pretty boring.

        When I'm settled down again and can get a horse I will be looking for somewhere that has on-site access to trails, but it won't be a deciding factor.

        Comment

        • Original Poster

          #5
          Thank you for your replies and especially for the invitation, Feliz.

          The indoor conditioning is what I had imagined.... and dreaded.

          I asked because I live in a huntless part of the PNW and with months and months of rain. That made me think hard about the day-to-day of doing a decent job of keeping a field hunter.

          Another question: Do you die-hards actually do trotting schools on paved roads during desperate times? I have read about this being OK in Europe, but as an Amerkan, I haven't wanted to do it.
          The armchair saddler
          Politically Pro-Cat

          Comment


          • #6
            *snicker* ahh, months and months of rain . . . sounds like my last hunt season. I ended up keeping my horse at a friends midway through the season and it was so wet by the last month that all I could do was go up and down the gravel driveway . . .

            Trotting on the road - I spent a month riding in Ecuador in May and they trot and canter (and dear lord gallop sometimes) on the cobblestone and sealed roads. These horses would go for 3-6hr rides on the roads every 2-3 days, or more often. There were grass verges in places, but 75% of the ride was on the road.

            Of the 40+ horses none had big splints, one had a mystery lameness whilst I was there (seemed to be in the shoulder) and one had a tendon injury that was coming right. Many were well in their teens and still going strong.

            It was certainly eye-opening! I'm not sure I'd be so gungho with my own horse, but I will be a lot less timid about it now!

            Comment


            • #7
              Yes riding on the road is not only not bad for a horse's legs, it is good. Builds bone, strengthens tendons.
              * www.huntersrest.net -- Virginia hunt country's best Bed-and-Breakfast-and-Barn.

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by mvp View Post
                Another question: Do you die-hards actually do trotting schools on paved roads during desperate times? I have read about this being OK in Europe, but as an Amerkan, I haven't wanted to do it.
                It's not about being a "die-hard", or being desperate. It's about properly conditioning your horse for hunting (or eventing).

                Road work is a normal and accepted part of conditioning routines - in the US as well as Europe. It is the method used to remodel (strengthen) bone. A hard packed farm road can be used too - the goal is to gradually get your horse fit and prepared to work on a variety of surfaces without being injured or becoming sore.

                If there are no hunts in your area, how to you intend to take up the sport? Is there a club a few hours away, maybe?
                Brothers and sisters, I bid you beware
                Of giving your heart to a dog to tear.
                -Rudyard Kipling

                Comment


                • #9
                  My horse if given the free choice on where to put his feet, prefers the hard road versus the soft, mushy verges.

                  Slow and steady short sets of walking that progress through the summer to trotting and cantering on hard surfaces is a great way to get your horse ready for hunting.

                  Comment

                  • Original Poster

                    #10
                    Originally posted by JSwan View Post
                    It's not about being a "die-hard", or being desperate. It's about properly conditioning your horse for hunting (or eventing).

                    Road work is a normal and accepted part of conditioning routines - in the US as well as Europe. It is the method used to remodel (strengthen) bone. A hard packed farm road can be used too - the goal is to gradually get your horse fit and prepared to work on a variety of surfaces without being injured or becoming sore.

                    If there are no hunts in your area, how to you intend to take up the sport? Is there a club a few hours away, maybe?
                    I worked for someone who did Competitive Distance Riding in NY State and we made good use of packed stone farm roads. I can picture that, but not asphalt.

                    Oh, and I won't live here forever. I was interested in this question about conditioning since I have lived in metropolitan and sticks parts of the country, and I'd want to pick a part of the world that allowed me to ride out if I were there to hunt. I know you can keep a field hunter in good shape without access to a lot of land, but it sure makes the project more fun if you can go out.
                    The armchair saddler
                    Politically Pro-Cat

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      I live close to many National Forest/State Park type places, so we trail ride a lot. The field hunter does dressage shows all summer, plus roading hounds, then goes cubbing until season opens. She's really on the muscle by that time.
                      ... _. ._ .._. .._

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Yes, come back to the dark side!

                        So much will depend on the pack and the country you'll be with, and what breed horse you'll have. I hunt two part-drafts successfully (mostly) with a couple of local clubs that have fairly hilly, wooded country with banky creek crossings; but have joined another where only my 7/8 TB 1/8 WB will be able to keep up beyond the hilltopping group.

                        No matter what the country, a TB will be easier to get and keep fit. Maybe fitter than you actually need or want!

                        No matter what the country or the breed, living out 24/7 in a good-sized pasture will keep a surprisingly high basic level of fitness (and mine are a gray and a paint, so I know all about the downsides of them living out). Nothing better after a day's hunting, also, than to be able to turn them out to roll, rest, move around, relax, etc.

                        I have access to the farm next to mine, but I actually never use it, because I'm usually alone when I'm conditioning, and I just like the idea that if I become a lawn dart, at least my horse is within my fences! What works for me is a long hill on the farm. It's not that steep or that long, but working up and down, gradually increasing speed and number of repetitions, has been great.

                        Another thought to avoid the dreaded indoor ring work (and I think flatwork is great, just can't stand indoor rings), is to look for someone who might enjoy leasing your horse one or two days a week who is only a WTC rider. Or, maybe there's a great kid at your barn who wouldn't be able to pay you, but is obedient and would LOVE to be able to ride a horse, even if it's just 30 minutes of flatwork in the ring. Unless you are very uptight or have a very difficult horse (neither recommended for the hunt field), this person doesn't even need to be a fantastic rider, just responsible with the before/aftercare and good enough that they will "do not harm" in the saddle -- and if they weigh just 95 pounds, all the better.

                        Many clubs also have off-season trail rides that are slower-paced, fun social activities, and let you get to know the country and get your horse started legging up. Cubhunting season, the late summer/early fall, may be conducted with expectations of fewer fast runs and shorter days as the new entry are trained (but check with your hunt club).

                        I find that once the season begins, if I am taking my 1/4 or 1/2 drafts out twice a week for the full day, first or second flight, and they are turned out all the time, they seem to do just fine without additional work beyond one hack or trail ride. Of course, that is adjusted depending on (forgive my even mentioning the possibility) my social/work calendar or the weather keeping me from hunting.
                        http://www.facebook.com/pages/Easy-K...22998204542511
                        http://www.easykeeperfarm.com

                        I can ride my horses without a sharps container.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Martha Drum View Post
                          I find that once the season begins, if I am taking my 1/4 or 1/2 drafts out twice a week for the full day, first or second flight, and they are turned out all the time, they seem to do just fine without additional work beyond one hack or trail ride. Of course, that is adjusted depending on (forgive my even mentioning the possibility) my social/work calendar or the weather keeping me from hunting.
                          That pesky thing called "Life". Add sick children to the mix and its a wonder anyone is able to get out to enjoy the fun.

                          Comment

                          • Original Poster

                            #14
                            Originally posted by Equibrit View Post
                            I live close to many National Forest/State Park type places, so we trail ride a lot. The field hunter does dressage shows all summer, plus roading hounds, then goes cubbing until season opens. She's really on the muscle by that time.
                            One of the great things about where I live in the Willamette Valley is the abundance of national forests. Good logging roads in there. But no hunts.

                            I have been spoiled, friends! I'm used to finding some way to hack out and also hunts and shows around.

                            Sooner or later, I'll start the "where should I live if I were going to hunt (and not go broke)" thread. But I wanted to start slowly by asking about how y'all cope with less-than-enough land around you. It's something most of us will have to contend with.

                            ETA: I'm *so* grateful for having learned from eventers and distance riders about conditioning. The distance riders especially know a thing or two about keeping a horse sound and fit for a long time.
                            The armchair saddler
                            Politically Pro-Cat

                            Comment

                            • Original Poster

                              #15
                              Originally posted by Martha Drum View Post
                              Yes, come back to the dark side!
                              ....

                              No matter what the country or the breed, living out 24/7 in a good-sized pasture will keep a surprisingly high basic level of fitness (and mine are a gray and a paint, so I know all about the downsides of them living out). Nothing better after a day's hunting, also, than to be able to turn them out to roll, rest, move around, relax, etc.

                              ...

                              Another thought to avoid the dreaded indoor ring work (and I think flatwork is great, just can't stand indoor rings), is to look for someone who might enjoy leasing your horse one or two days a week who is only a WTC rider. Or, maybe there's a great kid at your barn who wouldn't be able to pay you, but is obedient and would LOVE to be able to ride a horse, even if it's just 30 minutes of flatwork in the ring. Unless you are very uptight or have a very difficult horse (neither recommended for the hunt field), this person doesn't even need to be a fantastic rider, just responsible with the before/aftercare and good enough that they will "do not harm" in the saddle -- and if they weigh just 95 pounds, all the better.

                              Many clubs also have off-season trail rides that are slower-paced, fun social activities, and let you get to know the country and get your horse started legging up. Cubhunting season, the late summer/early fall, may be conducted with expectations of fewer fast runs and shorter days as the new entry are trained (but check with your hunt club).

                              I find that once the season begins, if I am taking my 1/4 or 1/2 drafts out twice a week for the full day, first or second flight, and they are turned out all the time, they seem to do just fine without additional work beyond one hack or trail ride. Of course, that is adjusted depending on (forgive my even mentioning the possibility) my social/work calendar or the weather keeping me from hunting.

                              Thanks again for the second welcome and the bits of advice. I'm relieved to see that they make sense to me.

                              The Distance riders I knew kept theirs out and made me a big believer in that. They could trot 100 miles in a weekend, turn 'em out Sunday night, and they have wild/playing horses on Tuesday morning.

                              Also, it works well to have horses do longer, slower work than we think, and even to have them ridden often, even if that's by a "first do no harm" type rider.

                              I spent my formative years keeping rank ones in the back of the field. I watched the Venerable Old Ladies of our hunt have a wonderful time on nicely broke horses. That's my goal, too, and I'm sure I can bring my Show Hunter Sensibilities to the hunt horse I make up. That thing *will* be rateable by me in the field and able to pack an eager kid around in the ring.

                              So 2 days a week hunting and TO 24/7 does it during the season? Would you say this is true for all hunts, or all but the really top-of-the-line you'd find in Virginia?
                              The armchair saddler
                              Politically Pro-Cat

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                Originally posted by mvp View Post
                                I know you can keep a field hunter in good shape without access to a lot of land, but it sure makes the project more fun if you can go out.

                                It sure does! I've had to gallop my horse down paved roads (the horses had traction). You do what you have to do to keep up with the hounds - if you've conditioned the horse properly he/she should be ok.

                                I do most of my conditioning on the farm - it's not much fun and it's mostly just another chore (a bit more fun than cleaning a hog pen, though) I've only got two to leg up - maybe adding a third this year.

                                This time of year I envy those who either live in or travel to Aiken SC to hunt. Yup, I really envy them. Sounds heavenly.
                                Brothers and sisters, I bid you beware
                                Of giving your heart to a dog to tear.
                                -Rudyard Kipling

                                Comment

                                • Original Poster

                                  #17
                                  When I was a kid and had too many to condition for W-2 hunters, I used to ride one and pony one. We might do this big party every other day, with me switching the riding horse and the pony horse. Also got 'em broke.

                                  There! Many bird with one stone.
                                  The armchair saddler
                                  Politically Pro-Cat

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    "So 2 days a week hunting and TO 24/7 does it during the season? Would you say this is true for all hunts, or all but the really top-of-the-line you'd find in Virginia?"

                                    Nothing is true for all hunts! Ho ho ho I finally dropped Foxhuntersonline (through which I found the two good guys I hunt now, plus a wonderful large hunting pony) after a catty online melee regarding proper turnout -- when the dust settled, it was agreed to be "whatever your club's Masters say is proper turnout." But quite an exchange, a fracas really, betwixt Those Who Thought They Knew What Was Always Right Everywhere.

                                    [QUOTE=Martha Drum;6795811]So much will depend on the pack and the country you'll be with, and what breed horse you'll have.

                                    Some folks work their horses hard the day before a meet, to take the edge off. Not a big issue with my fatties, but we'll see with the mostly TB! So that's another side of the coin.
                                    Last edited by Martha Drum; Jan. 22, 2013, 10:34 PM. Reason: Just apologizing for my ignorance re: how to cut and paste quotations from others.
                                    http://www.facebook.com/pages/Easy-K...22998204542511
                                    http://www.easykeeperfarm.com

                                    I can ride my horses without a sharps container.

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      Originally posted by JSwan View Post
                                      It sure does! I've had to gallop my horse down paved roads (the horses had traction). You do what you have to do to keep up with the hounds - if you've conditioned the horse properly he/she should be ok.
                                      Picture galloping south in a northbound line on I-15, on the bridge over Little Bull Run, passing a VW beetle and playing chicken with a northbound semi. And here I still am!

                                      As HR said- indeed work on asphalt is good for them. Mine go for strolls/trots around the neighborhood even now (well, as soon as it warms up) barefoot- obviously I don't do much til shoes are on, on hard surfaces. But every June, I routinely gallop on asphalt carrying the mail on what was the original Pony Express trail back in the day-including through downtown Salt Lake City (yes it does startle the pedestrians) and two years ago, a couple of miles on I-80 at 2 in the morning (not to worry, we were on the shoulder with a van behind us so the semis knew we were there).

                                      Oops, sorry to digress a bit.

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        Originally posted by Martha Drum View Post
                                        "So 2 days a week hunting and TO 24/7 does it during the season? Would you say this is true for all hunts, or all but the really top-of-the-line you'd find in Virginia?"


                                        Some folks work their horses hard the day before a meet, to take the edge off. Not a big issue with my fatties, but we'll see with the mostly TB! So that's another side of the coin.
                                        Both my thoroughbred and my paint both need the dust blown out of their ears the day before a hunt. Luckily I have access to several large fields and a pretty decent hill so it doesn't take too much to get their minds working again. Big working trot, serpentines, balanced working canter. That's if I only hunt once a week. Hunting twice a week would be enough for either of them to stay fit. Remember too that a good number of the field may turn back before the days end. This is also with full turnout. They do some bit of self conditioning as well.
                                        Doubled Expectations (Roxy, 2001 APHA)
                                        Al Amir (Al, 2005 OTTB)
                                        Ten Purposes (Rosie, 2009 OTTB)

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