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Not Standing at Checks

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  • Not Standing at Checks

    I have taken my mare hunting three times now. She is great in the field when we are moving but is not good at checks. She is bad enough that I feel self-conscious about taking her out this spring. It isn't so bad if we check in an open area because I can keep her walking. But some of the hunts check in pretty tight spots where she is expected to stand completely still and that gets to be a problem.

    I could just take her hound walking for the season and see if she settles in better.

    Does anyone have any other suggestions on ways to work on this?

  • #2
    Spend a lot of time "parked" on your horse until she understands that standing still and quiet means to stand still and be quiet. I've always spent time sitting on my horse doing nothing at all while watching other people ride, or watching traffic, or whatever --- they start to realize after a while that standing there doing nothing isn't such a bad thing. Can you get your mare out to other busy areas with a group of horses so that she can learn to stand in a group?


    • #3
      A couple of thoughts for you. First, three times is barely an introduction and most horses are just beginning to understand things at that point. So, if you can safely and courteously give her more time, that would be fair to the horse.

      Second, how does she stand in other situations and do you practice standing very much? For instance, if you are in a ring with other horses hacking or jumping, will she stand quietly? If you are on a trail ride with several friends and stop while one friend rides off or rides around the group in a circle, will she stand quietly?

      If she doesn't stand quietly in these "test" situations, try the "put her to work" approach. When she wants to move, move her - trot circles, figure 8s, whatever is appropriate in the situation. When she wants to stop, let her stand as long as she will stay put. Then back to work. I am not suggesting that you work her to exhaustion, just create a situation where she will choose to stand and rest.

      After a while, when she starts to move off, try offering her the choice of settling back down without the work interlude. If she settles immediately, reward her by letting her stand for a few seconds, THEN move off and do something completely different.

      Whatever cue you use to "offer her the choice to settle"(for instance lifting one rein) becomes the tool you use in any situation where you want her to relax and stand. Once it's established, practice frequently but DO NOT DRILL IT. Once a day correctly executed is PLENTY.

      Good luck and don't get frustrated with her - give her time to learn.


      • #4
        I'd have written the same as the above post. We often find that horses are pretty good on the first day out, a bit more awake on the second and then on the third they know wht it is all about and whoopee, they want to go. From then on it is a learning curve until they realize that it is best to save their energy and settle down to their weekly job of hunting.

        When you can, translate the energy into work, sidepassing, circles, etc., then offer her a rest. Quite a lot of useful work can be done.
        Proud member of People Who Hate to Kill Wildlife clique


        • #5
          Time will take care of it. That and 10 mile runs ! You cannot teach some horses to rest, they have to learn that they need it. They have to gallop until they reach the bottom and then everything changes.
          ... _. ._ .._. .._


          • #6
            Move a short distance away from the other horses and put her hind end right in front of the trees or bushes. Mares in particular do not like other horses too close--especially behind. She will desensitize, and you should work on it in accordance with the great advice that you got above, but you may always have to watch exposing her hind end to horses behind her.
            "Against stupidity the gods themselves contend in vain" ~Friedrich Schiller


            • #7
              I'm sure someone will blast me for this, but that's ok.

              If the horse is mannerly about it, I let them have a small graze at checks in the early days. Standing still with a mouth full has often worked for me.

              I think most photos of the current mare in her first year or two of hunting show grass sticking out of her mouth. And no, she doesn't try to snatch a snack on her own, ever.
              ~ Horse Box Lovers Clique ~


              • #8
                I always introduced my horses to hunting with a buddy by their side that was rock solid at checks. All learned in quick order to stand still. This carried over to when they were finally hunting without their buddy.


                • #9
                  Give Omeprazole a try

                  I had the same issue for several seasons- my mare was superb in every respect except for her need to walk, walk, walk at checks. I tried many of the above suggestions at various hunts and got some ok results, and then one day I decided to feed her some of the Abler omeprazole granules (or of course you could use Gastroguard) just before we got on the trailer to head out to hunt. Problem solved! Like majic! She got to chill on a loose rein with her foot cocked and I got to share some port with everyone

                  She is not normally an ulcery horse. I now keep enough of the granules on hand to dose her just before trailering. It has made a big difference and I'm sure she's more comfortable too
                  ~Living the life I imagined~


                  • #10
                    Ok so I am no where near a seasoned foxhunter, in fact I'm a youngun' by most hunt standards, but I have intro'd over 20 horses to the field. These are things that have worked for me, with a variety of horses who were in their first 10 hunts.

                    1 - some horses want to face backwards. I don't get it, but one would be a PITA in tight cover at a check unless I let him face the back. If he faced the horse behind him head on, he was a doll. Guess the view was better then an ass in his face?!

                    2 - grazing is fantastic for teaching standing still, relaxing and as a general reward. I'm in total agreement with rivenoak on this one. I'll also pick apples and feed those when possible. Plus, if you are out for five hours, thats a long time for a horse to not have anything in their digestive tract, so grazing is also healthy I believe.

                    3- pick your battles. If your horse is standing but playing with a stick, pulling corn stalks out of the ground and playing catch with them, itching her nose on your boot, etc, then consider it a win. It may not be perfect but its better then a fight.

                    4- if she truly won't stand, consider the 'spin' technique. Its the same idea as what Huntin' Pony is talking about, but instead of 'working' in bigger shapes, I just opened by rein and spun the mare into my boot, alternating directions. The moment she stopped I'd release all rein and praise. The moment she so much as shifted her weight I'd open rein and push her into the spin until she stopped. By the end of the hunt I only had to open my rein and she'd stop, next hunt took a few circles but it really worked and mare went from marching through an entire 45minute check, to standing like a pro. This technique is also great because it focuses on redirecting the energy rather than pulling back, which is more likely to cause a fight. She was a quiet crossbred though, I'm not sure I'd try this with a hot tempered horse.

                    5- let horses be horses. Find a friend if you didn't come with one, and if the horses are checked side by side and want to make faces at one another, I let them. I practice playing bumper cars at home with all my horses so even my mares tolerate their friends in their 'personal space' with no big antics. My young one wants to make faces with someone and it keeps her occupied so she stands still. Don't let it escalate of course, no squeels, kicks etc but some will play or rub on each other and it does help them chill. But no rubbing on riders thighs, thats rude!

                    6- remember you are her main source of energy, so have a drink and chill out yourself. If you are tense or anxious that she won't stand, your nailing your own coffin. Relax and don't jump just because she shifts her weight. If you are chill, she'll follow your lead in time. A few good runs and she'll start to appreciate the break.


                    • #11
                      All of the above advice is very good. By knowing your horses personality you will know which one of these training techniques will work.

                      The only other thing I would add is that when you are teaching your horse to stand that you give slack in the rein the moment they have stopped moving their feet. If you ask for the halt and then hold onto the contact you are sending tension through the rein and the rest of your body to the horse. Practice slumping in the saddle a bit and giving lots of rein. If your horse makes a mistake, then correct it by one of the above techniques. Your horse will only learn how to take a nap in the hunt field if you allow the mistakes to happen.


                      • Original Poster

                        All Good Advice!

                        Should I talk to the fieldmaster about her not being good at checks? What is the expectation as far as this is concerned?

                        I really would like to work this out with her. She is a cool little mare and I think if I am patient and keep trying she will come around.


                        • #13
                          It would be 'good form' to chat with the field master and express your desire to not be disruptive (and especially to not be causing any interfererence with hearing or seeing hounds) and just emphasize how much you're enjoying hunting, and that you want to make sure you're doing things right.

                          You'd get major brownie points.


                          • #14
                            I agree with all posters that this is an excellent thread and everyone has great ideas, all or any of which may help the OP. Just wanted to add that when a fox hunter says "give her lots of time," that often means a full season or two. She should make progress all along the way, but to reach "made" status may easily take years, not weeks or months.

                            For myself, I enjoy the process and delight in each little positive step. As long as you can keep yourself, your horse and your fellow field members safe, try to be your horse's calm leader and coach. Keep going and have fun!


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Equibrit View Post
                              Time will take care of it. That and 10 mile runs ! You cannot teach some horses to rest, they have to learn that they need it. They have to gallop until they reach the bottom and then everything changes.
                              This is so true!

                              In the meantime, try these two things: make her take a few lateral steps when she fidgets. Even if you don't have much room you can keep her feet moving.

                              Reward her when she stands still with a treat. I used to carry broken up alfalfa cubes in my pocket. I taught my horse to stand in a quiet, non hunting environment and that carried over pretty well.
                              Equine Ink - My soapbox for equestrian writings & reviews.
                              EquestrianHow2 - Operating instructions for your horse.


                              • #16
                                I taught my gelding to stand long before we went on the hunt field. I just sit on him and watch a lesson outside the arena or in the middle of it. I sit on him and talk to people. I just sit on him and expect him to stand quietly. If he chooses to stand quietly, he gets left alone. If he doesn't stand quietly, he gets to go to work.

                                He learned long ago that getting to stand is a good thing.

                                That said, he's also my endurance horse and I do let him munch at checks if we're somewhere it won't cause damage.


                                • Original Poster

                                  So, due to many unforeseen circumstances I just recently was able to take my mare hunting again. She has been in regular work and hacking regularly in the meantime. When we got to the meet she was a lunatic. I actually worried about getting on her and because I was by myself had a hard time doing it. She was running around me and pushing me. For some odd reason though the one thing she did remember is she is supposed to stand still for mom to mount. So I managed to leap on. She was better under saddle and actually for the most part good in the field though she never stopped. I walked her constantly at the checks. When we got back, she wouldn't stand for me to get off. I tried to make her stop but ended up swinging off. And then she raced around me for several more minutes before some people helped me load her.

                                  I know I just need to keep plugging away at this but am hoping you all have more suggestions, encouragement, etc. She didn't eat in the morning before going out and I did give her a cc of ace orally which honestly must have blown right through her if she even absorbed it. I wouldn't give her any more than that anyway because I worry more about tripping than anything.

                                  Next time I could lunge her before I go to the meet, maybe unload her farther away from the action, find someone though not sure where to help me on the ground with her at the meet, ... You know, part of the problem is that I feel very self-conscious.

                                  Are my expectations too high? Is this pretty normal behavior for a red-headed female newby? Honestly if I hadn't owned her for a couple of years already I would have been very nervous but I do know her well enough to know that she was just really agitated.


                                  • #18
                                    It takes time to get a good fox hunter. Lot's of good advice was offered here. I would argue against lunging because you set an expectation that silliness is allowed at the beginning. The horse does need to know that when you swing a leg over it is time for work. That is something that you can work on at home by getting up and immediately asking for her attention.
                                    A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky dangerous animals and you know it.


                                    • #19
                                      Agree that it takes time.

                                      If you decide to give her ace, you need to give it before she's excited. I believe that with oral ace you need to give it at least 30-45 minutes before you think you'll need it and to have the same effect as an IM shot, you need to give a higher dosage.

                                      My horse is rehabbing a ligament injury and I give him 2 cc's of oral ace about 45 minutes before I take him for my vet-sanctioned 25 minute walk. Otherwise we do not walk!
                                      Equine Ink - My soapbox for equestrian writings & reviews.
                                      EquestrianHow2 - Operating instructions for your horse.


                                      • #20
                                        It takes time to get a good fox hunter. Lot's of good advice was offered here. I would argue against lunging because you set an expectation that silliness is allowed at the beginning. The horse does need to know that when you swing a leg over it is time for work. That is something that you can work on at home by getting up and immediately asking for her attention.
                                        A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky dangerous animals and you know it.