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Training Recommendations for a Green Hunter Who Only Misbehaves in the Hunt Field

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  • Training Recommendations for a Green Hunter Who Only Misbehaves in the Hunt Field


    I have a 15-year-old Morgan/Mustang cross who has evented for a number of years. He and I are trying to make the jump to foxhunting. We capped with a club last year, going out five or six times, and he did great in second field--quick, agile, and willing to stand when he needed to. He barely protested or misbehaved for a second. This year, the second I paid my dues, he turned into a terror. He is very strong, particularly when he wants to be moving faster--if, for instance, we're in second field and he see first field ahead; or if we're standing in an open field and he wants to run instead; or if he wants to get home at the end of an outing. His behavior manifests as rearing, spinning, backing up, and taking off. A friend with more hunting experience has been riding him and he does better in first field and going faster, but not entirely better, and I need a horse willing to go my speed, until I feel confident in a hunt field, myself.

    He behaves just fine when he is not in a field of horses. He does fine on trail rides, even in hunter paces with up to 5 horses. So I am not able to come up with a good solution for getting him exposure to the situations that are challenging him without taking him out with the entire club and winding up in a dangerous situation. He has had the chiropractor out to see him, I have had his saddle fitted, I have tried three different bits (currently riding in a pelham with the rein connector), and I am mildly Ace-ing him for hunts.

    I am interested in a training recommendation--either a farm that would be able to put him in a situation that resembles a hunt (lots of activity, lots of horses, lots of excitement) to work with him, or a trainer who would be willing to hunt him while training him.

    I am in the DC area of Maryland.

    Thanks for any thoughts!

  • #2
    I was told decades ago that you dont know if a horse is a foxhunter until after the second season.

    Ahh, just load him up on ace. We all do after all.
    A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky dangerous animals and you know it.


    • #3
      I am confused about your friend who is riding your horse - did the bad behavior start before or after your friend took him first field?

      You may need to start over, which could include going to the meet, riding out for a few minutes then going home before anything exciting happens.

      Really it's not usually a good plan to move them up before they're behaving properly in the slower field(s). In fact, once you move them up, many of them can be quite impatient if you move them back down. (I'm not saying that's good, it's just often the case.)

      Could you please clarify the timing of the problem and what exactly your friend is doing?


      • #4
        um, no we all don't do ACE. I've never done ace and I've been hunting for 50 years.

        To OP's question --there's a way to train this but you are correct that you need at least one other person to help you --mounted. And it takes consistent, daily work, at least 45 min to an hour every day for (I'm guessing here 7-14 days) --but it does work, or it did for me --and you only have to do it once and the horse (or at least mine) caught on and never was a problem after that. You can't do it on the hunt field --will have to be done at home stable.

        Ok, you and the mounted friend start riding down the trail, across the field, or where every suits you. You are behind the friend. If your horse is like mine (must be in FRONT!), he will pass the first horse (allow him to make the mistake.) The second you are in front, your mounted friend slows to a walk while you trot circles and circles and circles and turn and back and serpentine and MOVE HIS FEET (I'd do it 15-20 min, using a watch to time); then move back behind the walking horse. Your horse will (probably) pass again. Allow him to MAKE THE MISTAKE. The second he passes the other horse, back to work --trotted circles, backing, serpentine, KEEP HIS FEET MOVING for another 15-20 min --move back behind first horse who continues to walk (or trot). Once again, your horse will pass --let him--but then WORK HIM. You may see no progress the first day --do stop after an hour or about 4 times he "passes" without being asked to do so. At no time should you be angry, after all he's doing what you ask --moving his feet. The next day, and you really must do this sequential days, you will see about the second or third time he will NOT PASS because he's figured out as long as he stays behind the other horse, he gets to walk or trot quietly --no hustling or moving his feet in circles backing or serpentine! When you've had an hour of walking and trotting without him trying to pass, and trust me, they DO figure it out --passing means WORK --up the ante by cantering. If he passes, drop back to a trot and MOVE HIS FEET the same 15 or 20 min. After three-four days, he'll be good about not passing --add another horse to the mix, keep the same plan.

        Don't do the practice more than an hour --too frustrating for rider, I think, but if you can, it's good. Don't lose your temper --he's going to figure it out on his own and then you will never have to correct him again.

        It's the basic "rest is reward" idea --if he stays behind, he doesn't have to work. They will choose that option every time once they realize how the game is played and how they can win it.

        And at the risk of being flamed, it's on the Clinton Anderson DVD Curing Problems on the Trail. It worked for me. The hard part was rounding up riding buddies who would let me practice with them.



        • Original Poster

          Hi--bad behavior started with me in second field at the end of roading/beginning of cubbing season. The more experienced hunter who has been riding him rode him once in second field and then wanted to try him in first field. He was better behaved there but still difficult. I have not had him back out in a slower field since then. He has been out three times in first field now, I believe.


          • Original Poster

            Thank you, Foxglove, very interesting! Will try to set up some partners and get started on it this week!


            • #7
              I would recommend Sally Shirley to help sort out any hunt horse
              One thing you can give and still keep is your word.


              • #8
                What are you feeding? If you have upped his feed to give him ooomph for the hunting there might be too much zoom in the oooomph. It is very easy to over feed a horse, which then leads to poor behavior.
                "Good young horses are bred, but good advanced horses are trained" Sam Griffiths


                • #9
                  Hunter's Rest is in VA and would be a good person to speak with about training. If she can take your horse you're close enough to go & tide/hunt on a weekend.