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Refuting "hunters don't care for their horses" argument-spinoff from "Bitting Advice"

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  • Refuting "hunters don't care for their horses" argument-spinoff from "Bitting Advice"

    Some of you may have seen and kindly responded to my newbie questions. Coming from a show barn, I am going against the grain and my trainer's advice in my effort to start hunting. You guys seem quite nice and tolerant of questions, so I have a few more. Please believe that I am not trying to start a trainwreck or annoy anyone. I just don't have anyone to ask. I don't know a soul that foxhunts and I don't want to be know as the "pain in the butt asking all the questions" when I start hunting.

    So, how do you handle having your horse get all sweaty and then standing around in the cold at the checks? Do you find that they get chilled? My ISH is quite the sweater and grows a lot of coat. I usually full body clip him multiple times during the winter beginning in late October just because of the sweating problem. Does a trace clip of some version help with that sweaty/chilled problem?

    Because I come from a show barn, we are uber concerned about the footing all of the time and won't even ride in our jumping field when it is too hard (due to lack of rain). The rings get dragged every day and are a combination of sand and rubber. Do your horses get footsore? How do you handle that? I have started applying iodine to his soles in order to toughen them up. Overall, he has good feet.

    What do you do during the winter to keep your horse fit enough to hunt? I wouldn't think that hunting 1x per week is nearly enough to maintain their fitness. I have started doing trot and canter sets out in our jumping field to build up his fitness. However, once we get stuck inside (or even stuck in the outdoor) trotting and cantering around in endless circles to maintain a certain level of fitness is going to bore the heck out of both of us. Unfortunately, I don't have access to trails unless I ship off the property and that's not feasible to do more than 1x or so per week.

    Thanks again for your tolerance.

  • #2
    Originally posted by skyy View Post
    What do you do during the winter to keep your horse fit enough to hunt? I wouldn't think that hunting 1x per week is nearly enough to maintain their fitness. I have started doing trot and canter sets out in our jumping field to build up his fitness. However, once we get stuck inside (or even stuck in the outdoor) trotting and cantering around in endless circles to maintain a certain level of fitness is going to bore the heck out of both of us. Unfortunately, I don't have access to trails unless I ship off the property and that's not feasible to do more than 1x or so per week.
    Most people do not only hunt just once a week. If you are "stuck inside" it is very unlikely that it is fit for hunting.

    Mostly I would say - toughen up! A horse does not need to be kept in cotton wool. It really won't make much difference, when he's at a check covered in an inch of mud, blowing steam and grinning from ear to ear.

    PS; do not assume that your beautifully mannered show ring hunter will actually be able to behave out hunting. You need to introduce him/her carefully to this endeavour. (A super fit horse is often not the best thing in this regard)

    PPS; "hunters don't care for their horses" I think I resent that remark. You bet your butt I care for my horse; my life depends on her/him.
    Last edited by Equibrit; Sep. 16, 2009, 07:41 PM.
    ... _. ._ .._. .._

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by skyy View Post
      However, once we get stuck inside (or even stuck in the outdoor) trotting and cantering around in endless circles to maintain a certain level of fitness is going to bore the heck out of both of us.
      Field hunters are pretty sturdy animals. Doesn't matter which breed or mix they are - they all have that in common. Sturdy, sure-footed animals.

      The only way to get a sure-footed animal is to get the heck out of the riding arena. Trail riding - uneven terrain, mud, etc. That's the ticket. It's unfair to the horse to ask him to gallop on uneven terrain if he's used to nothing but a perfectly groomed surface. Even hilltopping - the horse has to be sure-footed.

      You can learn a lot about conditioning and fitness from endurance and event riders - not just foxhunters. I hunt a grade horse (draft cross) so I start legging up in July. I have a whole program - including trot sets, interval work - then up to galloping. It's really boring and lonely. But that's the way it is.

      Never had a footsore horse - again you leg up your horse so that it is fit and ready for the work. This year - the ground has been hard so I put front pads on my horse - just in case. Shoeing changes, borium, studs, etc. All can help your horse stay safe and sound - IF - you use them correctly.

      A friend of mine was only able to hunt once a week - he used to keep his horse fit by endless trot and canter work during the week. Not a perfect solution - but it worked for him. He was bored to tears but it was the price he paid to hunt - and for him it was worth it.

      Too bad other folks in your barn don't hunt. Maybe if you can snag another person you can help motivate each other.

      Sounds like he'll be ok since you already clip him. Depending on how often you hunt and the local climate you may or may not want to go with a hunter clip. Some folks prefer a blanket clip. Depends on you and the horse.

      The boring work you put in during the week is worth that one day of foxhunting - you'll be thrilled and you're horse will be happier too.
      Brothers and sisters, I bid you beware
      Of giving your heart to a dog to tear.
      -Rudyard Kipling

      Comment

      • Original Poster

        #4
        Thanks for the advice - Keep it coming!

        Equibrit- he is actually not a show hunter. We do the jumpers (not well, mind you, because he's not quick enough to be competitive in the jump offs) but he was a field hunter in Ireland and imported to the States to do the same. I believe he hunted here for 1 season before his owner lost interest and sold all of his hunt horses. I am hoping that he remembers his hunting days so that one of us is experienced. Although, I've read about the hunting in Ireland, so maybe it's better if we start with a clean slate!

        The footing thing makes perfect sense. We will go off property this weekend and start doing trailwork. We have a local park that has great trails and lots of hills. The trails are not too manicured and a little rocky, so this should be a good intro to his feet.

        About the fitness - one of my greatest concerns is not being able to keep up with the hunt and making fools out of ourselves. What does happen if you have someone who can't keep up and they are unfamiliar with the territory so couldn't get back to the meet on their own?

        Comment


        • #5
          I do our conditioning work on the trails in the woods. Prior to the hunt season we 3-4 mile trot sets once or twice per week. So they build up slowly and are also acclimating to the footing conditions at the same time.

          I have TB's so that are not as tough to keep fit. Now that the season has started the routine changes a bit. Sunday the older TB hunted. He had Monday off. Yesterday he did some light trot sets. The youngster did a trot set (2 miles), some flat work and some jumping. Today the youngster hunted. The older TB will do the driveway (1/3 mile 6% grade, 3 sets). Tomorrow, the youngster will be off and the older will do flat work and a little jumping. Friday, the youngster driveways and the older horse trot sets. Saturday they both hack. That's a normal week for us in the season.

          When the weather gets crappy they do more of the driveway workout. If the weather is just cold, we work on the same schedule, just wear more clothing. The horses will be body clipped at the end of OCtober and again in January.

          I think one thing that has really helped is that the two fox hunters are messaged one a month from August until April. Having someone work those kins out has really helped.

          Comment


          • #6
            The whole purpose of clipping a horse is so they WON'T get chilled. They WOULD get chilled if not clipped- because the sweat turns cold before it can evaporate. On a really cold day, don't worry, they aren't going to be standing around long enough to get a chill if clipped- because movement is needed to reduce the RIDER'S misery index! Honestly- I've hunted since 1971, including quite a number of days where the high temp was well below freezing- and never had a problem with a clipped horse (or, for that matter, an unclipped one, though it takes HOURS after hunting to patiently dry and groom them.).

            I've noticed when hunting with the Red Rock hounds in Nevada that on potentially extreme weather days, they use quarter sheets. Only place I've seen it, but a good idea on a windy, snowy day. Never had that issue back east, meets tend to be cancelled on such days, at Red Rock they just don ski goggles and go.

            I perceive that these days, people really are overly wrapped up about the footing thing. This is entirely a human obsession. The horse doesn't care, and contrary to the beliefs of the ringbound, uneven footing does NOT increase risks of lameness- to the contrary, I will argue that there are far more lameness issues associated with endless circling in the arena setting than there are riding on even the ugliest footing cross country. (I'll bet a survey of who does routine hock injections in show hunters/jumpers/dressage versus foxhunters would yield interesting results).

            Yes, if they have no experience outside the ring, horses do need to have a chance to learn how to negotiate uneven terrain. Briefly- it starts with applying what they know in the ring, support to keep them engaged and not heavy on the forehand- and once they have a glimmer of that concept, they learn how to carry themselves over hill and dale- because doing it right is far less fatiguing than doing it wrong. And believe me, there's nothing better for a horse than having enough work in a day that it needs to learn how to conserve energy. All sorts of benefits to carry back into the ring if one so desires.

            As for fitness- in my experience, tb's are easier to get fit of course, my late great round quarter horse used to take forever to get in hunting shape- but once fit, regardless of breed, they do stay fit with minimal additional work- really, if they are hunting hard one day a week, just light hacking in between has always worked for me. The rule of thumb I was taught, and seems to be true in my experience- is that a hunting fit horse will maintain its fitness without any riding at all for 6 weeks. I would add that it is far easier to keep them fit if they are outside with shelter 24/7 and thus able to move at will. But-caution, as mentioned before- early in a horse's hunting career, a little unfit can be a good thing for control, til they learn what the deal is.

            Comment


            • #7
              I actually use hunting to keep my dressage/hunter fit and happy in winter months. I can hunt only once a week so during the week, we train in dressage and on weekend we go out so he can stretch his legs. Nothing like a good gallop/canter keeps him forward and interested in his job. The dressage work I do at home, mind you, is very strenuous, more strenuous than most hunts I have been to...

              Last year I did not clip him so he did get sweaty mess. This year I'm going to do a trace clip. That should prevent him from getting soaking wet from sweat and get chilled from it.

              Comment


              • #8
                Getting into Hunting

                Good for you, skye!

                Where are you?
                It's great if you can contact your nearest Hunt & find someone to mentor
                or sponsor you!
                Our Hunt attaches new folk to seasoned folk 'til they learn the ropes &
                are comfortable with everything, there are so many little things about
                Hunting that you learn by doing----
                Esp. learning the country, some Hunts have trail rides during the off-season
                that are great for meeting members & learning the country.
                Have you checked the MFHA site yet? You'll find the Hunts in your area with
                the secretary listed who should be helpful!

                I'm in western New York, 30 miles south of Rochester, if you're at all close!
                Ann

                Comment

                • Original Poster

                  #9
                  If you look at a map of PA and can find exactly where Bucks, Montgomery and Lehigh Counties come together, that's where I am (seriously, my farm is in all 3 counties!) This is about an hour NW of Philly. I have contacted my closest hunt, which is Kimberton Hunt, to inquire about their fees. They are a private pack and are pretty small. They do have a hound show on Sunday so I think I'm going to go and see if I can meet anyone.

                  I went to college in Rochester (RIT) and am completely wasting my expensive degree (much to the chagrin of my mother) by working at a horse farm!

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by skyy View Post

                    I went to college in Rochester (RIT) and am completely wasting my expensive degree (much to the chagrin of my mother) by working at a horse farm!
                    Don't worry, I just did the same thing. Have a degree in engineering, and I'm in law school part-time and I just started managing a private training facility after I was laid off from a job at a firm.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by skyy View Post
                      What does happen if you have someone who can't keep up and they are unfamiliar with the territory so couldn't get back to the meet on their own?

                      Don't worry, they will start looking for you, after a few days... ;-)

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        I always thought riding outside was the norm, until I boarded my horse at a show barn and the trainer wanted me to walk on foot out cross country to see if the footing was OK before I took my horse out- And I'm talking like in sept, not icey january.

                        So here is my advice:
                        Clipping/chills: I don't think my horse has ever 'shivered' at the checks unless it's miserable and raining- in which case I usually don't go out. Additionally, sometimes I only trace clip, but if your horse sweats a lot, you might be better off full clipping(not legs) so he doesn't have a wet heavy coat. That would make him cold. Most of the time I hunt its in the 30-40 degree range, which isn't that cold. And generally you arent standing around for more than 10 minutes- there is walking.trotting etc. But bring wool coolers for the trailer ride!

                        Footing:
                        If your horse is used to ring stuff, you WILL have to acclimate him to rougher footing. This means just ride him out in the fields! Really they don't break their legs very often, but they are more likely to do so if their legs aren't 'fit' and used to the uneven ground. It is more stressful on the tendons if the horses are always in perfect footing and then all of the sudden you make them climb rocky banks. You just have to go about it a little slowly and let them get used to it. Then you don't have to worry.

                        Fitness:
                        Well I usually don't like to get my horses fit for cubbing. I know people who have their horses like mid winter hunting fit for the beginning of cub season. I dont like doing that because then you have a hot horse who is all geed up and ready to gallop when they are mostly just trotting and hanging out. Your horse will get fit BY hunting. Yes you have to have a reasonable level before you go out, but its not that hard to maintain in between. Once a horse is fit, you dont have to do too much to keep him there.
                        Our hunt goes out 3x a week. I don't take the same horse every 3 days, but if he goes out 2 days, they get at least 1 day off, more if its a hard hunt. Then I just take them out for a short hack in between once or twice.
                        One problem you may have is doing flatwork might be hard once he gets all into hunting. I pretty much never do flatwork during hunt season ( a little in the fall) but they get fit and the idea of cantering circles seems preposterous to them.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          You are asking all the good questions and you would welcomed at my hunt!

                          My two hunting horses are extremely heavy sweaters so they are trace clipped throughout the season on average- October, Dec & late Feb. They are older horses- both at least 17/18 years old- so they fit up pretty quickly to hunting pace. Mercifully my hunt encourages you to stop if your horse is spent before the hunting is over so there is no harm done by excusing yourself early.

                          Others have provided great ideas on introducing your horse to uneven terrain. I am able to hunt both of my horses barefoot- not because I am a barefoot guru but because barefoot works for them. It means when we get on a gravel road I use common sense navigating it but it also means when we hit deep mud or bogs I can zing through without worrying about loosing a shoe.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            small world

                            I hunted with Genesseo in the 60s in high school. We used to have our chemistry teacher (Gail McGuire) sign us out. I think she was a whip.
                            It was great.

                            My 40th high school reunion is in Oct and I just can't get across the country to be there.

                            oh well.
                            A man must love a thing very much if he not only practices it without any hope of fame or money, but even practices it without any hope of doing it well.--G. K. Chesterton

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              not for a noob but works for me

                              I like to start with roading and work up but being off riding most of the summer has left my horse and me way out of shape. so I'll tag along with the B field and after about an hour excuse my self and walk back to the trailer. fortunatly I know most of the club's 2+squ.mi. farm and can stay out of areas not yet hunted. it may be the long way back but I don't want to be a spoil sport.
                              more hay, less grain

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                Originally posted by lizathenag View Post
                                I hunted with Genesseo in the 60s in high school. We used to have our chemistry teacher (Gail McGuire) sign us out. I think she was a whip.
                                It was great.
                                My 40th high school reunion is in Oct and I just can't get across the country to be there.
                                oh well.

                                Whenever you're able to get back here, let us know !
                                We're cubbing now, started in July, Opening Day is about 10 days away & we'll
                                hunt into winter, as far as footing conditions allow----
                                Come on back!
                                We're very welcoming here, the clothes aren't a high priority, hounds & horses
                                hold center stage!
                                Ann

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  I trace clip my horses. I use sort of a modified Trace that goes up pretty high on the neck. They are outside 24/7 with blankets on. They stay pretty fit turned out but they don't have any draft in them. My one horse shivers on cold days before I even get on him (I think some is from tension and excitement). I throw a cooler on him over the saddle until just before I'm ready to get on. Once we get going he rarely shivers. We usually walk back the last 20 minutes or more. I throw a cooler over him when we get back to the trailer.

                                  If I wait until after about the 15th of December to clip, then I don't have to clip again. I'm in Missouri. That will vary depending on where you are.

                                  I believe in clipping the hunters though. It makes them easier to keep clean for one thing.
                                  -Painted Wings

                                  Set youself apart from the crowd, ride a paint horse, you're sure to be spotted

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    This is great info. Thanks, all.
                                    Proud Member of the League of Weenie Eventers
                                    Proud Member of the Courageous Weenie Eventers Clique

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      Originally posted by skyy View Post
                                      So, how do you handle having your horse get all sweaty and then standing around in the cold at the checks? Do you find that they get chilled? My ISH is quite the sweater and grows a lot of coat. I usually full body clip him multiple times during the winter beginning in late October just because of the sweating problem. Does a trace clip of some version help with that sweaty/chilled problem?
                                      It can do. Do a trace clip or a blanket clip if necessary.

                                      Do your horses get footsore?
                                      No

                                      How do you handle that?
                                      By ensuring they're appropriately shod and fit and that they're ridden sympathetically and appropriately to the ground conditions.

                                      What do you do during the winter to keep your horse fit enough to hunt?
                                      They're ridden a minimum of 2 hours a day and during the season hunted 3 or 4 times a week.

                                      I wouldn't think that hunting 1x per week is nearly enough to maintain their fitness.
                                      It's the other way round. You don't get a horse fit by hunting it.
                                      Rather you need to get a horse fit to hunt it.

                                      I have started doing trot and canter sets out in our jumping field to build up his fitness.
                                      Get out and do some interval training. You need to build up his stamina and aerobic fitness and strength. Don't you have fields?

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        I'm sure your horse is fit enough to go cubbing. Use the cubbing season to get your horse fit for hunting. Cubbing is usually relaxed and less intense than the actual hunting season. Everybody is in the same boat so to speak as far as their horses fitness and their own fitness levels go

                                        But do get your horse out there on some trails to get him used to varying terrain.

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