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starting a green hunter

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  • starting a green hunter

    Dear All,

    I am starting yet another green hunter. I've started 4 and all have ended up hunting just fine. BUT after the last one I swore I'd get someone else to at least take the first ride. And of course that's not panning out.

    I have a 5yo OTTB. I got him last Sept. and 2 months later tore my ACL in a non-riding injury. So I was off for 6 months. During this time he was only ridden 3x in February by a visiting trainer. He'd not been ridden in 2 months at that point, and he was fine. Behaved nicely-she took him on a trail ride and he was good.

    So 4 more months and I tried to find someone to ride him first and couldn't find anyone so I got on him (my doc said it was fine to ride but not to fall off-oh ha!). And he was fine, no problem at all. Since then I've ridden usually 4 days a week, all fine. But I ride at home and every time I've tried to set up a trail ride with a friend it's fallen through.

    Soooo it's hound exercise time, as of last Saturday. And if I'm gonna hunt this year I need to get this horse exposed to hounds and go on hound exercise so when we start cub hunting he's at least seen them. BUT I would so much rather someone else take him at least once.

    Obviously we dont' have many trainers around here. The one person who was an excellent trainer and hunted to boot has moved. I have asked around and looked myself and can't find a soul.

    Really there's no way to train a hunter but to hunt them. And as I said I've done it before. Some few lucky folk get the horse that's just super calm but I've not been that fortunate and in the past had some harrowing rides before the horse settled in. I guess at 60 I just don't much want to do that again, though I'm coming to the belief that it's me or no one and in that case I guess it's me.

    I guess I am just asking "what would y'all do"? or advice/encouragement. I appreciate it!

    Regards,
    Huntin' Fool

  • #2
    Could you get one of the really confident and capable riders in your hunt to take him out? There's got to be someone that would give it a go. And maybe you could trailer him over for hound exercise and not try to get on (leave before riders move off)- just assess his level or comfort with that kind of scene.

    Comment


    • #3
      A horse that's raced has seen lots more alarming things than a bunch of doggies. He sounds like a nice horse. Trust yourself and trust him would be my suggestion.
      * www.huntersrest.net -- Virginia hunt country's best Bed-and-Breakfast-and-Barn.

      Comment


      • #4
        I think it is overly optimistic to assume that a horse that hasn't been on a trail ride since February (and only one at that time) is just going to "be fine" out hound walking. Of course, the horse might very well turn out to be absolutely fine, but I don't think that going out hound walking without any preparation is a good set up for a successful start to hunting.

        Here's what I think--I think you need to get him out and get a couple of trail rides under your belt. Beg/harass/bribe your friends--surely there's someone who will go with you given the right motivation. Even if it is just a short hack around some fields +/- a creek or two with some company a few times, I think that would be VERY helpful so your horse has a chance to process what is expected of him.

        The other side of this is that you don't sound particularly confident, which sounds entirely reasonable to me given your recent injury/surgery. You need these trail rides as much (or more) than the horse to get a feel for him and to build your own trust in him. Your trust in him will help the first time out go well as much as anything!

        IME, it is very hard to find the right person to hunt a green horse for you. The people who are capable of doing so usually are busy bringing their own young horses along. So, you might need to suck it up. But, if you've done a little prep with some trail rides and built up your own confidence, you'll feel a lot better about it and have a lot more fun.

        Comment

        • Original Poster

          #5
          Y'all I like all your advice! And yes the few folk I've found who *could* take him are honestly not the ones I want doing it. There's a huge difference between being able to stick on a horse, or even a good rider, and a good horseman. I know y'all know what I mean. I do think I would be more confident if I had a couple of trail rides on this horse. And, based on his personality I *think* he'll be ok. He is in general far quieter than my old retired man I started at the same age, 20 years ago.

          In the end I expect I will have to do it myself. But a few trail rides before hand would be great.

          Thank you all so much!

          Regards,
          Huntin'Fool

          Comment


          • #6
            BeeHoney 's suggestions are awesome. I would add that if one of the riding buddies you can get to trail ride with you has a well mannered canine of some variety and you have an appropriate space where it is permitted to ride with an off leash dog, that might be another element to add after the first few trail rides go well. I have a couple of lab mixes who are sort of houndish in size and I think it really helps the horses to learn that something crashing around in the underbrush then popping out in front of or behind them is not a monster before they are confronted with a whole pack.

            Comment


            • #7
              Personally if in your situation I would hire a spry rider to take her out for her first season - starting in 3rd field

              Comment

              • Original Poster

                #8
                RE: someone else riding the first season-well, that would probably be good-except for 1. I don't have the money. And 2. again there's no one I can think of to do it. I *absolutely* will be in the 3rd field-we dont' have them every week but I will only be in 3rd field at least for 1/2 the season and maybe the whole thing. I am a big believer in the slow start. As my Daddy was fond of saying "no one ever ruined a horse by going too slow."

                Update-I begged/harassed a former trainer who now has a "regular" job to ride him on hound exercise Sat! Huzzah!!! AND following BeeHoney's very good suggestions I took the horse on a trail-well a really short trail, but a trail-last weekend. I got my boyfriend to go with me out to our little farm. Got the horse off, rode him around the trailer a bit and when he seemed to settle took him off down the field road and back. Both the trainer in Feb. and the trainer who put his 30 days off the track on him said that he seemed to really love trail rides. To my surprise the instant I headed off down the farm road I could feel him settle down. I would have thought he'd be happier riding around where we got off the trailer but he seemed quite happy to march off. To my *intense* happiness he marched back at the same pace-no quicker. So good! I also took him on a "trail" around my house-i.e. to the neighbor's next door and around another little field. And again he was good.

                We will see. I'll post the results of Saturday. And again I really appreciate y'all's advice!

                Regards,
                Huntin'Fool

                Comment

                • Original Poster

                  #9

                  Well the update is the person who was gonna ride him on Saturday got called into work-sigh. So I’m gonna trail ride on Saturday myself and maybe take him on hound exercise on Wednesday. We shall see.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Huntin' Fool, I have been following this thread with interest as my situation is similar. I am starting to hunt again after a 20 year lay off (kids - had to sell the hunting horse. Now that they are grown, I am sure I sold the right one! Ha Ha). Being of more mature years I would like to keep the bouncing off to a minimum. So of course my choice is a 7year old OTTB.

                    We have had plenty of time in the woods walking trails, but it is hard to find a buddy to fill the slot in the trailer to go away from the barn to the park and do anything faster then a walk. "Too scary, my horse is rehabbing, etc." We finally got away this week to do trot sets, and my boy was squealing with joy and doing the Tigger bounce at each upward transition. With each repetition I was able to find defusing strategies and happily discover that he could find his brain and end up doing quiet trot sets. We have another ride planned for next week, then it is the 2 day green horse clinic with hound exercise. If we survive that without absolute embarrassment, we will be hanging out in 3rd flight for as long as he needs.

                    No words of wisdom from me, rather am happy to receive any sent my way. Just sending you my good wishes for a fun and instructive introduction and hound exercise for you and your horse. He already sounds like he will really enjoy hunting.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Ok --probably going to get my nose slapped here --but perhaps OP should consider a different breed of horse to bring to the hunt field. At our hunt we do have a handful of OTTBs --but they were "something else" between the track and the hunt field --mostly eventers. Even so, they are not the stars of the hunt --those are the Quarter Horses and Apps and Paints and a few draft X --these sane, sensible horses are the staff and master's horses --true --not 100%, but a majority. My own horse --a QH has as cutting/rodeo background --he was the pick-up horse for bull riders --I took him on his first hunt ever last Sunday. I'm an old lady with two replaced knees and a replaced hip and shoulder. I had NO CONCERN about taking this "green hunter" out with the hounds. He never put a foot wrong --was light on the bridle and actually jumped three logs even though to my knowledge he's never jumped anything. We'll work on that as we get more used to each other. One member does buy OTTBs for the hunt --but she's an event rider. Those horses see a lot of action before she brings them out. It is my HUMBLE OPINION that OTTBs right off the track are not the most suitable for fox hunting. With the ACL issue --why spend the money and time to get from point A to B when you could buy a solid citizen QH and be at B from the get go.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Foxglove View Post
                        Ok --probably going to get my nose slapped here --but perhaps OP should consider a different breed of horse to bring to the hunt field. At our hunt we do have a handful of OTTBs --but they were "something else" between the track and the hunt field --mostly eventers. Even so, they are not the stars of the hunt --those are the Quarter Horses and Apps and Paints and a few draft X --these sane, sensible horses are the staff and master's horses --true --not 100%, but a majority. My own horse --a QH has as cutting/rodeo background --he was the pick-up horse for bull riders --I took him on his first hunt ever last Sunday. I'm an old lady with two replaced knees and a replaced hip and shoulder. I had NO CONCERN about taking this "green hunter" out with the hounds. He never put a foot wrong --was light on the bridle and actually jumped three logs even though to my knowledge he's never jumped anything. We'll work on that as we get more used to each other. One member does buy OTTBs for the hunt --but she's an event rider. Those horses see a lot of action before she brings them out. It is my HUMBLE OPINION that OTTBs right off the track are not the most suitable for fox hunting. With the ACL issue --why spend the money and time to get from point A to B when you could buy a solid citizen QH and be at B from the get go.
                        Well, this is not a "slap" but there are many hunts where a thoroughbred is pretty much required if you want to keep up (including my own). Several hunts state "blood horse recommended" or "thoroughbred or 7/8 bred preferred" right on their fixture cards. Couple that with the fact that a)OTTB are often bombproof because of how much commotion they've been exposed to on the track and b)the thoroughbred is the traditional breed for US foxhunting; and I think an OTTB is not just a perfectly suitable breed for hunting, but one, IMHO, I'd prefer as I can at least assume the horse is used to noise, excitement, galloping in company, etc.

                        No offense intended - just a different viewpoint.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          I've ridden out with seven hunts, and been a full member of four --and in all of those 7 hunt clubs, there was no breed that predominated or was stated as preferred. But all hunts I've ridden have been in the Mid West. Our Hunt Club literature at BCHC suggests (strongly) the horse be comfortable in a group, under control at all times, and have a red ribbon if known to kick --but other than that --nothing is remarked on about horses. At the last hunt Sunday I had my new horse out (former cutting horse) and rode with: a Percheron X, Fjord, Paint, handful of QH and two TBs, only one of which was an OTTB; there was a lovely Arab, another Arab X, and a Warmblood or two. I think one of the Warmbloods was an Irish Sport Horse. I was in the hilltoppers and will be until my horse is invited up. In first flight, I believe there were some event riders on either Warmbloods --but those could have been TBs. There was an OTTB up there and a pony, too --a Morgan draft X and some others that I'm not sure of the breeding --staff were on Apps, Arabs, and undetermined. I guess if we had a hunt club that required blood horses or 7/8th --we would not have a club! I wonder if foxhunting, where I hunt (MI) is more about a suitable horse than a type of horse. FYI My QH keeps up just fine. I suppose if we were going at speed for a mile and a half or two miles, he might fade in the backstretch, but in 50 years of hunting, I cannot recall a run that went that distance on the flat. At Battle Creek --runs are generally through heavy woods, maybe an open field now and then, but 5-10 min flat out galloping on good footing with no roads --well, not in my recent memory. But it may well be that you have more open country where you hunt,hence the requirement for faster horses. Oh --it is my understanding George Washington hunted on an Arab. I agree with you that an OTTB is suitable for hunting --but not with the rest of your statement that they (as a group) are bomb-proof and gallop [well] in company. From what I've seen it takes a great rider with great skill (probably you are one of these) to take an OTTB from a track to a hunt. My post was simply designed to let the OP know that there are other suitable breeds who may not take the time and skill to make into a good hunt horse.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Foxglove View Post
                            ...But it may well be that you have more open country where you hunt,hence the requirement for faster horses. Oh --it is my understanding George Washington hunted on an Arab. I agree with you that an OTTB is suitable for hunting --but not with the rest of your statement that they (as a group) are bomb-proof and gallop [well] in company. From what I've seen it takes a great rider with great skill (probably you are one of these) to take an OTTB from a track to a hunt. My post was simply designed to let the OP know that there are other suitable breeds who may not take the time and skill to make into a good hunt horse.
                            I think you are right that this is a geographic difference. In MD/VA/DE, thoroughbreds are the rule, not the exception, and on good days, when we literally gallop for miles, they are the only ones that stay in until the end. Not only that, but many are not "OTTB" but just "TB", as we routinely get horses out hunting that are still actively racing or in training for racing. In the last week, the MD hunt I hunt with has had current and former race horses out including Private Attack (MD Hunt Cup Winner), Derwin's Prospector (MD Hunt Cup Winner), Brand's Hatch (3x Hunt Cup runner), Mr. Tack (2012 Novice Timber Horse of the Year), and many others. They all behave and are solid citizens.

                            As for other suitable breeds, absolutely, we agree, there are plenty. I just respectfully disagree about them taking less time and skill to make good hunters - I have found that the TBs are the easiest to get hunting as they already understand how to run (and often jump) in company. Of course, you may have a different experience and that difference of opinion is what makes these forums valuable - so no disrespect intended.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              I also hunt in the Midwest and based on talking to friends who hunt frequently in MD/VA it is a very different game. We have more non-TBs than horses with any TB blood at all in our hunt field most days, and that includes staff horses! I currently whip in on a 13.1 h (on a tall day, with shoes) pony of unknown breeding and other whips and field members are on QHs, gaited horses, Arabians, TBs, mustangs, TB X draft and other breeds. We end up in a lot of mud and trappy footing in our country so even if you are on a very fast horse, there is a limit to how fast you can get going in the total slop. For us it is more important to have a horse that has good stamina and is smart about slogging through mucky footing. I would absolutely get left far behind if our footing was firm and fast - my pony's short little legs can only get going so fast!

                              There also (at least in my area of the Midwest) doesn't seem to be a tradition of currently racing horses participating in hunts or racing over fences, so I think OTTBs picked up around here may be starting with less relevant experience. Like Foxglove 's experience, most of our solid right from the start mounts are QHs or similar with prior ranch or trail type experience.

                              I love hearing about the geographic differences. Amazing how different the "same" sport can be from place to place.

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                This is an interesting discussion, a bit like huntsmen debating about what kind of foxhound they prefer. Nose, cry and stamina seem to be universal qualities. The mixture and appearance are based on the needs of the territory and personal preference. One of the things I love about this sport is" Pretty is, as pretty does". A successful hunt horse can come in a variety of packages, but a good mind is a key ingredient. It is no fun hunting the horse that cannot learn from experience. We all want one that will learn and enjoy the game.

                                They also have to have a mind that will "go and whoa". My boy is happy to push the fun button, but once we are done with the faster gaits he can come back to a loose rein walk. He was excited last week by the novelty of faster work on the trails, this week it was forward gaits on loose rein and all business. He was able to figure it out last week. I think they all have to have the ability to let go of a spook or excitement, and move on to the next thing.

                                Like RiderinTheRain mentioned I would bet that most of us are looking for a horse with stamina for our country, and sure footed to deal with the terrain. My boy was off the dirt track, so I did have to work on changing his balance and getting him used to hills, and uneven terrain. A horse with trail or ranch experience would have that previously installed. Today we trotted a much more challenging trail and I was pleased that my horse would slow himself down to negotiate the more rugged sections, and then lengthen his trot to catch up, then adjust to the lead horses pace all on his own. He is figuring out his job.

                                Foxglove, I agree that it is possible to find horses with a background that already gives them hunting experience, and they come in all sorts of breeds and shapes and sizes. I was looking for a project horse and he happened to come in an OTTB package. I wanted something I could work on but not kill myself. I wanted to trail ride, work up to jumping 2' 6" max, occasionally dabble in some local shows (as long as I could be home by the cocktail hour) and eventually hunt. As my job prevented me from actively hunting I was content to wait. With a year of work we are trail riding, showing and making it home by the cocktail hour, jumping (but not 2'6") and hoping to hunt this season. Most important, I am having fun every step of the way.

                                Hunting him in third field will be like taking my toddler grandson to the fair. We are there on his time schedule, there might be a melt down (yay there was none) so coping strategies at the ready, get ready to scoop the sheep poop out of his mouth, and delight in his wonder and joy of the experience. Plus, you get to watch and listen to hounds and be with great people - what more could you ask?

                                Comment

                                • Original Poster

                                  #17
                                  First let me say I love TB’s! I love their willingness to move, I love their agility, I love the joy that they have in running, their bravery. I don’t think they are harder to ride than any other breed-just different. And I will add for our hunt, if you want to stay up, you really just have to have a TB or mostly TB. Though I imagine an Arab could do it. A 20 mile day is by no means unusual. And while 2nd flight takes it slower, 1st flight is going for most of that time. We do hunt coyote. One thing you sometimes do have to consider with the OTTB is that people have gone to trouble and expense to impress on the horse that he should be first. If the horse came from a trail experience, for example, that wouldn't be an issue. That coupled with the excitement of a foxhunt can be overwhelming. Though as several others point out, they've usually seen a lot of stuff and without a come apart-cause you can't race like that. Other breeds are great too of course and I've seen just about every breed as a fabulous hunt horse.

                                  Maybe I should say I'm not eager to be the first to take *any* 5 yo of limited experience on their first hunt-ha!

                                  Anyway, alas, it is mostly moot now.

                                  As an update, I took the advice of taking him, planning on just watching (since my rider backed out). I did ace him-1cc. I brought him out, tacked him up, and stood with everyone waiting to go off. There were only 5 other people + the huntsman. So the hounds came out, and since he was being good I walked on off with him, just leading-he walked on just fine. We walked along next to everyone til they picked up a jog. We jogged for a bit and I ran up one hill and decided that was enough (for me-ha). So we turned around. He wanted to stay with the group, but no real problem, just a hesitation. Then we walked back. So hounds, walking off, jogging along for a bit, then turning around he was good. I was so excited. I decided to trail ride Sunday then take Wed off and just take him on hound exercise myself.

                                  So Sunday, I trailered to the farm, lead him around a bit and noticed something wrong. He'd stepped on a big screw and is still lame. Sigh. Horses. The vet does think he'll be ok, but I'm still really worried.

                                  That's the update!

                                  Regards,
                                  Huntin' Fool

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    I can sympathize and commiserate!! When I brought my OTTB to the hunt for the first time at age 4 and fairly fresh off the track, I had several folks give me the side eye (and a wide berth). But, I also brought my daughter on her rock solid pony, who was OTTB's new best friend. Rock solid pony could lead nervous OTTB all over the hunt field, and wherever his security pony went, OTTB would follow. He had to learn everything, including how to simply walk down a hill, and I never needed to give him any chemical assistance (though I am all for it when needed). It was a marvelous way to start, actually! Hopefully you can find a specific buddy to help him (and you) feel secure and chill?
                                    where are we going, and why am I in this hand basket?

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      Originally posted by Bug Boy View Post

                                      I think you are right that this is a geographic difference. In MD/VA/DE, thoroughbreds are the rule, not the exception, and on good days, when we literally gallop for miles, they are the only ones that stay in until the end. Not only that, but many are not "OTTB" but just "TB", as we routinely get horses out hunting that are still actively racing or in training for racing. In the last week, the MD hunt I hunt with has had current and former race horses out including Private Attack (MD Hunt Cup Winner), Derwin's Prospector (MD Hunt Cup Winner), Brand's Hatch (3x Hunt Cup runner), Mr. Tack (2012 Novice Timber Horse of the Year), and many others. They all behave and are solid citizens.
                                      I think it's worth noting that the OTTBs mentioned above are steeplechase horses and not the kind of OTTBs that many of us see in other parts of the country. It doesn't surprise me in the slightest that horses that run brush and timber are well suited for the hunt field (especially in the Va area).

                                      Here in NY, an OTTB comes from a dirt track, tend to be younger, and often have never seen a jump in their life, let alone uneven ground, water crossings, or any canine bigger than a JRT. They often need several months or a year to just exisit out in a pasture and come down from track life. I have known a few who have turned into very solid citizens, and a few more than have some screws in need of tightening. There is a nearby hunt who take a lot of TBs off the Finger Lakes track and turn them into hunt horses--so it's certainly possible to be successful at it...but I don't think they are dealing with the same kind of TB brain as those who are taking former timber horses into the field.

                                      My hunt is full of QHs, draft crosses, and Morgans. Only our huntsman rides a TB (OTTB, actually...). We are, generally speaking, not a fast hunt. Our territory is trappy and swampy and full of steep ridges and wooded areas. I have a dream of hunting in Va someday....but I'm pretty sure my Iberian Warmblood and I couldn't keep up.

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                                      • #20
                                        My hunter is actually my eventer OTTB. She just completed her first hunt season (I'm in Australia) and for the first hunt I had a good friend and her good old reliable hunter as a buddy for her to follow. I would get a trusted friend on their reliable horse to buddy up to so that you aren't forced to the front of the pack and have a horse to buddy over jumps. Hope this helps
                                        Work until your idols become your rivals.

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