Prospective New Rider With Questions - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 6 Old 01-23-2011, 12:50 AM Thread Starter
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Prospective New Rider With Questions

I've never ridden a horse before. Until November, I never even considered it something I'd like to do. I was out hunting bear with some friends on a state game lands near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The game lands is a very large area and motorized vehicles are prohibited. Consequently, we had a difficult time covering as much area as we would have liked on foot. Then we figured out that it is permissible to hunt from horseback. Well, that pretty much solves the problem and in addition it adds a whole new dimension to the experience. It sounds like it could be a lot of fun.

However, in solving one problem I've identified another one. I have no idea how to ride and I have no horse, no saddle, no trailer and no idea how to do this.

I think the first step is to actually ride a horse. We have a county park nearby with a number of stables, so I shouldn't have too much trouble getting some time in the saddle. But what am I looking for? From the little time I've spent on this forum, there are apparently numerous riding styles and disciplines. What do they call what I am trying to do? Furthermore, what level of competence is required of me as a rider in order to do this?

I'm not sure its a good idea to buy a horse so that can go on an excursion a couple of times a year, even if there are people giving them away for free or nearly so on Craigslist. Once I figure out how to ride, is it even reasonable to expect that somebody would rent or lend me an animal for this purpose? As I envision it, we would spend most of the day just walking trails. However, there is a lot of up and down and the terrain can be steep and sometimes rocky. My friends and I actually speculated that mules might be more suitable. We also considered that perhaps we could use our mount to drag out the bear we shoot. I suppose we would want to put a lot of orange on the horse so we don't get mistaken for game. And of paramount concern, I would need an animal I could safely shoot from. The last thing I need is to take a shot at the bear of a lifetime and promptly get tossed heels over head by a frightened horse. The cavalry used to do this kind of thing, so it is clearly possible, but is it practical and what does it take to get it done?
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post #2 of 6 Old 01-23-2011, 01:32 AM
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Most people who hunt on horseback seem to ride Western. There are lots of places on a Western saddle for tying gear. I haven't hunted with horses myself but a lot of people around here (Pacific Northwest) use horses a lot. Some ride and hunt at the same time while some just bring pack horses or mules along to their camp and use them to pack out the meat.
Unless you really want to have a relationship with a horse and pay for all of the expenses of owning a horse all year round, I wouldn't recommend buying a horse. Sure, horses are given away for free all the time. I got a free horse a couple of years ago and spent $1,000 the first month for board, feed and vet care. In general it can cost around $400 a month to care for a horse. Also you are responsible to make sure your horse keeps up with his training so he can be useful to you when you want to go on a hunting trip. He also will have to be conditioned for at least a month before a trip so you can reasonably expect him to carry you over the miles of terrain you will need to cover on your trip.
That being said, I do know a man around 60 years old who likes to keep two horses for hunting and pack trips. He only rides about 4 or 5 times a year. He found a private boarding stable that gives lessons to kids. So he only pays board but the owners of the stable use his horses all year for lessons and trial riding so the horses stay in condition for when he wants to use them himself. The only problem with this situation is that he did not ask experienced horse people for advice when he bought his horses, but instead bought a color he liked. So his horses are not the calm, unflappable types that excel at hunting and packing, but sometimes are too much of a handful for him, especially because he does not get himself into riding shape before a trip.

Here is an example of a website where people do guided hunting.
Montana Guided Hunts, Fishing, Pack Trips and Trail Rides Swan Mountain Outfitters
I am not sure if these places will rent out their horses to you, especially if you are not experienced in the things that can go wrong with horses or don't know horse first aid. But you can probably hire a guide to take you out on a horse hunting trip and have a lot of fun that way.
If you don't ride ahead of time, expect to be extremely sore. Riding uses a lot of muscles you don't use in regular life.
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post #3 of 6 Old 01-23-2011, 09:32 PM
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I would never discourage someone from the joys of horse ownership, but it is not to be taken lightly. It is a lot of work and can be expensive, especially, if you have to board. I honestly do not think that this type of activity is for a novice rider and you are not going to find the type of horse you need on Craigslist. For what you are talking about, you need a rock solid trail horse, that is not afraid of gun fire and can drag a bear without freaking out. That is not something a normal trail horse has been taught. Also, do not assume that a mule naturally knows how to drag a bear either. What will you do with the horse when it is not hunting season? If you do not still ride it and work with it, it will be completely out of shape for the next hunting season and will not be the calm trail horse you first purchased.

Again, not trying to discourage you and I think that you would probably really enjoy it, BUT, a lot of unexpected things happen on the trails and you have to be a good enough rider to roll with the punches. No horse is 100% bombproof and there will be times that they spook or bolt. You could get seriously hurt if you do not take the time to become an experienced rider and find a horse that has more experience then you do.
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post #4 of 6 Old 01-23-2011, 09:47 PM
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I think your first step would be to take riding lessons as you have mentioned. Western would be the best for your situation.

Your second step should possibly be taking a hunt next year somewhere that does use horses so that you can see what it all takes and involves to have horses/mules to use for hunting. It will be easier to hunt on horseback if you already have the skill to atleast handle a horse competantly....which you would learn during riding lessons. The week or two before going hunting, you might want to increase the number of hours/days you ride so that your muscles are a bit more prepared.

After that, then you might have more skill and knowledge to know whether you want to pursue having a horse or horses of your own, or wether it might be better to keep hunting on foot.

It is impossible for a man to learn what he thinks he already knows. --Epictetus
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post #5 of 6 Old 01-23-2011, 09:49 PM
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^^^ All very good information. I'd also like to add that if you are very interested in getting horses, see if there's someone nearby who gives lessons! Even if you decide you don't want to use horses for hunting, it still wouldn't hurt to take a handful of lessons just for the experience. I believe you said there are a number of stables near you, so maybe give them a call and see if any of them do beginner western lessons. If (after having taken an awful lot of lessons...) you decide you like riding, then you could look into getting a horse for hunting-purposes. However, if you decide you would like to get a horse, of course there is a LOT to consider before purchasing the horse, as others said above.

Worth The Wait <3
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post #6 of 6 Old 01-23-2011, 11:06 PM
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I think this is an opportune place to share a quote that I like quite a bit >>

"Riding a horse is not a gentle hobby, to be picked up and laid down like a game of solitaire. It is a grand passion. It seizes a person whole and once it has done so, he will have to accept that his life will be radically changed."
— Ralph Waldo Emerson

Good luck on your horse explorations!
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