How to get horse (and myself!) ready for foxhunting?
I have a horse I bought a few weeks ago that I have been riding 3-4 times a week. He's a great guy, really responsive, and LOTS of endurance. I'd really like to start using him for different events but I'm not exactly the showing type. I ride english and I would consider myself intermediate, but I'm pretty much self taught so I know there is still a lot I need to learn.
My question is, how can I safely and properly get my horse in shape for fox hunting? According to his old owner, he was ridden about once every two weeks. He must think he's gone to boot camp haha! He isn't afraid of gunshots but can be spooky to things like deer, cars, etc. I'm trying to get him used to them by desensitizing him every day (although there is only so much you can do for deer). When I first got him he was pretty bad - bucking and rearing to get me off, grabbing the bit, refusing to stop, not listening to directional queues, going whatever speed he wanted/whenever he wanted, basically just doing whatever he wanted. In these past few weeks he has improved a LOT, but still usually acts up a little the first 30 minutes of riding him before he realizes he can't get away with it and settles down.
And just a side note, we wouldn't be chasing real foxes. :) Thanks!
Trot, trot, trot. And lots of trotting helps. It helps both you and your horse.
Working up to 10 to 20 minutes cantering between long sets of trotting is good for their wind, and will get you very comfortable at that speed. Of course, you start and finish at the walk.
I generally start a soft horse (but has been at pasture) with 20 minutes walking, 10 minutes trotting, 20 minutes walking. Not a grazing along walk, but a forward walk.
After a week or two, depending on the horse, I'll do 20 walk, 20 trot, 20 walk.
A couple weeks of that, and it is something like 10 walk, 20 trot, 10 canter, 20 trot, 10 walk. They are getting more efficient at warming up and cooling down by then.
A maintenance program is about 10 walk, 20 trot, 20 canter, 10-20 trot, 10-20 walk. Then they are pretty fit.
I do this, with slight adjustments depending on the horse, for polo horses, horses that have grazed all winter but will be put to work for the spring/summer/fall on ranches, and horses that guys have hardly ridden and plan to take to the mountains elk hunting in the fall.
If I have a bunch, I pony two while riding a third. My youngest ponies four while riding a fifth. And we have friends that will pony six while riding a seventh.
I asked one of them, "What do you do if you have a wreck (a horse stops, leads get in the wrong place)?" They say it rarely happens (admittedly, I've not witnessed a problem), but at that point the advice is "Let go!" The horses either continue to follow the pony horse, or stop to graze, and the rider gets it all sorted out.
Have fun. Have you looked into Hunter Paces for starting out? Or going with the second field? I've not done a Hunter Pace, but they sound like fun.
^^^^as above. I would also suggest you try some hunter paces first and if possible riding on open spaces with some friends so he can get used to galloping in a group and come back to you when asked.
An out of control horse is going to be an unpopular danger out fox hunting.
If they use hounds then he also needs to know how to behave around them - I don't know what its like in the US but in the UK its a mortal sin to have a horse kick a hound.
Thanks for the advice everyone!
He's very friendly around other horses and dogs. My friend and I take our dogs out with us a lot, and he does great around them. I think we are actually doing a Hunter Pace first.
He's gotten very good at responding to commands and hasn't been running away with me at all. Bucking, rearing, running away, etc, rarely happen anymore. If he does, he knows he's got some tight circles coming his way and he's not a fan of those. :D
I do have a question about forward walking, though. Excuse me if this is the wrong place to ask - because I mostly taught myself, I know I have a lot to learn on this kind of stuff. He is EXTREMELY responsive and always ready to go. While I'm riding, I'm almost constantly reminding him to slow down and not get into a gait without me asking. I don't even have to squeeze him at all - one cluck of my tongue and he's in trot and practically begging for me to let him canter. Of course I never let him change gaits unless he's calmly collected and I ask for it, but it makes staying in a gait but going faster in it particularly difficult. Any suggestions?
^^^Can I suggest you start a new thread and ask that question as you'll get a lot more replies
I can't really answer all your primary questions, but the fact that you have so many question marks about how it's going to go suggests to me that maybe you should start with some group trail rides, then work up to hunter paces, and only then try fox hunting. I don't know if you've been to those things, but fox hunters are a rowdy bunch. They really like to go at a good clip. It takes a very confident, experienced rider and a fearless, fit horse. If you have this many questions, it sounds like it would be much much safer to start small and work up in terms of intensity.
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