Tips about Hunter training for a Western trainer.
Well, I ride western 99% of the time but recently I got on my 4-H leader's horse and exercised her in an english saddle, something I havn't done in maybe four years.
The horse is a 16h paint mare and she's riden often enough to know the basics of hunter under saddle for show. She will jump willingly as well. She really does look nice and I think she could be a contender this year at the local shows if I can manage to get her reined in. My primary motivation is a desire to get back to riding english and training other people's horses, as I'm becoming a bit bored with training just my own horse and riding nothing but western. I need to keep learning and I've reached a point in my western riding where I really can't teach myself much more ( I havn't had a trainer in 3 years ), so I've decided to branch out into other disciplines and expand my personal horizons.
They want to keep showing her and after I rode her, they asked if I'd be interested in training her up a bit for the pleasure and eq classes. What she needs is more focus. She moves well but she really just goes thorugh the motions when she's ridden and I think I can change that. I was able to put her in a better frame for english pleasure but I really want to make her more sensiive to the rider's cues so that she will do exactly what the rider asks, something she has trouble with now. Mostly she just goes and turns and stops, all pretty standard but it lacks any thought, if you know what I mean. She doesn't do it because she listens to the rider, she does it because it's ingrained in her after years as a lesson mount.
Thats the biggest difficulty. The old scenario of teaching an old dog new tricks. Still, shes not really old, maybe between 8 and 10 but it's just that I'm going to have to untrain her before I can make any progress, if that makes sense.
So my question to you all is, what kinds of exercises and approaches should I take when training this horse for hunter riding. It doesn't have to be very advanced stuff, but I need a few exercises especially that I can employ to bring her around.
- Circles both directions and different sizes will help to supple her. You can also try serpentines.
- Leg yields along the wall, down the center line, and doing circles with leg yields in them will also help with suppling, but will also get her moving to your aids.
- So lots of snappy transitions.. don't let her fall into a walk, make her do a smart trot, then give a little warning that you're going to be walking, then give to cue to walk, then make her walk forwards. Make her do a marching walk, not a lazy "I'll get there.. someday" walk. When asking for a transition to the canter, make her rock back off her hindquarter and launch into the canter; a good way to go about this is getting her to stop, back up, and instead of stopping, then asking for a canter, ask for it straight from the backup... this will make her really work off the hindquarter.
- Work on lead changes.
I'll think of more later and post them... I'm hungry, dinner time.
Oh, and make sure all your gaits are true walk, trot, canter gaits - not walk, jog lope. In the trot, make sure she's tracking up properly. The canter shouldn't be quick, but shouldn't be a lope either - absolutely NO four-beating!
If you're doing HUS, make sure that when you show you keep a nice tilt to your upper body, as if you could go into your two-point at any second.
I'm assuming that you are riding her in a stock type style. JDI has some good suggestions. I would recommend riding her a lot like you would a horsemanship horse. Work on the components of the patterns and get her off the rail. Turn arounds - hind and fore, leg yields, circles, serpentines, transitions, flying changes, extend and collect your gaits. Anything but on the rail. It might fluster her for a while, but it will get her listening to you instead of going through the motions. Hope this helps.
Hey, JDI, we use true gaits in western too, and we dont 4 beat... :P
Thank you for the suggestions, I've never heard of cantering off the reverse. I'll definately use it. I'm glad you all suggested going off the rail. I was planning on doing that to get her out of her usual rhythm but I wasn't sure if it would cause her to become unruly.
How do you all feel about taking her outdoors and riding where there is no real arena? The problem I'm facing is that where she is kept, there is only a very small indoor arena for riding and it makes it difficult to perform exercises off the rail. There is a field where I could try her out, and I was planning on lunging her in there once I decided the footing was good enough. Should I try riding out there too?
As for the 4-beating, it's a bad habit that I've seen way too many WP horses fall into (and it's very hard to correct) I was just saying make sure you have a nice forward canter, not a lope.
Working outdoors will help a ton, as she won't have a wall to balance off of; she'll have to learn how to pick up the lead you want, instead of just going off the wall.
Counter-cantering is a great idea, they do ask for that here and there in patterns.
I'm not sure she will counter-counter at this point, it's one of those ingrained lesson habits of hers, but once I can get her to do it, I guess I'll know I've broken her of some of those habits. Maybe working outdoors will accelerate that process.
I have trained a few horses for both, so possibly what i have done will help.
Ground poles ground poles ground poles. Teach the horses where its legs are and have it learn how far it can move out. Teach it its limits. (I know this a sorta duh statement but i feel i need to say it). Use different cues, like trot and then extend or something. Only work english under english saddle and bridle so they understand the difference and what bit and such they should go fast or slow under.
Serpintines help alot, helps teach the horse is move out, which is basically what you want. But you don't want the horse moving over itsself. You want it to understand where its feet are and how far they can move out. Which i found ground poles work wonders when it comes to english.
But thats just me.
Absolutely ride outside of the arena - you can trail ride some and you can also make an imaginary arena that you try to stay inside of out in the pasture.
to start with the counter cantering I take a large area and start out cantering to the right in the right lead. Once they are balanced that way, I will go across a diaganol and have them counter canter 1/4 of a circle and then take them back across a diaganol to recollect them then go back to the right in the right lead. Initially I don't worry if they aren't perfectly balanced when counter cantering - just keep them moving forward and off your inside leg and when they get used to doing that them collect them afterwards, gradually adding the collection in during the counter canter.
Another thing I do with HUS horses is a lot of sitting the trot and driving them up and into the bridle. I sort of brace my hands, with just a bit of give, and keep driving them forward with my legs until they are on the bit. They should elevate their front end some without elevating their head. You should feel them fling their front feet out further with this without speeding up their cadence. Once they are really driving up into the bridle I start to post and let my hands out so they can stretch out into that bit, with the long and low fram you want in HUS.
For the canter, I do alot of hand galloping, with both my WP and HUS horses. I often go between a regular canter and a hand gallop multiple times, just to get that elasticity in their stride and moving forward.
I often will ride in a western saddle when I am training, and I switch the bits around according to what I am working them on. To me they should be able to extend out for the English gaits in a western saddle and should collect down to a WP gait in tna English saddle - the training and how you ask should dictate what you want, not just the equipment.
Best of luck!
Anyways, yes outdoors will help. Definitely. If nothing else, it will get her out of the comfort of being ridden in a ring, and you will have to focus on getting her attention on you rather than whatever's eating whatever in the woods.
Other than that, it'll help with what I mentioned before.
Let us know how your next ride goes!
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