Keeping up PSA and arranging the field

Yesterday while out hunting my horse and I got whiplashed terribly all hunt long. So this is a PSA about keeping up in the hunt field. I think this is a problem in every hunt.

Properly keeping up in the hunt field means you are one horse length from the horse in front of you. Keeping up does not mean you can see the field in front of you. If the field is walking and you keep trotting up then you are not keeping up. If the field is trotting and you keep cantering up then you are need keeping up. Why is this an issue? Because you are making life miserable for the horses and riders behind you. A horse that does not keep up is a training issue. Train your horse to keep up as a kindness to other riders in the field. It’s not hard to do. I have a young horse that would prefer just to lag behind. I work with him every time he hacks out in company. He’s learned. Any horse can learn to keep up. If your horse can’t keep up then he should be at the back of the field regardless of whether you have colors or not.

The other thing that seems to be problematic around the hunts are people who are trying to arrange the field. The “my horse has to ride with this horse”, “I need to be behind this horse”, “my horse doesn’t like horses close behind (as they are riding in the middle of the field)” This means you end up with problematic “special” horses in the middle of the field. Again, if you horse is “special” put him in the back of the field and be courteous and considerate of the other members or guests who are out hunting.

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Interesting…until a few years ago I rode “in the master’s pocket” most hunts. I got older, horse got older, master got younger and bolder. Now I usually ride last so I can pick my jumps and catch horses who separate from riders. My age and years of club membership allow me to ride where I please in the field and I like the back where I can watch everything and everyone. To ur comment on whip lash, spacing, etc. I haven’t been troubled by that. Occasionally someone will ask to ride with me or behind me as I have a very steady, quiet horse who jumps every thing. I have only pulled rank once in the past few years when someone’s guests would not be quite and rode me off a fence while schooling a horse (not done). However as a member, I would have no problem asking someone to keep up please, or suggest the riders with horses that must be together ride behind me. You could share ur concerns with the field master.

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I may be guilty of this one. I greatly prefer to ride with my barn mates, as I trust them and their horse’s training. So I have asked to stay with them, but it’s not because the horses have “special” needs and it’s not always the middle of the field. If someone tries to move ahead of me, I just say that I’d like to stay with my barn mates, but the person whose trying to move up is welcome to move ahead of all of us.

I have much more of a problem with people not training their horses to respect safe following distances and tailgating/running up on my horse’s butt than I do with not keeping up/rubber banding as you describe. I am hunting an older horse in his first season hunting, but he is a calm, sensible sort and people assume that he’ll tolerate being run up on.

I have done the comedy sketch of “Please go in front of me.” “Oh, no, I prefer to stay in the back (and use your horse as a bumper car.)” “Oh, I insist, please go ahead.” “After you.” “No, after you.” “Oh, look, the field is leaving.”

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No way to put this tactfully, so here I go. Not all members are good riders. Not all members ride at all other than on hunts. They are tolerated and valued due to social standing and hierarchy within the hunt. Just accept it and vent here if it helps. You can’t train their horses for them.

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Unless you are Master/Fieldmaster - don’t lecture the participants.

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A bit like people tailgating in a car, they have no idea how close they are. Knowing how far you are from the horse in front is a skill like any other. It isn’t often taught.

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At any speed more than a walk where I hunted that would have been considered being up someone’s rear. Horses trip, step in holes, spook, stop at fences, etc. People were expected to keep up but maintain a distance that allowed for the next person to safely adjust if calamity occurred ahead.

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I was taught one length between horses at walk, two at trot, three at canter/gallop. But a three length opening in front of you was perceived by many in my hunt as you not being able to keep up with the field.

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As someone with a fleet of OTTBs, if you are leaving a gap between you and the rest of the field, I will kindly offer to fill it with myself! If you can’t keep up, at least keep to the back. I do get that some more short strided horses need to do the ‘catch up trot’, again, keep yourself in the back so you aren’t creating a whiplash effect for others.

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I heard a great story from a West Coast jumper pro visiting the East Coast. Joined a hunt as a visitor on a borrowed horse and was unnerved by the varied abilities of the field. Rode up to a pair of riders who seemed safe and competent to ask if she could stick with them and realized it was David and Karen O’Connor.

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Well stated OP. A Field need not be spread out.

I’m a field master and remind, as needed, that we go in order of seniority/colors in the field and that a senior member may tell you to ride ahead of them. Many, many days we are quite blended and it’s wonderful because people are comfortable where they are riding.

Horse Kicking with contact being made to horse and/or rider was a issue early this year. Really weird- it’s been a mixture of veteran and new horses striking out. We’ve been reminding riders of the importance of space between each other.

And lastly, a walk/trot field developed this year. It is made of a few new members and outstanding long time members who’s mind, body or horse needs a slower pace for the day. We cherish this field and our Masters who were happy to say “Let’s do this!”.

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I’m going to zip up my flame suit here:

Keeping up is keeping up, no matter the gait.

If your problem is that the short strided horse in front of you canters to keep up and that affects your horse, well, then, YOU have a problem. A well mannered hunting horse should stay in a forward road trot until its rider indicates it’s time to break gait. If your horse breaks gait without you asking, you have a training problem.

You can only ride the horse you’re sitting on, you can’t control the other horses around you.

That said, if the hounds are running and there’s six lengths between you and the horse in front of you, yeah, I’m probably passing you to ensure I don’t lose the field master or the hounds.

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I won’t disagree with that but the issue being discussed here is when people don’t keep up and constantly surge forward only to fall behind again. That creates a whiplash.

I’ll admit when the hunt is moving along a good trot that I’ll nudge my horse into a small canter. It’s just a lot easier on my back but I’m not doing it to catch up. If there is a small horse/pony in front of me at it is cantering and keeping up that’s fine by me as my horse will either trot along or use his small canter.

As you said keeping up is keeping up.

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All this largely depends on the country you are crossing, your horse, and your field master. If you have a problem, go to the back or go home.

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I am also a field master. Firstly, if you are unhappy with a recurring problem in your field, speak with your fieldmaster. I always try to asses who is riding with me on a given day and I know what adjustments in riding order are likely to be needed. I have many senior members who are very gracious about cedeing their right to ride behind me if it makes for a more harmonious day for all. We have a huge variation in age, experience and abilities of both horses and riders. My goal every hunt is to to show my field good sport, maybe provide a bit of a thrill, but ultimately have everyone return to the trailers on top of their horses with a smile on their face.

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hahaha! love it!

I was out with a different hunt the other day. As we started out there were several riders nearer the front that kept falling behind. They kept looking around and then headed to the back of the field. One even made the comment “I don’t think I am in the right spot.”

The other interesting thing was my OTTB was behind a pony. The rider on the pony rode very consistently. At a walk she would fall behind but then didn’t trot to catch up. She waited until the field picked up the trot and then she gained the ground back. At times we all would be trotting and the pony cantered. When we got on a hot run she slid the pony over and waved us on. She never caused any whiplash in the field and was very nice to ride behind.

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That’s it in a nutshell. Riding your horse in the field correctly is a learned skill and takes sustained effort, specifically paying attention and making your horse listen to you rather than reacting to the herd. A lot of people go into “passenger mode” when riding in a group and let their horse handle things for them. The result is the horse travels at whatever speed it finds comfortable and periodically rushes to catch up, resulting in whiplash for everyone behind.

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Years ago when I hunted, there was a particular horse with this issue. He could not keep up. He would either cantor and very occasionally gallop. Where most horses would be walking, he would need to cantor in order to keep up. When they started hunting, rider used my horse as a bumper.

Rider ended up becoming Master of the hunt with this horse. I quit the hunt.

Very refreshing to read your description of this type of horse. I agree with you it needs training. Add to this, it may not be best suited to field hunting.

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I just really appreciate a post in this section that is really pertinent. I hate being on the end of the whiplash. My mare has a fast trot and it is a challenge for us to rate when she wants to surge forward and crowd the horse in front of her. We deal with it just fine, but yeah, I feel ya.

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