Leasing out horse to gain foxhunting experience

Disclaimer: I’ve never foxhunted and am straying over from the Dressage & Eventing boards.

I have a young horse who I think would love foxhunting. I have always wanted to foxhunt but never had the access or horse to do it with previously. I’ve had my young horse for 2-3 years now and have spent that time putting a solid base of trail riding, hunter pacing, XC schooling, and low-level dressage.

This was going to be our debut season at foxhunting. I’ve never done it, she’s never done it, so it was going to be a learning experience together. However she is a rockstar trail horse, an incredibly bold XC horse, and has a fabulous brain about chaos around her. I just feel like she would rock as a foxhunter and probably love it.

I’m now going through IVF and hope to be pregnant imminently…so a foxhunting season is likely out of the cards. I’m trying to figure out what to do with my horse while I’m pregnant. We have a few hunts in the area - with the closest being only 15 min down the road from current barn (although they hunt all over). Others are more like 1-2 hours drive.

Would there be appetite among hunt riders to do a season lease (or longer) on a horse that’s never hunted? Or if I wanted her to get that exposure would I need to be paying someone to ride her in hunts? I’d love her to still get out for the season, even if I can’t, but no idea if that’s a thing in the foxhunting world or how to even starting finding an opportunity aside from emailing a couple hunt organizations.

People typically pay someone to hunt their green hunter. I’ll be interested to read the answers.

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Ask for suggestions from your most local hunt. I’m sure they will have ideas and will be friendly and helpful.

xeroxchick pretty much nailed it.

I am an experienced foxhunter. I had a lovely green horse that ticked all the boxes and had a great brain. I am also old, overweight and don’t bounce.

I paid a pro to hunt him for a month and then give him a tune up/manners reminder mid season.

BTW, just an FYI, “incredibly bold XC horse” is not necessarily a recommendation for a fieldhunter. The most important gait for a fieldhunter is the halt; there’s a lot more standing at checks than there is galloping. There are two things that overstimulate a new field hunter. One is the hounds, noise and commotion. The other is moving on in company.

How would your horse handle a gallop in close quarters with other horses, followed by an abrupt stop, followed by waiting in line to pop over a fence and gallop away?

All this stuff can be introduced and taught, but throwing it all at the horse at once is not a recipe for success.

So I think your two alternatives are 1.) pay someone to enter her as a field hunter or 2.) find a pony clubber who would lease the horse to both event and foxhunt. Option 2 is going to be tough - I would check in with both the area Pony Clubs and the area hunts and see if there’s a sensible, good riding kid who needs a horse.

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Thanks for the reply, this is very helpful.

I should clarify that by bold XC horse I don’t mean hard charging or difficult to rate. I event her in a snaffle and when we school she’s happy to jump her jumps then snooze until it’s her turn. By bold I mean quite brave about giving new jumps, questions, and terrain a go without anxiety or nervousness. She’s very much a “ok mom, let’s give this a go”.

She’s great with my dog ripping through the woods and popping out unexpectedly but I’m sure would have some apprehension at first about a pack of hounds, so would likely take a couple outings to figure out they are as uninterested in her as my dog is.

In terms of other horses, the most we’ve done is hunter paced and trail ridden with 2 other friends. She was totally fine about cantering all together, but 2 horses she knows is very different than a field of strangers.

I definitely think she’ll need some time to figure out what’s being asked / expected of her, but she’s the first horse I’ve had who I think has the brain, emotional stability, and potential to enjoy foxhunting and I think she’d figure it out super quickly.

I’ll ask at our local hunt if they have ideas or suggestions!

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Sounds like a plan! She does sound like a very nice horse with good potential for making a field hunter.

And good like with IVF and your pregnancy!

It may be helpful to consider foxhunting a separate discipline with its own discipline specific skills, like for instance, dressage or hunters. If it would be difficult to find a lease for your nice, sane, well started event horse that would train her to 1st or 2nd level dressage or to pin well in the local hunters, you should anticipate the same level of difficulty finding a lease to introduce her to foxhunting.

I will allow that many more people take insufficiently trained/unsuitable horses out hunting than they do to dressage or hunter shows, but that doesn’t make it a good idea. There is also a risk that someone who is leasing your horse to hunt will make their staying up with first flight/staying out until the hounds go in a priority, rather than training your horse in a sane and structured fashion.

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I’d add another one. How does your horse react if another horse runs into him from behind?

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It’s been some years since I’ve ridden field hunters. But FWIW, IME horses green to hunting were ridden by 1) their brave and capable owner 2) a well paid pro 3) the owner’s regular exercise rider.

This was my experience as an exercise rider at a private farm near Tryon.

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Excellent point!

It could be a a “win-win” if you could find a capable Pony Club member who wanted to hunt but lacked a horse.

The last “never hunted” horse I bought was hunted the first time by a most capable 13 year old Pony Club member I hired so I could evaluate the mare.

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It is really difficult to predict which horses will hunt well and which ones won’t. While on the whole fox hunting can be a great thing to add to a horse’s resume, I’ve also seen horses really decompensate in the hunt field and get quite frazzled and strong.

Even for horses that do well, it typically takes multiple seasons to develop a hunt horse. I think if your want your horse to get started in the hunt field you should optimally pay someone to hunt her for you.

Training a horse to be a good hunt horse is as much of a project as training a horse in any other discipline and I would handle it as such–choose any rider/trainer with care and supervise the situation responsibly.

I would not ask a junior rider to take a horse out hunting that has never hunted before–hunting an inexperienced horse can be a very unpredictable situation.

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I feel like the junior remark was for me. Couple things to add: the junior rider evented and showed dressage. Now, at age 23, she is training/riding full time with a nationally ranked dressage farm. She was quite capable.

Second, I was on my other my horse right beside her. While it was the mares first hunt, she was 15 years old with years of trail riding under her girth. Terrain wasn’t going to be an issue, the atmosphere might be. The kids Mom was the Pony Club leader and a very astute horse owner.

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@SLW yes, in your situation having the junior ride sounds quite reasonable. You quite wisely had many factors stacked in favor of a pleasant and successful day–an experienced junior, a mature horse with a lot of trail experience, and an experienced chaperone/owner of the horse riding right along with. It’s just that it is hard to replicate all of that.

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