Starting a hunter?

Hi friends! I mean for my OTTB to become a solid little (lol he’s 17hh) hunter. He’s been out in the field before, and has handled the hounds and field beautifully. At home, we’re working on getting started over fences have a year of heavy flatwork focused on letting him down from the track well.

My weird(ish) question – next year I will be moving the area I’m currently in and moving across the country. I’m moving in the winter and going from a hot, dry environment to the midwest. I’d like to wait some time for my OTTB to be shipped up given the huge temperature and environmental difference, but still would love for him to be kept in a work.

I know that this is a year from now, but I’m just trying to think ahead.

Are there fox hunting focused trainers who would take a horse for 3-4 months to get them really comfortable in a hunt environment? Just generally speaking curious how others have gotten their horses going in the field (which takes lots of time, I know) if they’re not necessarily experts themselves.

Yes, there are absolutely professionals who will give your horse an introduction to hunting, but bear in mind, that it will likely be expensive as it is time intensive.

Also, the best time to so is late August - October, starting with hound walking and then cubbing. Tough to take a green horse out mid-season, easier to start out taking them cubbing when the meets are generally shorter.

The things that are usually stumbling blocks for green field hunters are standing at checks, moving on in a large group and the hounds.

You can work on the first two on your own. When you hack out, practice hunting skills. Lead and go behind. Move away from the group, and then stand and have the group move away from you. Practice passing safely. Insist on safe following distances. Practice standing quietly several times during a hack. Gallop and hold hard.

If your horse can handle all of that, actually hunting will be an easier step up.

I’ll disagree with McGurk on best time to start prepping. I think it is right after the previous season ends. The hunts in Virginia start doing trail rides in late April/early May. They are perfect for getting a horse comfortable with the large groups. Some will offer a couple of fields even or at least provide some optional jumping with the group.

Some, but not all hunts, will allow riders to come up when hounds are being walked or roaded. If you can get in on that it allows you to be around hounds but not in the middle of the action. Typically the hunts start doing that in July/August.

We’re lucky that we have several dogs at home which are hound types. They will hack out with us and the new horses get used to them being around and close by. If you can find some folks that trail ride with hounds that is a good way to go also.

The hunts also run hunting clinics to get people used to hunting and learning the rules of the road. It will help with the introduction to a local hunt to attend that.

Finally, when you do go out, start with the slowest field first. Let them get used to the environment. If your horse gets anxious or won’t stand, don’t just circle them. That tends to wind the rubber band so to speak. Do things that make them focus on you (eg., figure 8’s, change of direction, leg yields, etc.). Space out out your hunts and do some lessons or other things in between.

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Interesting point re: spring trail rides. If I were bringing the horse along myself, yes, that’s exactly what I’d do. But if I was paying training board to have a pro introduce my horse to hunting, I would send the horse right before the beginning of cubbing to hound walk for a week or so, then go cubbing.

I wouldn’t want to pay training board to do the spring and summer stuff as I could do that as well on my own.

But I’m in 100% agreement with the rest of your post.