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The hot horse

Long time lurker, first time poster. Seeking kind advise, or just a reality check.

This is my second season hunting with a very small drag hunt. The people are lovely and we have a great time. My 10 year old TB (not off the track) gelding was a saint our first year. Never a spook, W/T/C/G and stop calmly at the checks. Great with the hounds, little grumpy towards the other horses, but everyone figured out how to give him space and he was great. I could put him anywhere in the field and he would act the same.

This year we were asked to lead first field- and by field, it is literally three riders including us. It’s a tiny hunt, very very low key. The hill topper field is larger, and they want the more experienced field masters to assist with some greener riders there. I agreed, felt comfortable with my role, and for the first four hunts so did my horse.

Unfortunately he started getting more and more apped up as we did more hunts. To the point where I bowed out a few hunts ago and asked one of the other field masters to swap with me so I could drop back. He’s fine when we’re actually chasing the hounds- listens well to my aides, stops and goes as requested, soft to the bridle. But the hacking between lines he jigs, canters sideways, and overall can’t settle. As soon as he hears the horns or the hounds baying he loses his mind until I can actually send him forward. Then he listens perfectly again during the gallop, stands quietly at the check, and is a great horse…until we start hacking to the next line again.

This has been the last four hunts. I’m an experienced rider with can handle a lot of shenanigans, but to be honest this is just not making hunting fun. I love the horse, he’s a great eventer, is typically very brave and stotic, and previously seemed to really enjoy hunting.
Looking for any advice, my hunt group is great, but horse trainers they are not.

Will give the obligatory information- saddle was fit 5 weeks ago, horse is fine trailering to lessons, and schooling cross country, so assuming it is not pain related. Horse is worse in second field and then ruins everyone else’s ride too. He is typically a very mellow kick ride and frequently gets confused as QH in temperament and physical resemblance.

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I think the problem is your horse just enjoys hunting too much. He is still relatively inexperienced in only his second season and being a Field Master involves most of your mind being on the followers not your own horse. My suggestion is to allow him forward and try to tire him out on each of the next few hunts. He will then, hopefully, learn that bouncing around takes too much energy and that he needs to relax when he has the opportunity, the behaviour of a finished hunter. You’ve done childhood, now you are on an adolescent and need to work towards the adult.


When I first started hunting with a green horse, one of the masters told me it takes two years of solid hunting to know if you have a hunt horse. The first year my horse was perfect because he didn’t know what was going on. The second year he would be quaking with excitement on the trailer and the pull my arms out on the first run. The third year, he was “it’s all good.”

My advice is not to lead until you can get him settled in the field.


Try stuffing his ears like the show hunters do. Sometimes a little less aural stimulation helps.

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Excellent advice from @Willesdon and @FitToBeTied.

Also change your routine when hacking out to support what you’re trying to do in the field.

Actually practice checks when you hack out, and don’t let him move forward again until he relaxes and settles. Be prepared to have this take awhile the first time, and that he’ll fuss and wiggle and stamp. Don’t walk on again until he relaxes and stands quietly. Work up to where you’re standing at a check 3 - 4 times each hack.

If he jigs when you want him to walk, put him on the aids and do some leg yield and shoulder in. Give him a break and a long rein and if he then stays in a flat footed walked, praise. The lesson here is jigging = I’m gonna make you work harder, walking = you can relax.

Also consider doing all your moving on in the first half of your ride out, and walking all the way back in, incorporating the shoulder in and leg yield if he fusses. ETA: Allow a really long, forward walk. As long as it’s not jigging and head tossing, it’s good. Don’t micromanage the horse if a.) he’s standing quietly or b.) walking forward.


Hacking several miles to and from my boarding barn to the hunt barn on hunt days along with a few others really helped my horses’ attitudes. They were totally different after the long hack over and then hunting than they were hunting right off the trailer. We avoided the loading anxiety, the tying to the trailer anxiety and the trying to warm up quickly in a crowd anxiety.

Even after each one became sensible we continued the hacks. I really found them enjoyable and it was a nice small group of friends to be with. It didn’t hurt that they were in the hunt field with their horse buddies, either.

If hacking isn’t an option maybe find a friend to regularly trailer with and ride with so the horse has a regular companion. I was blessed to hunt regularly with family as well.


As the show hunters do, try cramming his ears. Sometimes a little less auditory stimulus is beneficial.

Maybe check for ulcers. I didn’t lead the field or anything but all of a sudden at the start of our 4th season the fairly nervous horse I have was acting way worse at hound exercise-at which he was usually not nervous and practically cantering in circles at checks when hunting started -as with your horse, once moving he was a lot better.
He had ulcers and once they were under control AND he realized he didn’t hurt anymore he is being really much quieter-standing, walking, etc. My good old retired horse died in the summer and he was alone in the pasture. So I need another horse, right? Ha. Tho I am going to get a companion of some kind for him.

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My moms horse is crazy about hunting she is calm and happy until she gets tacked up and you are know longer in control she canter all the time and jig when she is not cantering :relaxed: