Thursday, January 30, 2014

Jumpin' Jehosophats!

First off, I gotta say, this video (link is posted between photos) made my heart zing. Yes, the old Mort ridin', brush poppin', yee ha Janet of yesteryear's first reaction was, "I want to do that too!"

Then of course, reality set in. Old. Crooked. Shaky. Wrong horses. Wrong Saddle. Wrong country. Oh well.

Look at those cool horses! And the country side! And, and, the mud! Oooh, I want to run in the mud!

You get an idea where this video took me, I haven't used this many exclamation marks since my seventh grade creative writing class.

The riders are the Ballinagore Harriers from Dublin Ireland. I have watched the video a few times now and I think I'll probably watch it some more. I've got to warn you, I am not screaming "horse abuse" Not even a little.

I don't jump my horses--as in, with an eventing saddles over fences--but I jump logs, downed fences, ditches and so on when I'm out and about. I have scrambled up and down wicked hills and gullies that had my horses sliding on their hocks or sent them to their knees. So I can relate to some of this.

This is what I saw. The horses were calm, willing and forward, even the ones that biffed it. I liked their size, how sturdily built they are, and their matter of fact outlook. They were pretty too.

Their attitude seemed pretty much, "La, la la, another jump, yip!"

The refusals didn't start until after the first horse to struggle with the footing. Were the horses watching? Did the horse in trouble yell, "This footing sucks!" to the ones behind him?

The riders were a mixed lot, but one thing they had in common, confidence in the ability of their horses, which tells me they've tested it.

It seemed clear to me the footing became more treacherous with each leap. I would think the riders would see that, but it didn't appear to be so. It also seemed, the better riders jumped first, the more tentative or off balance were in the back. That's where I saw the most bit snatching and martingale leaning. The horses that weren't given their head...all struggled. Horses with an ill timed whack on the butt ... struggled. Horses with wet bags of sand on them instead of a rider...struggled.

Again, this stuff seemed to happen more, the further down the line we went. So I started to wonder, are the greenies, fearful, untalented (or God help em' all three) pushed to the back? If so, I'd be thinking about that. It means the experienced, talented, confident horses and riders get the good dirt. You know, the riders smart enough to say, "I'm not jumping that, it's churned up  into a slippy slide and a cesspool." Do they jostle to the front to avoid the wreckage caused by the unwashed masses behind them? Does a rider earn their way out of mud flung in their face through skill and experience?

I have no clue, but would like to know.

I saw horses sliding in mud, but I didn't see a lot of trauma, either mentally or physically, to any of them. Except for some mouth snatching and the death grips, which we see on every dude trail in America. It looked like their might be a few sore riders though.

What do you think? Can anybody who knows more about this than me add their thoughts?


Skittle said...

This hit my facebook feed with a whole (misspelled) rant about how terrible it was and how horrible these people were. I just didn't see it. Ya, I saw some nervous riders that maybe shouldn't have done it, but the horses all looked capable. As for dangerous, ya, maybe, but seriously, what trail ride isn't?

Jill said...

Typically the better riders and the hunt staff are at the front of the field, the bolder, faster horses make that so. When it's in pursuit of a fox (or not anymore, since that's now illegal) I'm not sure how much attention anyone pays to the back of the field (correct me if I'm wrong, back of the field hunters) but going hunting, especially in the hardcore country in Ireland, I'd say you know what you're in for. Big hedges, big ditches and a lot of mud. Sometimes there may be an easier option to a big fence or ditch but there's no guarantee.

Unfortunately riding talent doesn't always match riding confidence - as in any sport - and to some the horses are just the means to an end to a day's hunting. They may even take two or three animals out over the course of a day because the sheer amount of galloping and jumping and the distance covered is too much for one.

Tricia said...

I rode as a guest with the Hopper Hills Hunt in NY years ago and absolutely loved it! They asked the guests, and the green horses or riders to stay to the back of the pack. This was a nod of respect to the established members, as well as a safety measure. The most experienced horses and riders could set the pace, and be an example for those behind them, without having to worry about refusals happening right in front of them, or getting held up while someone schools a green horse.

mugwump said...

Wow Jill. I can't imagine riding hard enough to go through 2 or 3 horses, as in, I couldn't do it physically. It makes me feel like a wimp.

mugwump said...

That makes sense, it would certainly be incentive to up your skill level.

Becky said...

I saw this video last night, and I... I just didn't get it.

Why didn't the later riders slide down and turn to the left like that huge warmbloody horse did?

The river over there was wider, and his horse seemed to climb that bank no problem.

It made me twitchy because I really, REALLY wanted them to do it. Wouldn't it have been easier on the horse?

Also - I loved the "grab the strap!" suggestions from the riders, and the way they all laughed goodnaturedly when people fell.

"Ha,ha, ha! Whoops! Down you tumble into a crevice with 1500 pounds of thrashing animal - ha! Up you go again!"

I want to hang around riders like that again (I used to have friends like that). Have you ever noticed that riders who have no fear like that (but still have common sense) never seem to get hurt, no matter how stupid they seem? I think it's because they don't stiffen and panic when they fall, or something.

Shadow Rider said...

If you go to their Facebook page, or search them on You tube you will see a lot more fun videos. Actually doesn't seem that extreme to me, but then our trails are pretty challenging. When you go through fields you usually have to use the paths the owner prefers, that is why all the horses are going through the one spot. Part of the problem with the video you showed is that hunt horses are taught to jump ditches, so they slide down then try to leap across. I've taken my horses down much worse slopes, and we slide to the bottom, walk through the water then climb the other side. None of that back-wrenching slide-leap-fall-scramble they are doing.

Unknown said...

That video kind of reminds of one a ran across a month or so ago.
Only the one I found was filmed before any of us were even born.

In my opinion the horses in both videos are amazing athletes. Although I know of one very big named cutting horse trainer who would disagree. (we recently had a discussion on that very topic)

I do not feel qualified to comment on riding skill level, as I have no skill myself. :-)

mugwump said...

Becky - I'm not sure...but what I saw was the later horses not getting the purchase they wanted to jump, so they slid to the bottom. I didn't get the feeling the riders had much say in the matter.

Candy'sGirl said...

Foxhunting etiquette has senior members at the front of the field directly behind the field master. The newest members (and if we're following the strictest of traditions, women) ride at the back. The boldest horses go first because they are least likely to refuse a jump. Having one refuse a jump at the front is a HUGE mess and can cause major accidents.

There are usually several fields of varying degrees of ability/seniority. My hunt basically has jumpers and non-jumpers. First flight is everyone who plans to take every single jump that day. The hilltoppers take the same course, but don't jump everything. Some jump nothing at all.

As far as taking different paths than the staff led you through? Its sometimes not an option depending what fixture you're on. The land owners may have issued specific instructions to the staff as to who is allowed to be where. Generally you want the field to stay as close together as possible. Staff may spread out more with the hounds, but for the most part you don't want everyone picking their own way and tearing up the landowners' property. Its hard enough to get permission to ride on properties, everyone has to be respectful.

Half Dozen Farm said...

Yeah, I'm with you Mugs. I don't see any signs of "abuse" (for crying out loud, abuse-screamers, can we ride at ALL?).

I loved watching the first half of the ditch crossing, good riders on good horses - no rein grabbing/mouth gaping in sight. The last half was more nail-biting with obviously less experienced riders.

But nothing wrong with any of it, in my humble opinion.

Jill said...

Me either. It's an all day thing. All that jumping and mud and probably water and stopping and starting and cold and all in an English saddle.

You've got to really want to catch that imaginary fox/absolutely adore leaping over massive hedges and ditches. Bloody good for them :)

If you like that, check out the sport of team chasing. Like hunting, but making a speed competition out of it.

Wish I had the guts for that.

Anonymous said...

You know what stood out to me in this vid? All of the legs looked like they could handle the scrambling. Nice minded horses with good bone- I enjoyed it and would jump at the chance to try it.
To me, they all looked like they were saying "I'll give it a shot!"

Beckz said...

Hunting is the most amazing fun exhilarating thing you can do on a horse I think. The sound of the hounds giving tongue as you thunder over the countryside, boldly taking on whatever crosses your path in partnership with your horse. Hunting isn't and nor should it be a sport for the cowardly. But yea it's super fun. The weaker members come at the back of the hunt because its poor form to hold up the stronger riders especially on a run.

mugwump said...

It makes sense, the order of the group, the stronger horses will pull the weaker along...riders included. I still maintain my drive to improve would come from wanting to get ahead of the slung mud...and the good dirt.

Anonymous said...

Agree with prior posters, no signs of abuse, all willing, well-trained, and athletic animals. Amazing: guy turns to whack the horse on takeoff, putting himself in the least balanced position, does not succeed (surprise!) then keeps nudging horse's sides with every stride. Spoke to me of someone who needs to be in control, instead of trusting the animal to do his job. Then says to the next rider who finds himself in the bottom of the ditch "I know the way!". Um, fairly sure your HORSE showed you the way.

Francis said...

Geesh I am so glad you brought this up, I was beginning to think I was crazy.. this video exploded on my FB feed with hundred of comments about abuse and how horrid this was.. here and there you got a quiet voice that said they hunted and it wasn't a bad thing but nothing from other riders, it seemed that everyone else thought this was horrid.. just glad to see I wasn't the only non hunter who thought it was pretty cool.

...and this "Horses with wet bags of sand on them instead of a rider...struggled." made me laugh, loudly

Whywudyabreedit said...

OMG, I saw this too on Facebook! Mostly I was SO impressed with how calm and willing most of those horses were to do what was being asked of them. I have sure seen a lot of horses that likely would have refused that request. I was tempted to send in the video as a "next clinic obstacle" suggestion!

Anonymous said...

One of my FB friends who has toyed around in "extreme cowboy" competitions posted this on her FB with the comment "OMG, how stupid!"

Um, no. Not stupid. Willing horses, brave riders, and I LOVED the draftier-looking horse in the middle who looked at the bank and went...uhh, I got a better way.

Everything I've ever read about hunting indicates you are prepared to jump big, fall behind looking for simpler ways around, or go home.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the feed back guys, this video seems to have gotten more attention abroad in the US and England than it ever did here in Ireland, as one of the members of this hunt it's great to hear people with common sense discussing it, as opposed to people that clear have little or no knowledge about hunting and that horses that are used in it.
A fantastic day was had

mugwump said...

Common sense abounds around here, anon, drop in any time...

Anonymous said...

My personal thoughts on this... Is it abuse or anything close to it? No, the horses that were ridden well tackled the obstacle calmly even with the crappy ground and the only ones that looked worried were those near the back with the unsure riders (probably those hovering and having time to maybe start regretting their decision not to seek out a gate?) That said it's not something I would choose to do with my own horse (even if I had a horse capable of this and was confident enough myself to take on something like that) as it just looks like a good recipe for potential broken legs if the horse misjudges it or stumbles on landing, not helped by the boggy ground obviously (but hey it's Ireland, it's winter, I get that) and I'm more or less a walking advertisement for Murphy's Law (If something can go wrong it will and it will happen to me!).

So yeah to sum up I don't think it's cruel but I do think it's taking a bigger risk if things go wrong that needs be

Joyce Reynolds-Ward said...

I would not do this with my horse...but she's not bred for it or built for it. Little Mocha would take one look at that ditch, spin, and go find an easier way. But she's a reiner. And, given her crappy feet and fine-boned legs, no freakin' way.

But a nice Irish Sport Horse or Irish Draught, heavy-boned, bred and trained to do stuff like that? Hoo yeah, I'd do it in a heartbeat with the right horse. That's the key...the right horse.

Either Margaret Cabell Self or Mary O'Hara has a funny story about hunting in Ireland--I think it's Mary O'Hara, actually. She was on a book tour, they took her out on a hunt, put her on a wide old horse in a sidesaddle, and she just went along for the ride.

(Watching this video also made me appreciate the hunting sequences in Anthony Trollope's novels. Gotta admire a man who could manage to write as many books as he did while maintaining a Day Jobbe and a string of foxhunters.)

Jan Blawat said...

People who have never done any serious trail riding might not understand that some horses just really love this kind of stuff. My favorite trail horses would have found their way across without jumping, but I did have a very athletic mare who was always eager to jump anything. I didn't ride her much, she scared the heck out of me. But I would have loved being the kind of rider who could just stay with her and ride like the wind. These days it gets my adrenalin flowing just watching clips of others.

Ozhorse said...

Great vid, going through that ditch looks like a lot of fun and a challenge. You’d feel good about yourself and your horse after doing that. The horses were nearly all calm as anything.

I did a few seasons hunting with a hunt club in Australia. At first I went to go on an interesting ride, later because I got to like the hunting, which I had never done before. I found a lot to like. Generally the horses love it, it’s a herd thing.

We did not jump much because its all barbed wire fences here but it was great cross country riding on some beautiful private property you would never get a chance to see otherwise. I had a good cross country horse who did like jumping and I could keep right up with the hounds when they were on a fox. I am told that one does not often get to see the hunt action up close in the big English hunts. We saw some fabulous riding by the hunt staff – Man from Snowy River eat your heart out

• Hunting to hounds is very beautiful, the countryside in the early hours of the morning, the hounds, the horses and the riders all dressed up for an occasion, very picturesque.
• A formal occasion – like going to a horse show AND a party all rolled into one. I love the dressing up and the rules of etiquette and formality as it gives structure.
• It is a blast – then we all go for a great bush bash and get nice and filthy.
• It is catered – start the day with a sherry, then meet again mid morning in the bush for sherry or tea and biscuits, maybe more sherry later. Perhaps this is why the riders were relaxed.
• Hunting has its own fascination that I think is built into human nature. At first I thought drag hunts would be best, but having done the real thing I don’t think so any more … but I wont go any further as it is controversial.
• Socialising with the hunt fraternity who become friends is nice, we have a BBQ after the hunt and each year we had “Hunt Week” and all camped on a beautiful property and had a whole week of hunting.
• Challenging it is also for the riding but also for other things. For example; having to learn how to tack your own shoe back on because if you don’t you will miss out on the rest of hunt week.
• Then there is the horsaii stuff about togetherness with your mount, flat chat across country with a focus and the horse loves it. Mugs you describe that better than me.

Hunting to hounds is good for otherwise bored horses. I was also showing club level reining at the time and I remember having a bored lip drooping old horse one day, and a completely different supercharger who could slap my butt with the cantle of the saddle from the amount of collection and impulsion he had the next day. ( I don’t recommend hunting in reining sliders but I did it).

I think I miss hunting to hounds. That is probably why I have all our clothes still packed in the cupboard and English saddles down the back of the tack shed despite there being no hunts where I live now.

PS The hounds are great and imagine the work of keeping a pack of 40 or more dogs that have to be trained to be taken out together and hunted in a reliable way on farmers land.

Oh, and one lady hunted sidesaddle regularly.

Helen said...

Mugs I thought you might enjoy this - and if you ever come to Australia it might help you understand the accent :D
What do you think of the trainer?

FlyinOnTime said...

I think this looks like fun, but no way would I try it in an English saddle!

Ok, here is my unrelated training question I've been putting off asking. I'll try to keep it short. I've been using the methods you described to slow down a hot horse- changing direction, circling, etc to slow down in response to leg aids without ever pulling back. This is working wonders in just 3-4 rides, because I'm just trying to get my horse to be less responsive to forward leg cues. I am always amazed that I can learn so much from you just from reading a blog post. My question is, when (if ever) do you transition the horse to responding to a pull back with both reins? I am trying to sell this horse. I want to find a rider that meshes well with her, but I feel like she needs to be able to respond to a normal pull back (along with seat aids) as a cue to slow down. Am I way off base with that?

Bif said...

Ehhh... I don't like that ditch. I hate seeing horses have to spike in to a landing face, and so many of them had to scramble up from on their knees, usually with the rider not getting up out of the way.

That said, I loved most of those horses, they know their job, and it is all in the day of hunting.

I'd have mane loose, not braided. And the horse would have a LOT less by the time we got back! ;-)

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