Hunter Myths – Trail Riding
It should be no shock to ya’ll that I think us hunter/jumper folks tend to get a bit of a bad rep. I use the term “hunter princess” in this blog pretty tongue in cheek, because the good hunter/jumper riders I know are far from princesses. They work hard, and they take excellent care of their horses.
Something I’ve heard before from riders who show in other disciplines is that hunter/jumper riders never get out of the ring or that a hunter show horse could never be a field hunter. While I know there are exceptions, most h/j riders I know looooooooove to get out of the ring and hack in the field.
Just because we don’t gallop around cross country as part of our discipline, doesn’t mean our horses are fire breathing monsters who can’t go on a trail ride 🙂 In fact, the reason I thought to write this post in the first place is from all the WEF pictures I’m seeing on Instagram. I’ve blogged before about Grand Prix Village and the bridlepaths throughout Wellington, and lately I see so many “ear pictures” of people trail riding to and from the horse show.
Tons of people warm up/cool down to and from the show or use the bridlepaths as a trail ride for their daily hack. With bikes, golf carts, and tons of activity… how is that much different than trail riding? Sure there are no massive cliffs or rocky paths, but you can’t deny this is very “out of the ring”.
Where do you fall in this argument?
20 thoughts on “Hunter Myths – Trail Riding”
When I cool down at the end of my lessons, I often ride on a path that runs next to the arena and loops around the barn and the paddock next to it. People can ride outside of the arena without riding through forests, climbing hills, and hopping over fallen logs, which is what many people think of when they hear the phrase “trail ride.”
I know I am an eventer, and LOVE cross country jumping, but I am a nervous nelly on the trails! I used to run around the country bareback by myself, but after I got a concussion in a nasty fall, I lost a lot of confidence. Pair that with two horses that either fed off my anxiety or were the type to look for any reason to spook, and trail riding became more of a chore than a past time. Foster is very well behaved when I have tried it with him, but finding someone to go with is difficult (and I now do not trail ride by myself bc of said concussion). Anyways, put me on the trail by myself and I’m a wreck, give me a job out in the wide open spaces of XC fields, and I’m in heaven!
PS those instagram shots are AMAZING.. drooling over those hedge rows!
Is it sad that I just went & followed those people on instagram so I can see pretty WEF photos haha
I really dont have any trails to ride on, but I’ll walk around our big back field sometimes. I love trail rides :]
Not sad! I follow a bunch of people on instagram for that very reason 🙂
Who doesn’t love a good hack! 🙂
Who doesn’t like to get out of the ring? I realize there are people with fear issues but I think the majority of riders find the relaxation of a good trail ride/hack/bridle path/whatever you want to call it to be very beneficial for both horse and rider.
I think there’s a bit of a difference between going on a trail ride – where there are rocks and logs and stream crossings and iffy footing – and going for a hack on flat, well-groomed bridle paths. I’m not knocking the hack – I’d be thrilled to ride on bridle paths like the ones at WEG! – but I’m just saying they’re different.
I’m on the side of JEALOUS. Sure, galloping through the snow has its lovely moments, but damn do those bridlepaths look BEAUTIFUL!
I tend to disbelieve a lot of the myth around disciplines. I’ve seen stuck-up-and-unbearable eventers, sweet down-to-earth dressage riders, and bravely adventurous h/j riders. I will say, of all of them, the older ammy dressage crowd seems the least likely to hoof it out of the ring. I’m not pointing any fingers, those ladies are usually the ones I enjoy having a glass of wine with at a show. If going for a trail ride isn’t your thing, it doesn’t have to be. Just don’t be ruled by fear!
I definitely think the “never get out of the ring” stereotype is exaggerated, and I wasn’t even aware of said stereotype till about 4 years ago… however with my experience the stereotype was kind of true. I moved my fat cow horse to a barn that was primarily a Hunter/Big Eq facility despite not riding either of those disciplines. One day I went out to hack around the turnout fields and was joined by one of the biggest eq. riders at the barn (the girl went on to win the NE medal as a junior that year). I was absolutely stunned that she was a BALL OF NERVES the whole time and my horse and I practically had to babysit. The girl jumped things larger than my horse for crying out loud!! Of course I know not all hunter/jumpers are like that, it was just a funny experience and my first introduction to that “stereotype”.
I’m with JenJ on this one. I think there’s a huge difference between “hacking” and “trail riding”. Trail riding involves terrain. Hacking involves well-groomed, flat bridle paths. Having never been in a huge h/j show barn, I can’t comment on the regularity at which hunter princesses do either.
If I had more time, it would be fun. BUT given limited time to ride as it is, I just don’t have the patience for dealing with crazy horse on trail or acclimating my horse to trail riding. As a kid, it is all that I did. It WAS my arena because I didn’t have one…practicing bending, dressage, transitions.
But I AM a princess 😛
Very cool idea to share instagram pictures! I don’t follow nearly enough people for that to work haha.
Loved seeing those WEF bridle paths! It’s funny – totally recognized them from having been there in person! Thanks for sharing!
Having hacked on manicured paths like that in South FL, and now having had to put my mare through a good 6 months of solid trail work here in MD to really get her used to crossing water, going through mud, getting used to deer, fallen trees, large boulders, weird-looking footing, going up and down steep hills…I have to agree with Carly and JenJ. It’s one thing to hack on a bridle path, it’s another to really go off the beaten path onto real trails; I wouldn’t have known there was such a big difference if we hadn’t moved here. Honestly, I don’t blame those people who don’t want to deal with the stress of getting their horse acclimated to being ridden outside of the arena. It is good for the horse to work on the trails, yes; you’ll have a more athletic and probably calmer horse overall in the end. But if you have a spooky horse, it can be a nerve-wracking chore to get that horse used to going out, and it takes time to get them to the point where they’re not afraid anymore. And that’s if you have trail access to begin with.
That said, I do know of a fairly successful endurance rider here in the NE Mid-Atlantic whom they call The Hunter Princess! Her horse is a total boss on the real trails. 🙂
I rode more trail, and fields keeping show jumpers fit than I ever did in any western barn. A huge factor in that was that the horses needed to know how to handle them selves on grass, and all those perfectly spaced out paddocks and pastures mean that there are miles of ‘trails’ that are well maintained between all of the fence lines.
*I* love to get out of the ring, but my mare is a nervous puddle on the trail. We have yet to have a successful trip, no matter who is riding or what buddies we have with us. 🙁 My next horse WILL hack out, I swear.
I love those bridle path compounds/neighborhoods/places. I think it’s very cool that you can just hack out to wherever you’re going on horseback. I also think it’s a wild over-simplification for some people to just assume that because you do a certain discipline that you never get out on a trail ride. In fact, there’s an eventer around where I live and he actually rarely, if ever, even turns his horses out, let alone takes them on a trail ride. They usually only see the outside of the ring when they’re doing cross-country. Which is kind of the opposite of what people think of hunters. Everyone does things differently. To each their own.
Love this question and the WEF photos! Personally I fall into the nervous nelly category on trails. I’ve just never really “done” trails- more like walk around the property to cool out. I like the safety of my ring! At the new barn we do have trails- real trails with a hill and a sign that says watch out for mountain lions. I love going up as a group- it really is good for the horses. And even through I was a nervous wreck I have taken both Wilbur and Polly on the trail my myself (with my cell just in case). Still trying to work on my nerves but proud to have done it!
I’ve been a hunter jumper rider for more years than I’d like to say and have never considered myself a princess. I do remember being at shows in freezing snowy icy weather and screwing studs into shoes, carrying water buckets, grooming, braiding etc.
That said part of my horses fitness training includes trails, going up and down hills and field work. After a lesson in the arena we usually take them for a walk around the property to chill out.
At my hunter/jumper barn the trails have become a big part of the program. Both for conditioning reasons, and for the fact too much indoor work, or ring work, can fry even the best horses brain. I can’t wait for the weather to be better so we can use more of our property for this very reason!