The art of matching rider to a horse!

Midnight
Midnight 16hh experienced hireling

COOPER’S HILL LIVERY
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How do you match a rider you have never met with a horse that will take care of them out hunting?

The only way to answer that question is to go back to the start and how the animal was gentled into riding and jumping. That’s the key.

It takes a number of years to get a horse hunting right. Anyone who hunts knows that you can get pullers, stoppers and downright cranky horses. You know the ones, the ones that kick bite and buck. An odd buck of joy is fine, but the buck that is directed towards the riders dismount is coming from a horse that wasn’t respected and won’t give respect.
So how do we at Coopers Hill know all this about horses and their varying attitude?
Well I, James Tonery, am the son of a lifelong horseman who himself comes from a horsey family. Our family’s horse knowledge goes back centuries with working horses, carting, ploughing and training the odd local derby race horse or point to pointer. NO we never had the money to compete with the group one winners but we could compete locally. To that end we held our own and from that notoriety we were known as good people to manage and turn out a horse. We have been given awards from the Prevention of cruelty to animals and have won many rosettes at shows with ponies and horses in hand.

Down through the years the locals have brought very difficult animals to out yard for BREAKING. But we like to turn that philosophy on its head. We like to say we gentle and respect the animal and allow them the time to come to the conclusion that it is ok to accept the bit, its ok to be brushed, its no problem to have your feet lifted up to be saddled and eventually mounted. Some animals accept sooner than others simply because some trust sooner than others. The manner in which this is done determines the product or the horse you are going to mount for your days hunting.
No we are not sprout eating, peace pipe smoking tree huggers. We are as hardy as the next hunts man. But to get a horse right requires time, patients a gentle hand and respect. That’s how to get a horse on your side a horse that will give you his last effort and to even reach further down and give you what’s not there to give but will give it anyway. You all know what I mean that extra effort when it’s needed.
So a rider comes to the yard and doesn’t know any horse from Adam. They would have no confidence in the horses’ abilities. They may fear the prospect of hiring an animal that they are not used to, one that they have never laid eyes on before. How can you get the rider to overcome the fear? Well education, simply education. When a rider comes to Coopers Hill to hunt the first thing they do is go on a hack. The first hack is traversing Galway city to the beach to give the rider an idea of how well mannered and schooled the horses are in traffic. It also gives the rider time to get used to the animals nuances. It offers me an opportunity to also gauge how the rider reacts and copes with a horse they have never ridden before. The roads to the beach are busy, full of heavy, noisy traffic. There are many obstacles to pass before we arrive at the beach. Road works, traffic lights, roundabouts, bridges, trains and even an army firing range all have to be dealt with. Most people we have visiting us have only ever ridden in the safe, controlled environment of a barn, trails on a private property or show arenas. While our horses are immune to all these distractions, it is useful for me to observe the riders, & to assess how they deal with a situation they, more than likely, have never been placed into.
The next scheduled event is popping some poles in the arena. This gives me, the person hiring out the horse, the opportunity to see how the rider approaches a fence and how they cope with the jump on that particular horse. It is at this stage you make your mind up about the suitability of horse to rider. You just get a feel for it. I guess this is the art of knowing which horse suits and in your head if it does not, selecting one that will suit that particular rider. A mount of different abilities more suited to that rider may be selected, perhaps an animal with a slower movement and steadier jump. One not so poppy may suit one rider but not another. Now the riders will know they can jump on the selected animal and how the horse will behave in stressful environments.
Finally to get the rider to see what the animal can really do they are taken on a cross country course prior to their days’ hunting with over fifty fences. None of the fences are the same, from manmade to natural features, drops, water jumps, up turned boats.

By the end of this, the confidence should be through the roof for the rider. They will have successfully navigated a challenging cross country course with their hired mount. Hopefully by now the rider has bonded with the horse, trusts in its abilities and feels safe with that horse.
Next, it’s time to hunt.
So to answer your question how do we fit the hireling to the rider, by educating the rider and having the patience to have the horse right before they come. Simple really!!
All you need for the recipe to be a success is time, patience and lots of hard work.

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