How to Make Your Hunter More Supple

exercises to make your hunter horse more soft and supple
  • User AvatarJulie Winkel
  • 21 Mar, 2017
  • 3 Mins Read

How to Make Your Hunter More Supple

Featured Image Credit (CC): Sheri on Flickr

Submitted by member: Karla

I would like some ideas on collecting and suppling a hunter.  Lateral flexing for loosening up the neck. The best way to engage the hind end to avoid the horse getting strung out and heavy. How much rein contact one should use? Do you recommend special bits for training purposes to keeping a horse “light” in his front end? Thanks!

Answer by Julie Winkel

Hunters need flatwork to be educated, elastic and supple—just as any other horse in any other discipline. The basis for suppling a horse laterally is to make them straighter. Lateral exercises include shoulder-in, haunches-in, bending, as well as leg-yielding. These movements should not be drilled into a horse, but used in regular flatwork to warm up and school your hunter before jumping or competing. The reason it is so important to have a straight horse is because you want your horse to leave the ground with an even push from behind for optimum quality and scope. So flatwork and lateral exercises are key.

Equally as important are longitudinal exercises for educating a horse. The hunter must be able to open and close his stride without sacrificing balance. This flatwork consists of shortening the stride without losing impulsion, as well as lengthening the stride without falling on the forehand. A light forehand IS NOT achieved with harsher bits! It’s all about the rider learning to create a better balance through use of the legs. Make sure you use your seat and leg to close the back door as well as the side doors before going to your hands when asking your hunter to collect his stride. Be sure to soften the contact but not abandon the horse’s mouth when asking for a lengthening of stride.

Hunters should be shown both under saddle and over fences on light contact. Your hunter should carry himself in a natural, uphill balance, looking through the bridle with his nose carried in front of the vertical.

The more educated your horse is on the flat, the more invisible your aids can be while hunting around a course with effortless style. Good luck and I hope I answered your questions!

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