We have three personal field trail horses and three for sale. My husband has been going to field trials for several years and always asks me to go. O.K. first, I can’t stand to listen to dogs bark. Second, I don’t like unorganized rides because of the potential for getting hurt. Let’s face it, at my age, and with my job, I cannot afford to get hurt. So my answer to his request has always been no. I imagined the worst in field trials, rugged terrain, horses tied up to trailers, legs wrapped up in too long lead lines, sweaty over-worked horses not taken care of, dogs yapping constantly, rude drunken people staggering around, etc. I did go for one day though and did not find any of this.
Actually, I went to the field trail in Danville, Virginia and had a pretty good time. The property was quite level with lots of open fields and completely fenced off. The dogs were mostly taken well care of and only barked occassionally, the horses were either in pens, or staked out, the people were nice and very down to earth and they had a cabin where they served a noon day meal. I was actually impressed. I can’t really tell you how a field trial is setup since I was only there for one day, and to be honest when my husband tells me, I usually tune out. But I do know they are held in braces with two dogs running at the same time. Then the dogs have their owners on horse back, each owner has a scout that is supposed to help with the dog and there are judges, then the gallery, who are people that ride behind just for the ride. I, of course, was in the gallery.
Now, I have to admit that the Tennessee Walking Horse is not my favorite choice in a mount. They are fun to ride, and if you get one that is very smooth at any gait then I have a good time riding. However, I just happen to like the three gaited horse because I like to post to the trot and use my body more when I ride. With that being said, my first ride out was on my husbands TWH mare. She is smooth at a slower gait, but when she speeds up she gets very bouncy. By the time we got done with the first brace I had such a headache I wanted to go home! Alright, he said I wasn’t riding her right and maybe he is right. She has to be set up in the bridle more to keep her smooth and I was a little nervous. Regardless, I still has a good ride. The second brace was a lot better as I rode Bossman. What a smooth ride. It was actually really cool. We rode behind the rest of the riders and he did exactly what I asked of him. Regardless of what speed we were going, he was perfect. The dogs ran well, except for my husbands puppy, (who is actually almost year old), and she ran so large that he had to hunt her down. But she loved it.
A little about training a field trial horse. They need to stand perfectly still when tacking and mounting. They need to ground tie, so you can drop the reins while the rider is handling the dog. They need to be used to gun fire. They don’t have to neck rein, but it is a real plus if they do. They need to be trained to stake out(see our stake out video on www.baymountfarm.com). It’s nice for them to know leg yields and be consistent. They need to be able to stay any where in line you put them, up front, behind, in the middle and be happy about it. Responsiveness to the bit is probably the #1 requirement in my opinion. All our horses are trained to this, but it isn’t something that happens overnight. It takes time for them to be consistent and a horse that has these qualities is well worth their weight in gold.