People think I’m crazy when I tell them I foxhunt my event horse, but it’s been the very best thing for him as he grows into himself and learns where his feet are. Hunting has made him braver, sharper, more focused. Plus, if a horse can foxhunt first flight, they have no excuse to be afraid of anything they encounter on a manicured cross country course.
Don’t take my word for it. Following the Virginia Horse Trials last weekend, Boyd Martin said he was looking forward to spending some time riding with the Cheshire Foxhounds near his home base in Pennsylvania this winter.
“The warmblood-y ones that are foreign to the cross country go out. I usually go out on the quieter days [during the week] and stick in the back ,” Boyd said. “It’s tough because the event horses are worth so much money now and it’s terrifying riding them for hours in knee deep mud, but they still have to have this toughness and ruggedness and will to fight through adversity. The hunting teaches them that.”
Obviously, you have to pick the right horse for the job. Not all event horses are appropriate to hunt, or even enjoy it. But some truly DO. But listen. Not all hunts have you galloping headlong over massive hedges and sketchy ditches a la Wylie’s Ledbury experience. Many hunts across the U.S. maintain a slower pace, with optional small coop fences, thrilling yet relatively tame gallops through the countryside, and lots of long breaks (aka checks, aka snack/hip flask time).
Exhibit A: Massbach Hounds in Illinois. This hunt looked to have had a beautiful, sunny day fox chasing in the above video. Nothing too crazy, but with enough of a challenge to keep everyone interested. Almost right away they’re negotiating water crossings and fitness-testing terrain, and you get an up-close-and-personal look at the hounds as they work. Not to mention the stunning views! What a wonderful way to spend a day on a horse!
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