The autumn and winter months bring the joy of hunting with our horses for many a seasoned rider. For those of you that are considering taking part in hunting for the first time this year, take a look at our ‘need-to-know’ essentials:
Firstly, the most crucial point to consider when going hunting this autumn is that your horse is totally healthy and sound, and sufficiently fit to cope with the rigours of the day. Rider fitness is also important to ensure you enjoy yourself and vitally that you are safe whilst tackling a variety of different terrains, weather conditions and sometimes jumping efforts.
Adults going hunting that have not been awarded colours by their hunt should wear tweed jackets during the autumn months, and black or navy coats during the winter season. A white or cream stock with a plain pin should accompany a simple, yet smart shirt. Breeches should be beige in colour, not white, and partnered with streamlined, tall boots. For those with long hair, a hairnet should always be worn.
Your horse should be turned out to a high standard on hunting days, so bath the day before the using top quality grooming and bathing products, in order to get a high shine on the coat. Get your plaiting fingers at the ready, as all horses and ponies should be smartly plaited when hunting!
In terms of tack and equipment, a well fitting saddle and bridle is an absolute must, and for safety reasons it is advisable to use a breastplate, such as the Stephens Hunt Breastplate, in order to secure your saddle and prevent it from slipping backwards – it also gives you a neck strap to hold on to if required! Some horses do become excited when out hunting, so a breastplate such as the Stephens Fully Adjustable Hunt Breastplate which offers removable martingale attachments to use where required, is ideal!
A comfortable saddle cloth, such as the Gel-Eze range with cosy sheepskin and shock absorbing gel cushions, offers your horse optimum comfort on long and strenuous rides.
Many riders consider using protective boots on their horses, however most people agree that this is unwise, on the basis that dirt and grit can become imbedded in the boots when travelling over boggy, wet and muddy going, resulting in the dirt under the boot causing cuts and sores to the horse’s limbs.
It is crucial to have sufficient ‘brakes’ on the hunting field, both for your safety and to save any unwanted embarrassment should your horse misbehave, so a substantial bit is vital. Our four-legged friends often understandably become excited on the field, so a stronger bit than usual is typically required. The McHardy Bit from Bombers Bits, distributed by Equine Management and available in a variety if cheekpieces, offers a jointed mouthpiece in sweet iron with a choice of either a Fulmer or 2.5 ring style, and provides the perfect hunting bit for many horses.
For your first time out hunting, it may be wise to go with a friend who has been before; they will be able to show you the ropes and advise you of any do’s and don’ts on the day. Prior to your first hunt, telephone the hunt secretary – they are there to help, and will be able to tell you all about the meeting venue, dress code, parking and payment, known as the cap. The most important thing to remember is to have fun!
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