Other than a really fun time out riding across the countryside with friends?? Although that is the general gist of the event, there is a little more to riding in a hunter pace.
Hunter Pace events are cross-country rides that tend to be popular in areas where fox hunting is prevalent. Often times there is a local series in both the autumn and spring. The autumn rides are a nice opportunity to get your horse fit and game for the up coming hunt season, while the spring series gives riders a fun way to let their horses down post season.
Rather than following a fox with a pack of hounds, the ride follows a pre-marked trail that contains obstacles similar to those you would find while out field hunting. Often there are coops, water crossings, logs, open fields and woodland. The average length is around six miles.
The hunter “pace” is called such as the teams closets to the optimum time win! The optimum time is determined by a team riding the course prior to the day of the event. Typically there are two divisions, Hunt and Hilltopper. The optimum hunt pace is determined by riding at a speed comparable to one while out hunting first flight and jumping all of the obstacles. Likewise, the Hilltopper pace is set by riding at a pace mimicking a third flight hunt, walk-trot-canter without jumping. Teams are often comprised of two to four riders.
Often events will also have additional divisions such as juniors, silver fox (riders over 60) or a pleasure division where teams can move at their own non-completive pace.
The most prevalent goal is having a wonderful ride through beautiful hunt country in the company of friends. If you are of a competitive nature, then hitting the optimum time and taking home a ribbon for your team might be your focus.
There are usually no specific requirements other than neat, tidy and safe turnout for rider and horse. Helmets, boots, breeches/jeans and a polo/button-down shirt are what most riders wear. Some teams wear informal hunting attire (tweed, ratcatcher, breeches and boots). If you are going for a ribbon, a watch might be helpful. Some events allow western tack and some do not, so please check with the organizer before heading out in the morning.
PREPARING YOUR HORSE
In general, your horse needs to be of general fitness. Ideally, the horse will be well schooled in riding in the open and able to relax while waiting at the trailer. It is common to encounter wildlife and other horses galloping within their sightline. In addition, your mount should be safe and ratable in a group.
Only a few simple rules to follow will keep you and your fellow participants safe and happy. Encountering Another Team: Always slow to a walk when approaching another team, say hello and ask if it is ok to ride ahead. After getting the go-ahead, walk a short distance before trotting off so as not to disturb the horses in the group being left behind. Assistance Needed: Be mindful of other riders and stop to lend a hand if someone is having trouble. Stay On Course: Respect the landowners and ride and jump only on the marked course.
THE JOY OF A HUNTER PACE
There are so many benefits to competing in a hunter pace; experiencing many areas not normally open for riding, spending time with friends, tailgating, practicing fox hunting skills, trying out a variety of jumping obstacles, viewing nature, bringing home a ribbon, practicing cross-county jumping, building confidence, positive experience for green horses….