What do you need to know? H&H helps you out with some essential autumn hunting advice…
1. Autumn trail-hunting and hound exercise takes place at a slower, steadier pace than “normal” hunting — its purpose is to introduce young hounds to hunting and to educate them. It’s therefore ideal for young or inexperienced horses — and humans — as well, but the hounds are everyone’s priority.
2. You must ring up or email the hunt secretary well in advance of the day on which you would like to come out.
3. Autumn hunting takes place earlier in the morning than hunting during the open season, generally as soon as it is light. So make sure you are well organised the night before, know where you are supposed to be parking and don’t be tempted to press the snooze button on your alarm.
4. Generally people wear tweed coats for autumn hunting — but if you don’t have one, no one is going to mind very much. Horses are unplaited (but you and your horse should be clean, neat and tidy).
5. If your horse has not seen hounds before, remember always to keep his head turned towards them, not his heels, and to give them plenty of space. But let him look at them, and give him a calming pat.
6. You may choose to put a red or green ribbon on your horse’s tail to warn other people that he may kick or is young, but it is always your responsibility to make sure he doesn’t kick a hound, horse or human, not anyone else’s.
7. If it is your first time — or your horse’s first time — persuade a friend on an older, experienced horse to come with you to act as a “nanny”. If this isn’t possible, tell the hunt secretary and ask if there is anyone who you might be able to buddy up with — they will try to help you.
8. Make sure you can start, steer and stop your horse in company — if in any doubt, use a stronger bit than you do normally, as this is a “party” to a horse and he may become strong and excited. Always wear a neckstrap!
9. Don’t stay out for hours — accidents happen when your horse’s brain or body is overtired. It is much better to go several times for a short-ish amount of time, and to take him home when things are going well and you are both happy.
10. Try to relax and enjoy yourself, and then your horse will. It’s fun, you will learn lots and being out on your horse early on a beautiful autumn morning with the sight and sound of hounds is one of the nicest things you can do.
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