Half-term might over – or nearly over – but it will be the Christmas holidays before we know it. So here are eight ways to help ensure your children enjoy going hunting as much as you do…
1. Make sure they are WARM. Thick tweed shooting coats are often warmer than children’s riding jackets – and you can fit more layers underneath them. Woolly tights under breeches (tell the boys that all the jump jockeys wear them), and thick socks – but not too many pairs, as if they can’t wiggle their toes their feet will get colder. Good, thick gloves – if they are small enough to lose them easily, put them on the ends of a long bit of elastic and thread it through their coat sleeves.
2. Go home as soon as your child announces it is cold – or bored. Patience now will pay off in the end.
3. Make sure their pony is suitable and knows all about hunting. Being scared is not fun.
4. Fill their pockets – and yours – with sweets. They are a great distraction tool if anything goes wrong.
5. Grass-reins are a good idea. Small ponies’ minds are usually on their stomach and being yanked forward and sliding off down the neck when said pony fancies a mouthful of grass is not conducive to a happy day out.
6. Neck-straps are essential – but if the child is on the leading-rein and their arms are too short to reach a neck-strap, put a ‘handle’ of some sort (a flash strap is ideal) between the D-rings on either side of the pommel. This is much easier for small hands to hold on to.
What about setting some “hunting goals” this winter? Here are some to get you started
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7. Explain what is going on – show them the hounds, the huntsman, the whipper-in etc and tell your child what they are doing. It makes it much more interesting!
8. If you are planning to lead your child’s pony off your horse, make sure they like each other and that you have practised beforehand…
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