Freedom and I hunted again yesterday and I think I might have another foxhunter! He was a star on Saturday, right up until he cut his front leg. Luckily, he had no lasting effects from the scratch and I was really looking forward to today’s hunt. The fixture is one of my favorites: a mix of fields and woods, and one where the hounds are cast three times.
I was a bit concerned as I hadn’t had the chance to ride since Saturday. But Freedom was great and we hunted without incident or drama. I was particularly pleased that he kept his head while several horses acted out, during a few incidents with ground bees, when the hounds came through a field threading in and out amongst the horses, when his horse friend had to turn back with a slipping hoof boot, and when the horse behind us ran up behind and tried to pass. For his good sense and obedience, I forgive him for his inability to stand still during waits in the woods and at the checks! The only time he was really quiet was in the trailer during the tailgate tea; I’m pretty sure he was asleep!
This was a hunt where we got to see the hounds working up close. Freedom was fascinated by that and seemed to enjoy watching them. He stood at attention during the second and third cast and followed them with real interest. What made him a particular pleasure to ride was that he is incredibly sure-footed. He is able to handle a variety of terrain without taking a bad step or stumble.
On the way home, that got me thinking about the qualities that make a good hunt horse. For the past few seasons I’ve hunted my Trakehner gelding, Kroni. I’ve always thought he was just about perfect, except for his propensity to stumble over roots, but Freedom is a completely different ride, so the question required more thought. Here then, is my list:
A good hunt horse:
- Can be ridden anywhere in the group, with the ability to lead when necessary, the patience to stay in line and keep a safe distance from the horse in front without fuss, and the independence to leave the field alone.
- Tolerates the the hounds no matter where they run — even under their feet!
- Enough speed to keep up, the obedience to be rated, and great brakes!
- Doesn’t buck, bolt or kick out when other horses get excited.
- Stands quietly at check points and while we watch the hounds work.
- Happily traverses all types of terrain without tripping or stumbling, and is not concerned about crossing water.
- Doesn’t mind being ridden on the road, passed by cars, bikes or motorcycles, no matter how fast the traffic moves.
- Brave enough to jump when asked but submissive enough to go around when their rider prefers!
- Enough endurance to stay fresh, but not so fresh as to cause problems.
- Has comfortable gaits, especially the trot, as you will do a lot of it.
- Stands quietly while being mounted, even if it’s out in the field. Even better, a horse stays near you if (and when) you fall off!
- Willing to load any place you have to park your trailer; content to stand and wait while its rider enjoys the tea.