Participating in mounted hound exercise is a good way to accustom your horse to some of the sights and sounds of fox hunting. However, due to the slow, stop-and-go nature of mounted hound training and exercise, even experienced hunt horses can easily become stressed, frustrated, and overwhelmed if a rider attempts to literally follow the hounds without providing their horse with the physical and mental changes of pace that tend to occur in an actual hunt. It should not be a surprise, then, that more horse-assisted unplanned dismounts (aka getting bucked off) occur during mounted hound exercise than hunting.
In order to keep mounted hound exercise fun and—especially—safe for all involved, we’ve compiled a few tips and some reminders of hunt protocol.
First, a quick refresher on hunt protocol:
- Hounds, huntsmen, and staff always have right-of-way. Stay alert, be prepared to make way, and try to never get between staff and hounds.
- If a hound or staff member enters the trail near you, move your horse as far away as possible and keep your horse’s rear pointed away. It is your responsibility to prevent your horse from scaring, trampling, or kicking a hound, even when they unexpectedly pop out of the woods near your horse.
- Refrain from speaking to the hounds while they are working unless asked to do so.
- Good trail etiquette always applies: maintain a safe riding distance, be polite, and pay attention to the needs and safety of the riders around you.
And some tips for a more enjoyable outing:
- Ride with a buddy and a plan. Pick one thing to work on together, and then arrange your ride accordingly.
- Pick and choose where and how you interact with the hounds and other riders. There are a number of wide areas along the normal exercise route that are good places to let your horse observe the hounds, staff, and other riders without getting trapped among them.
- Take a break. Between the activity and wide-open spaces, it’s not hard to end up with a death grip on the bit and a horse that’s ready to explode. Riding to hounds is supposed to be fun for you and your horse, so a wise rider realizes when it’s time to take a quiet hack and unwind. Patience makes a mannerly hunt horse.
And, finally, we hope you’ll stay and socialize after your ride. We’d like to meet you!