What makes a good hunter? That is a very good question and one that is asked fairly often within the hunting community. Is it a certain age/breed/amount of experience? The ability to cross any country? To be brave with a good brain? To have the stamina to go all day? Brakes and steering? (always handy) The ability to stay sound and keep shoes on? To be forward going or safe and steady? Or a horse simply to look good on and to stand at the meet without spilling your port? There has been many a meet that I have left with a port stained stock!! Well the real question is in fact, what do you want out of a days hunting for yourself? One persons idea of a great days hunting might be the next persons nightmare.
Some people go for the pure adrenaline you can get from a high days hunting, also known as “weekend warriors”. Hedge after hedge with height and ditches towards or behind or even both!! For this of course you need a horse with the ability to jump well, have the stamina to keep up and have a true love for the job. Whereas, the next person may go out just to be in the countryside, see the hounds and be happy to be plodding along at the back on gate shutting duties. Obviously a keen horse isn’t going to cut it for this person. Steady and safe is the priority here. Then there is everyone in between (I feel the majority of people out hunting), they like to jump but also like the option of pulling to the side if they are feeling out of there comfort zone when the hedges seem to be growing or their horse is tiring! Here you need a horse with good ability to cross country but also a good brain that listens to their rider and not get caught up in the adrenaline of the rest of the field.
Then there is the hunt servants horse, a special horse. They need to be good with hounds, be able to cross the hunt country well, have a good temperament for the job and the ability to go all day and stay sound (hopefully) for the whole season.
Now that I’m a little bit older and have two young children my idea of a good days hunting isn’t the same as it used to be pre children. I would of and actually have pretty much ridden any sort of horse/pony out hunting before I was a mother. People always said to me that having children would change that and I never believed them, that was until I had my first and getting back on board took some time! It didn’t help that my pony was a little monkey and had me off the very first time I got back in the saddle!! But now i’m back in the saddle regularly I am looking forward to my first day out hunting, hopefully this season if i can beg, borrow or steal a horse. (That is sane, safe, jumps well and stands still at the meet haha) Like this beauty below, photos from the last time I was out hunting!
So, as you can see there is not just one sort of horse that makes a “good hunter”. They come in all shapes, sizes, ages and colours. I’ve seen 13.2hh ponies jump hedges alongside 16.2hh horses, and equally well (sometimes better!) Just find a horse that is right for you, your hunt country and what you want out of your days hunting. Whether that is riding in the thick of it over hedges, rails and ditches or sticking to the back of the field and gateways. Most of all, kick on and stay safe.