When I speak to the majority of equestrians I know, and the topic of hunting comes up in discussion, the first response I normally receive is ‘oh no that’s too scary for me’ or ‘there’s no way I’d ever go hunting’. It seems as though there is a general misconception that going out hunting is incredibly scary. I’d like to blow that out of the water, and that is why I’m writing this blog.
As a rider, I’m not full of confidence, I don’t jump big jumps, I don’t take risks when riding and it really doesn’t take much to scare me. Taking into consideration all of the above, drag hunting is my favourite thing to do. I hunt with the Berks and Bucks Draghounds and they are such a welcoming group of people.
Will I have to jump hedges and 5 bar gates?
Something I often explain to friends, and those asking about dragging is that you do not have to jump giant hedges and 5 bar gates. With our hunt, in particular, they have a jumping and non-jumping master, so you can pick who you wish to follow. There are a wide variety of jumps, and there are often plenty of smaller more inviting ones to choose. There may be some meets where you will need to be able to jump, but this will be stated on the meet card so you’re aware in advance. However, on the whole, there tends to be a route to get around them rather than over them.
With drag hunting, a pack of hounds follows a scent laid by a human rather than pursuing a live quarry. It is all incredibly organised. The lines are all predetermined, jumps built, and routes checked prior to the meet taking place.
What do I wear?
You will need to dress accordingly, for ladies (I’m writing from a ladies perspective) buff breeches with a white or cream stock, black boots, and a black or navy jacket are the correct attire. If you are new to the sport, you are not expected to own absolutely everything (I still don’t have a thick proper hacking jacket), just ensure you make the effort to look smart and that you are as correct in your attire as possible.
What about my horse?
Your tack should be leather, plain, and well-fitting; make sure to pick a breathable numnah too (no sparkles or colours here though). Your horse will need to be suitably fit for hunting; if it’s your first time you can put a green ribbon in your horses tail to let others know they are inexperienced. You will also need to ensure that your horse’s mane is plaited. My main reason for hogging my mare is so that I don’t have to plait, I am useless and Belle lacks the patience to stand still!
How much does it cost?
A cap with the Berks and Bucks is £65. I fully appreciate that hunting isn’t a cheap sport, I can only afford to go about once a month at the moment. However, you get a full day out, usually with a drink (needed) before, and tea after (thanks COVID for stopping that!). You’re normally out riding for a good 3 hours too, so you get a considerable amount of riding in, over amazing private land.
I’m thinking of giving it a try, what should I do?
Find out who your local hunt is, and pop the secretary an email. They will be able to give you all of the information you need to arrange to go to a meet. In this blog I have spoken specifically about my local hunt, I can’t promise it’s the same everywhere, but having hunted with the Staff College too, it was very similar. I hope this has been helpful, and I hope to see some of you out drag hunting soon!