Adventures in Mock Fox Hunting!
By: Triple Crown Insider- Julia Marrinan
Considering I spend half my year eventing and the other half playing polo, you could definitely say I’m a bit of an adrenaline junkie. So, when I had the chance to go foxhunting with the Tanheath Hunt Club, I was all in!
For those of you who, like me, have never been foxhunting, I’ll start from the top: No foxes are harmed! While the sport originated in England as a form of pest control, the majority of hunts nowadays are drag hunts. For my drag hunt, the ‘foxes’ were two lovely people on adorable Arabians who took off through the woods far ahead of us, armed only with spray bottles filled with manufactured scent and their extremely in depth knowledge of all of the trails we were about to traverse. They sprayed the bottles every so often, releasing enough scent that the hounds had a clear track to follow; Then the rest of the hunt followed the hounds! One of the benefits of drag hunts is that since you’re creating your own path, you can stick to trails that are safe for horses, and usually ones with good jumps! If a fox was making the trail, he’d be a little less concerned about the suitability of the footing and whether or not we’d have to fight through the underbrush.
Once I’d assured myself that no foxes were going to be harmed in the making of this hunt, I asked the next big question: Will I get to wear a fancy red coat? Unfortunately, the answer was “no”—those are reserved strictly for the Masters of the hounds. The rest of the hunt, however, dresses in their tall boots and nice breeches, with a black jacket and stock tie on top.
Horses, too, have to be clean and shiny with white saddle pads. I’d already pulled my horse’s shoes for the winter, so I added some stylin’ hoof boots to the ensemble. Gunni can pull off sparkly orange like no other horse can. The hoof boots held up fairly well, but the oldest of the set did come off during one of the gallop stretches, probably due to the velcro wearing out. Other than that, we had a blast!
I wasn’t sure if Gunni, being a proper show jumper who had only recently learned to enjoy cross country, would enjoy the hunt, but he absolutely loved it! He loves jumping, and the pace of the hunt suited him. Due to the trails winding in out of the woods, we had a few good gallops and some fairly steady trots, but all with a lot of walk breaks.
Being 19, I think the human’s favorite part was the stirrup cup, I had apple cider (delicious and nutritious), but the adults seem to they think that they had the better deal with tiny glasses of sherry. To each their own, I suppose! The stirrup cup also comes with a healthy dose of camaraderie. Everyone on the hunt was incredibly welcoming and super kind, and they patiently answered every one of my 14 billion questions.
I’ve always heard that foxhunting is really good cross training for eventers, and I couldn’t agree more. There’s nothing like two hours in the woods for teaching your horses to be surefooted and make good choices. Plus, jumping natural obstacles is a lot less scary when 10 horses in front of you have already jumped them with no issues. They learn to be comfortable while romping about in the forest, and the exercise is great for conditioning. I absolutely loved foxhunting, and I definitely plan to join the hunt and go as much as I can next year!