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Hunting on Horseback

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Horses have been used for transportation and hunting for ages, but with the advent of motorized transport, horses are now mainly used for racing, show jumping and to a certain extent, still for hunting.

Hunting can be exciting, heart pounding and even dangerous if the rider or the horse is not trained to handle the rugged mountain terrain or to leap over hedges or bushes and wade through creeks or gallop over loose, uneven stones. A hunting horse therefore needs to be steady and should have the stamina for a long chase. The horse should also be trained to stay calm during gunfire without getting spooked. The horse should also be trained to hunt along with hounds so that it gets used to them. A good hunting horse should always obey the rider’s command without hesitation. The horse should also get used to the whistles and bells, which the team would be using during the hunt.

There are some breeds, which are most suitable for hunting like warm-bloods, which are bigger than other breeds. Draft horses are not recommended due to their heavy body structure and similarly very small ponies are also at a disadvantage while jumping over high obstacles. Quarter horses are one example of a multitude of breeds used as hunting horses. Before buying a good hunting horse, you can try riding on a variety of horses. You can first check out any local hunt and request to take part in it.  You could borrow a horse or rent one for a hunt. Get a feel of the hunt and the horse and also take advice from other members in the hunt and from the hunting guide. You could ask around about the breed of horse, the price, and if possible about potential sellers of horses during the hunt. If all goes well, you could be the proud owner of a hunting horse in a short time.

Once you have your own hunting horse, you will need to feed it not only hay but also oats. You could haul the hay before hunting season, but if you do not have the time or if you have forgotten to haul the hay, then you could purchase weed seed free cubes, which are available in horse feed stores. These cubes are tightly packed and hence their density is higher,  so packing it in becomes less cumbersome. But you will have to start feeding these cubes gradually to your hunting horse, so that it’s digestion gets used it before the actual hunt begins.

To pack your horse, you will need suitable game bags to carry your hunt, so choose a suitable sized game bag. You will also need a hunting vest, which should be brightly colored, so as to stand out as a hunter and not become a ‘huntee’. A good quality saddle is very important for you and your horse to be comfortable. There are numerous saddles available, such as Kincade, Stubben, Courbette and Wintec, which are Standard English horse saddles with padding, and in these saddles, the Forward Seat design is most suitable for cross-country hunting. Western saddles, which normally have no padding and are normally identified by a horn at the center of the saddle, are mostly used for hunting in the United States.  Your rifle or bow scabbard should also be chosen according to your weapon. Saddlebags, which can be mounted on the front or rear of the saddles, can be used to carry your personal belongings for the hunt. They should be waterproof. Your bridles, stirrups and irons should be chosen according to your height and the horse’s body structure. Take some trial runs before entering the hunting field with your fully loaded horse. If your hunting grounds are far from your farm or stable, you will also need a trailer to transport your horse to and fro.

Hunting on horses can be an expensive affair, but the benefits of owning your own hunting horse is that you and your horse can get good physical exercise and training your horse can also provide therapeutic benefits. You will also bond with your horse while training it and together you and your horse can turn into an efficient hunting team.

Posted November 30, -1 by Justin Ott

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