Hunting enthusiasts are now preparing for their most exciting time of the year, and looking forward to the opening meets in November. After a summer of relaxation and indulgence, horses and riders need to become fit and muscled and able to withstand long days, inclement weather and hard riding! So now’s the time to get both horse and rider fit, and maybe try your hand at some Autumn hunting in late September and October.
Riders will need to tone everything up and can start with some gentle walks and swims, building up to longer episodes of training until not much causes a shortness of breath. Even a brisk ten minute walk a day will do the trick, and the heart-rate will improve.
If you have access to a horse-walker, ten minutes, building up to twenty minutes once or twice a day will be an ideal start when getting your horses ‘up’ from any recent downtime. Now’s also the time to do some gentle hacking daily, to build up muscle, fitness and ‘wind’, or respiratory health.
Avril Clinton-Forde contests Medium dressage with her mare Grand Duchess at level, and says hacking and road work is brilliant for fitness. “You could build up to a gentle jog trot all the way round the block, and after a few weeks introduce short, and then longer canters, using some good uphill stretches whenever you can. Around the beginning of October is a good time to clip for the first time, maybe a trace clip whilst still in the fittening process, and moving on to a full clip for when hunting proper starts at the beginning of November,” she suggests.
If you have the time available, why not try Autumn hunting? It’s the ideal introduction to hunting if it is all a new experience for you or your horse. The stubble fields will provide good going and there is plenty of slow work and only some gentle cantering. You can stay out as long as the hunt does, or you can leave early. Plan your presentation for the big day well in advance, with clean tack and boots, and a well turned out horse. (Clothes-wise: during autumn hunting, wear a tweed jacket and shirt and tie or coloured stock, pale breeches - e.g. buff, light brown, cream or yellow - clean boots and gaiters/half-chaps or long boots, dark gloves and a hat with a dark cover. In full hunting season, you can wear a black or navy coat, although tweed is sometimes seen too. Plait for the full hunting season; check out H&H’s guide HERE, and also The Field’s guide HERE - it contains the sage and amusing advice: “Bum freezer jackets are rarely flattering, and are best avoided.”)
Comfort in the saddle
Once you’re out hunting, you will be ‘in the saddle’ for potentially many hours at a time, although with Autumn hunting especially, there are more breaks. We asked Avril Clinton-Forde for tips on staying comfortable in the saddle. “Without question, the right underwear is key,” she says. “Personally I’d recommend the Derriere Equestrian Performance Padded Shorty - no ‘vpl’ through your breeches, so no rubbing, chaffing or abrasions due to stitched seams, especially if you get wet. Importantly, the Shorties protect the area just behind ladies’ foofoos [the perineal area!] from friction, and that agonising feeling that you have dropped a farrier’s rasp down there!” Avril laughs. “They also give good bum coverage for warmth on those cold mornings. It would be great to wear Derriere’s white Cannes Competition Breeches, however it is only ‘members of the Field’ who should wear white breeches out hunting, together with their red coats. ‘Seat-savers’ tend to be frowned upon in formal hunting circles, however you can get some excellent, discreet seat-savers a with matte surface, which to be honest, few people will even notice - great for derriere comfort!”