We are off and running on another LAH hunting season. Our first event of the new season was held on Sat., Aug. 23, at Outfoxed Farm in the Salinas Valley’s Gilroy. The Brown family once again graciously hosted an intrepid group of riders at a clinic and Mini Hunter Pace. Advanced level eventer and trainer Ryan Brown was the teacher and Gil, Barbara and Mindy all helped make the day successful. Thank you, Browns!
For those who are unfamiliar with Hunter Paces, they are held by foxhunts throughout the world as a complementary activity to their hunting program. The Hunter Paces are very popular, particularly with the eventing community and Pony Clubs as they provide an easy, fun and low-cost way of riding cross-country.
The five Hunts in California and Nevada all hold these events throughout their hunting season. The Hunter Paces are designed to match the speed and challenges of an actual foxhunt. Riders ride mostly in pairs, and sometimes alone. The distance of the course is measured and the pace speed defined, thereby producing an “optimum time” for the course to be ridden. No watches are allowed so riders are encouraged to learn to “rate” their horse at different “paces.” Closest to “optimum time,” under or over, wins.
Some classes do not include jumps: In some classes, just one of the pair has to jump and others require both riders to jump. Fences are always under three feet and the distances vary from one to three miles with approximately eight to 20 fences. They often include a novelty class too, like a treasure hunt or grog race, while some may also add a clinic to teach new riders.
Paces typically vary from 300 meters per minute (an extended trot) to 400 mpm (a hand canter). They are informal and low drama events: the per-class entry is normally around $30 and ribbons and trophies are usually awarded. Hunter Paces are open to all levels of riders, and you do not have to be a member of the hunt to enter. Hunts are very kid-friendly and actively encourage Pony Club members and juniors to ride. These clubs often stage lead-line classes for the very young.
Our Hunt, the Los Altos Hounds, is based near Hollister and we ride throughout Northern California. We offer the most comprehensive Hunter Pace program. We hold six Hunter Paces a year, with three in the fall and three in the winter/spring. The venues include: The Horse Park at Woodside, Ram Tap, Twin Rivers, Rancho Murieta, Waterford and private ranches in Gilroy, Portola Valley, Hollister and Marin.
LAH will hold two more Hunter Pace events this year on Oct. 25 at Murieta Equine Complex in Rancho Murieta and Dec. 20 in Portola Valley.
Seventeen riders started our season’s first Hunter Pace in Gilroy, on a day with near perfect skies and temperature. In the early session, all of the riders stepped up to the challenge of riding specified paces that were not the rates that they would use later in the day. They also worked on proper spacing, which would later include spacing for jumping and other obstacles. Every rider made a good effort to perfect this and began to use good communication with each other, which led to better and better results in their timed rounds. During the later session, the jumps went well as all riders rode very suitable horses.
This does not mean that the jumping was easy: With the inclusion of the new bank and a turning-jump combination, the riders had to work for good results. This is exactly what they did and, as a matter of fact, at the conclusion of both sessions, several riders stayed to have another go.
Our Huntsman Matthew Cook and his son Charlie led off the mounted course walk and the first pace. We were also happy to welcome a new LAH member, Bobby Diaz. While Bobby is not a newcomer to riding, he is new to the fun that we have at the paces meets and hunting. All in all, it was a fun day with more than a dash of learning. Maybe it was the good weather, maybe not, but everyone had big smiles all day long, and LAH received some useful cash to help feed the hounds.
Hope we see you all at the next pace on October 25 at MEC at Rancho Murieta. If you have any questions about Hunts and Hunter Paces, please contact me by e-mail at email@example.com.