...and on the eighth day, God created the horse in perfect image, to romp, graze, gallop, play and make manure wherever it darn well pleases, in divine grace.
The Paper Chase, or Drag Hunting, is a horse sport that goes back some 300 years. Most of the Drag Hunting Clubs of today are no more than 50 years old.
Drag Hunting involves artificial scents applied to a cloth, which is then dragged along the ground by a man called a Line man, or, the scents are applied to a horse’s feet. The runner then sets out approximately 20 to 45 minutes ahead of the hunt. Sometimes ATV’s are used. (1)
The cloth is dipped in a crystal chemical mixture, or sometimes meat or urine is used; these scents are repulsive, but the hounds love it. In years past, aniseed was used, but not as much now. The scent gets renewed from time to time, over the course of the hunt. No real foxes are hunted or killed. (2)
Line men must be on friendly terms with the farmers whose land the hunt pack crosses, and they also need to know what will make a good and safe route for horses and hounds.
Foxhounds are used to follow the scent, leading the horsemen through fields and lanes, over fences and hedge rows or across creeks.
If Bloodhounds are used on a Paper Chase, they will follow the scent of the human runner, who had set off ahead of the pack. All dogs should be of similar build and athletic strength, so that they can all run at the same pace.
Drag Hunting usually follows a straight path, whereas a Trail Hunt follows paths more like that of a real fox, shifting, doubling back, passing over natural and artificial objects on a variety of terrain, often unpredictably. (3)
The Hunt Clubs are expected to be polite to the farmers and to respect their land; it is a privilege to ride horses on the edge of the field or through the woods on the farmer’s land.
In Fox Hunting, it’s all about the gallop, so expect a lot of cantering, jumping and hand-gallops.
No novices here, and no kids, either. If a rider is not experienced with a sharp gallop, this is not the place to learn.
Some horse shows will have the exhibitors do the hand-gallop in the ring, and the riders must maintain the semi-jumping position while basically almost giving the horse its head. Very exciting, but the judges do want control on the mounts, too, or the riders will hear about it over the loud speaker.
A Drag Hunt will consist of about 30 people, while real Fox Hunting groups will total 34 in all.
Mostly Thoroughbred horses are used, along with Warmbloods, as they are very tall and athletic, good for cross-country and jumping.
A rider’s appearance is called the Turnout, and the rules of dress for Drag Hunting are similar to those in Fox Hunting. The horses and the Hunters should always be clean and neat, with horses brushed and braided, and Hunters in coats and boots.
A wide range of coats, boots and jodhpurs are acceptable, such as a dark blue or black coat with a white stock hunting tie. Tweed coats with collars and ties are also worn, with buff-colored breeches and black or brown boots.
Jodhpurs should be worn with brown jodhpur boots.
Gloves should be also worn, preferable warm ones, and they should be made of string.
The hunting whip is a crop with a long, leather thong that has a lash on the end, and it can be used if the hounds pass too close to the horse’s heels or also when shutting or opening gates in the fields. (4)
Next time, we’ll look at some of the vocabulary terms used with the hounds and the Huntsmen, along with some Hunt Etiquette, should you feel the need to take a spin some afternoon on a fine Thoroughbred with the hounds at Full Cry.
Talk to you then. For now, once again the immortal words of Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, "Happy Trails to You."
1, 4: "The Usborne Dictionary of Horses and Ponies, Complete Guide to Riding and Ponycare," by Struan Reid, Karen Bush
2, 3: Wikipedia, Drag Hunting