Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Glenmore Hunt Club Fall Hunter Pace

Several years ago, I first heard about the concept of a hunter pace, and I really wanted to try it.  For those who aren't familiar with hunter paces, here's the general idea.  Pairs of horse/rider teams complete a cross-country course set with jumps that are similar to what would be encountered during an actual hunt.  There are different divisions and my research indicates that hunter paces vary depending on the club sponsoring the event and even the region.  The variances can include the speed at which the competitors ride the course, the number of miles and jumps on the course, the height of the jumps, whether the jumps are optional for one or both riders, the dress code, and even the style of tack allowed.

Anyway, Friesians aren't really known for their jumping ability, and I could never find anyone to ride with me...until this past weekend.  A trail riding buddy of mine suggested we try the Glenmore Hunt Club's Fall Hunter Pace, and I leaped at the chance to give it a try.  This particular hunter pace was a perfect fit for us because it included a trail riding division which allowed western tack (my friend rides in a western saddle) and which made jumping completely optional.  There was no minimum or maximum speed, but the team that completed the course closest to the optimal time set by the sponsor of the event would be the winner for each division.  And presumably the optimal times for the different divisions would range from full hunt pace for the most expert division to something much slower for our division.  The interesting thing about this hunter pace (and many others) is that the optimal time is a secret.  You have to guess what the optimal pace is based on your division and the terrain and ride your horse as close as you can to what you think you should be doing.  Of course I have no idea what an optimal hunter pace is because I am positive that no respectable hunt club would let me or my horse within 10 miles of them if they had a choice.  Nimo and I just don't have the hygiene skills required of hunt club participants.

So, on Sunday morning, we set out for the Staunton, Virginia area without really knowing what to expect, other than a few basic guidelines.  It was a fairly long drive - over 2 hours - and we arrived at about 10:45.  After checking in and tacking up, we ended up waiting for awhile to see how the start was supposed to work.  There were no assigned start times and it was basically just a line of teams with 1 minute or so between starts.  After figuring that out, we got in line.

Nimo was totally jacked up.  He was fresh and ready to get going, so I ended up walking him in circles while we waited our turn.  Once we got started, it was apparent that both horses were feeling their oats, so after a warming up at the walk for about 10 minutes, we trotted when we could to get some of the kinks worked out.

At first, the terrain seemed a little hilly, but nothing too exciting, and Nimo and I were even able to jump a few of the early jumps because they were essentially just big logs.  Once the coops started coming up, we had to bail around them because they were just a little bigger than we were used to, but I think by next year, we could do at least a couple of them if we practice.

Then we also noticed that despite the rolling hills appearance of the terrain, we were actually in the mountains.  Those mountains meant a lot of climbing and very little flat land.

We did ride through some forest:

And a lot of fields:

And we even saw some cows:

Warning: Cows are much closer than they appear!
And it became apparent that we were riding through what was actually pretty rough terrain, although the footing was always really good, with very few rocks.  We did our best to pretend to be hunter riders, though.  We trotted up quite a few hills, but in the end, it was clear that seasoned hunt horses are at least as conditioned as endurance horses and can cover ground at a pace that we can only imagine.  I could not believe the speed at which most of the teams covered ground, especially with pretty much only steep hills to go up and down.  And I should note that I did not see a single Arab, and I did see several heavier-type horses.  There is no question in my mind that the 6.5-7 miles that this ride covered were overall more difficult as a whole than any 6-7 mile section of the OD Intro Ride that I did last month.  There was virtually no level ground during the whole ride and most of the hills were pretty steep, and some were even fairly long.  Our horses did great, though, and we definitely could have easily handled more distance.

And we had an absolute blast.  Part of the reason I have so few pictures is because I was having so much fun.  I loved doing the little log jumps and Nimo started getting the hang of them.  At first he literally jumped with his front end, paused, and then jumped with his back end, but he was doing the logs more smoothly later in the ride.

The other reason I have so few pictures is because many of the ones I took were of the ground (see below).  I just got a new iPhone after having had an HTC for several years, and apparently there is a learning curve.  And I had to keep brushing the hay dust off the phone every time I took it out of my pocket.  (Note to self: empty pockets of hay dust before my next ride.)

Anyway, the ride was tons of fun.  It took us about 1:45 to go what I estimate is 6.5-7 miles (I'm still enforcing my GPS ban for this month), which was a great pace for us, given the terrain.  I never found out what the optimal time was for our division or where we finished in relation to that time, but I got the sense that this ride was really meant for people to just have fun, rather than to obsess about competition.  I'm definitely planning to keep my eye open for more hunter paces, because I can see that they will make great conditioning rides, be a blast, and give us the opportunity to ride through private land that isn't normally available.


  1. I LOVE those Friesian ears!! So jealous of your between the ears view hehe. :) That hunter pace looks like so much fun. I look forward to reading more (and seeing more pictures of) future hunt paces you go to.

  2. This looks like a blast! Between Dom's story and yours, now I really want to try a hunter pace! :) Sounds like a great conditioning option, too!

  3. How FUN. I really want to do one of these. Holler at me if you hear of another in the VA area. That haul to Staunton isn't too awful for me.

  4. I'd love to do one of these! Sounds like you had a very fun adventure.