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"Growing" your hunt...

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  • #81
    Originally posted by BarnField View Post
    No one's suggesting a juice bar for a hunt, though. Heehee
    Don't be silly--it would have to be a wine bar. ;p


    • #82
      Originally posted by BarnField View Post
      I wouldn't join your gym and pay the monthly fee if I knew that I could only go once a week. I'd get a treadclimber

      Now, if your gym offered me childcare, well that's mighty convenient for me and I *would* join because now I don't have to hassle with finding a sitter to come over just so that I can go to the gym.

      In fact, isn't this what gyms across the country have done to boost membership? Make small accomodations to bring more people in?

      On-site childcare, 24/7 access for members, reduced membership fee for AM use only, dry-cleaning services, a juice bar, spas, etc.

      All of these things help bring people in the door for for their own reasons:
      childcare is important to these 50 people, or 24/7 access is critical for these 100 people, etc.

      Now, if your gym (ok, hunt) has plenty of members, you don't need to make any changes.

      But the OP is seeing dwindling numbers, so the OP is trying to take a constructive look around at what you can do to boost membership and strengthen the group while maintaining the integrity & passion of the sport.

      No one's suggesting a juice bar for a hunt, though. Heehee
      Then don't whine about not being able to join the club that doesn't offer the amenities you demand. If it doesn't appeal to you, for whatever reasons, then move along or find another sport. The club doesn't owe you anything.

      The OP has received some great input as to what other clubs have done to attract a younger crowd. Hope the positive and helpful suggestions keep coming.


      • #83
        Some of the hunts here offer a half price membership plus a half price cap for each hunt you turn up to. Once you go to more than 10 hunts it's more economical to pay the full membership.

        I am also a full time worker (when employed, that is )

        I personally think it's still a bargain even if I can only do the weekend hunts - it's a heck of a lot cheaper than almost any other organised equestrian event. There are 5 or 6 exceptional weekday hunts that I will take paid leave for if I really want to go to them.

        Daylight wise - I plan to have the horse pretty fit coming into the season - that way by the time daylight is minimal the fitness is established so I only have to work on maintenance. If we're hunting once a week then I just do 2 days of interval training in the arena under lights - yup it's boring but it gets the job done. Plus I'll hack around the fields in the dark - horses do see a lot better than us! My horses have always been more than prepared fitness wise, and the joy of hunting is that when you feel them tiring you can retire to the back to socialise

        Carrie K - I hope things improve for you soon and you can get out hunting.


        • #84
          Originally posted by Highflyer View Post
          And that's why I run instead of going to the gym: no commitment necessary.

          Seriously, I'm in my early 30s and perpetually broke, but I'd be thrilled to be able to pay like $200 up front to cap 5-6 times during the season, even if I couldn't use the caps for Opening Meet/ Thanksgiving/ Christmas or whatever the big days are.

          I'd also strongly advise that you put prices up on your website along with turnout requirements and an explanation of what your expectations are as far as riding ability/ hose behavior etc. are. Don't expect people to call and ask, because they may very well be assuming that if they have to ask they can't afford it/ do it-- like the "price upon request" sale ads.
          Hunt clubs and the sport do have websites and they are usually full of information. You cannot just join a hunt club, and that is why membership information is usually not public. You are invited to subscribe, usually after capping a few times or getting to know people in the club. (and they you).

          There are people who do not join a club, but who do enjoy capping around with different clubs. That's fine, and maybe that is what you would like to do.

          But please tell me, since you appear to think that a couple of hundred bucks is all you're willing to pay to "hunt"... who is going to pay for hound kibble and veterinary expenses?

          You people don't seem to give one thought to the fact that a club has expenses - the primary expenses being the health and maintenance of a pack of working dogs. Think about how much one pet dog can cost to keep. Now just imagine how much it costs to keep a pack of 40-60 hounds in good health.

          If a club is full of people who are so self absorbed they don't want to "commit" - exactly who is going to pay for the hounds? Or don't you people care about the fact that the sport centers around the hounds.

          It seems to me that what you want is to show up when you want, do what you want, not pay much of anything, not bother to learn about anything, you want everything spoon fed to you, you want amenities of some sort but you're not willing to pay for them, the sport really need to change to accommodate your personal schedule, you want discounts of some sort because you had a long day at the office.... and we're all supposed to welcome you in with that kind of attitude? Really?

          Wow. I don't recall any other discipline that offers discounts or free babysitting because the rider has to work.

          Clubs do activities year around. They have all kinds of trail rides, clinics, community events, point to points, hound shows, some do poker rides, cookouts, others are very active with juniors or Pony Club, many offer different rates of membership, they bend over backwards to accommodate newcomers, they mentor, they guide. You get all that, plus a full season of hunting, for a lot less than what it costs to do a few horse shows. It is about the cheapest sport you can do with horses.
          Brothers and sisters, I bid you beware
          Of giving your heart to a dog to tear.
          -Rudyard Kipling


          • #85
            Originally posted by ccoronios View Post
            First you get them hooked on the sport, THEN you get them to spend lots of time and money on it... "
            That's certainly the model these days, and I think the western U.S. led the way on that years ago but eastern hunts are catching up. I can think of a number of men, including one now-retired huntsman, who were cowboys who wouldn't be caught dead wearing 'those tight britches.' So, fine. Show up and try it out in whatever tack and attire you want. Arapahoe does require a hard hat and suitable footwear (as in with heels). At Red Rock, if you want to go completely cowboy, fine. I've hunted a number of times in a number of states with Red Rock, locals/cowboys in their 'working attire' always have a standing (free) invitation. 'The locals' show up mostly expecting that the folks in tight britches on those postage stamp saddles will be good for a laugh. About four miles into a gallop, when even the fittest cowpony is starting to think this is not your average roundup, its rider might be heard to remark, 'dang, these people can ride.'

            Even if not required to get the right kit before joining, such people indeed get hooked, and over time recognize the benefits of the attire, and the tack, and before long they are eligible for the 'best turned out' award in the traditional sense, just because of their own interest and enthusiasm, not because the snooty attire police made them memorize Wadsworth.

            I have hunted with one nice pack in the east that has long time members who hunt in western saddles. I can even recall that some years back, no less than Orange County Hunt hosted a group of African tribesmen who wanted to see what mounted foxhunting was all about- and OCH did not require them to dash off to Horse Country and get outfitted. I'll bet y'all didn't even know that such an august and traditional Virginia hunt had an attire exemption for 'people who hunt lions and other large dangerous critters on foot, with spears.'

            My observation based on this thread as a whole: it is generally true that the younger you are, the less opportunity you've had to ride outside of an arena. It's a function of our overwhelmingly urban society and related loss of contact with the land, plus the lack of land in general. When I started hunting in 1971, a less than four hour day was pretty much nonexistent (as were hilltopper 'fields'), 6 to 8 hours was more like it. And I probably got into hunting at the end of the 'leisure class' era where well, your hunting day was your hunting day, nothing else was scheduled. These days, there is some expectation of a shorter day because folks have other things to do- and sadly, also because there's just less country and you've covered it all for a particular meet in a couple or three hours.

            These days, yes, more instant gratification and instant access is expected by folks, and to a degree that does have be be considered when a hunt thinks of potential outreach efforts. But the flip side is- if a hunt makes it 'easier' for you to join, you still need to be responsible for your own neck and hide. I hear now of second, third, even fourth flights- frankly it scares me that people might think a hunt should accommodate them even if they don't have the basic riding skills to safely get outside of an arena. Eventing has much the same problem in accommodating people who want to compete but didn't grow up bombing around the countryside on a horse.

            As J Swan noted- it takes a lot of time and money to feed a pack of hounds and maintain landowner relations and paneling and everything else that goes with operating a hunt club. Hopefully prospective members would understand that. The membership and capping fees for most hunts are pretty much geared toward meeting those expenses- along with a whole lot of fundraisers and volunteer time throughout the year. All of which is very fun, by the way. You haven't truly lived until you've mastered a role in the assembly line dipping of a pack of hounds.


            • #86
              Originally posted by JSwan View Post
              You people don't seem to give one thought to the fact that a club has expenses - the primary expenses being the health and maintenance of a pack of working dogs. Think about how much one pet dog can cost to keep. Now just imagine how much it costs to keep a pack of 40-60 hounds in good health.
              Taking that a step further, our club (for example) raises about 30% of annual revenue from fundraisers, such as hunter paces, and the other 70% from membership/subscription/capping fees.

              With a flat membership and subscription fee and a fairly constant number of members from year to year, the club treasurer can pretty much count on that revenue stream being constant and for the other portion to fluctuate a bit (weather, for example, can make a fundraising event terrific or terrible). Can you imagine the nightmare of maintaining a hunt and pack without knowing from month to month if enough people are going to feel like capping that month for the hunt to pay its bills? Nothing can operate like that--not a gym, not a hunt club.

              I think that's the point a lot of people miss. You're not paying "to hunt". The membership fee provides the OPPORTUNITY to hunt--it provides for the fixture, staff, and hounds to be present as scheduled all season, year after year. The same way a gym membership pays for all that strength and cardio equipment to be available in a climate-controlled building for use during all business hours. It's then up to the individual member to take advantage of the opportunity as much or as little as he or she chooses.


              • #87
                Let me offer a few suggestions as to what NOT to do to attract new members.
                This weekend, I was invited by a friend who belongs to a hunt to join them for with a third flight for the hunt's outreach day. Since neither one of my friends' horses had fox hunted before, and since I had never fox hunted before (although I regularly hack out cross country and am comfortable cantering and hand galloping cross country) this sounded like a good opportunity to introduce my friend's horses and me to hunting.

                It was a fiasco due to poor planning and in my opinion, a complete disregard for the fact that the hunt had a fair number of riders and horses who had never hunted before. First, rather than separate the third flight from the first and second flight, everyone took off together, with the third flight trying to keep pace with the first and second flight. Second, the hunt master decided to take the entire hunt down a step muddy embankment into running water ( fondly referred to by hunt members as "hell's elevator or the elevator of doom) early into the hunt. Our horses, not being accustomed to steep muddy embankments, tried to scramble their way sideways up the steep muddy embankment to avoid descending, Both myself and my friend who has hunted for at least 20 years decided at this point to opt out since neither one of us was willing to put ourselves or our horses at danger of falling.

                The experience was frightening and did not encourage me to want to ever go hunting with this particular hunt again. Now, had I shown up and decided to hunt first flight I would blame myself for overestimating myself and/or my horse's ability. But to encounter this at a hunt meet designated as a day that was open and welcome to first time newbies offering a third flight for folks to experience the hunt for the first time was disconcerting to say the least.


                • #88
                  Lots of great suggestions here! I just wanted to add, for those reading and not participating at the moment, "proper" or at least passable attire can be had quite reasonably priced if you are patient with shopping. I just found dress boots, breeches ( that aren't exactly right but I got a pass), a nice wool Melton, stock tie, and gloves for under $500.

                  As a now-more-frequent visitor I am happy to pay my capping fees and think most memberships are quite reasonable. An A rated hunter show can cost over $3k a week. At one day schooling shows I'd pay around $300...that is per *day*.

                  Everyone that I have met that is in the hunting community is truly fabulous and welcoming for a number of reasons, but truly I've been delighted. Think about it - it's not a competitive sport, it's a sport where the whole idea is to enjoy watching the hounds work (and yes, riding too) *together*.

                  If people see you trying hard to learn, trying to follow the rules and conventions and being *safe* my experience is that you will be welcomed with open arms.

                  Now that I've said all of that, what can hunts do? Please make it possible to communicate with you. A good website can be very easy to set up. Don't forget to include a general location. In googling hunts, I would have to look up area codes (if a telephone # was included) to try to triangulate where it might be. If you are concerned (understandably) about animal rights activists finding you, provide a contact form so that your telephone/email address is obscured.

                  General information is useful...I live quite far from the hunts I've found thus far, but if they move off around 10 am, that is doable. 8 might be a little trickier! Impossible? No - but it may affect who I choose to ask permission to cap with first!

                  Those of us who do hunt/have hunted/support the hunt also need to do a better job of PR for hunting itself. There are so many misconceptions out there that I think affect people's willingness to try things. I have been told "I just don't agree with chasing a terrified animal" by someone who is an avid fisherman (catch and release). There are very few foxes in my area and I believe it's precisely because no one is managing them. I know quite a few sportsmen who are promoting it, but it is going to take a lot, particularly since fewer and fewer people are exposed "naturally" as population forces it's way into rural areas.


                  • #89
                    Originally posted by Prime Time Rider View Post
                    Let me offer a few suggestions as to what NOT to do to attract new members.
                    Having been in charge of 'never ever hunted' fields on outreach days- first in the early 80s- here are 'my' keys to success:

                    1. The meet for such days needs to be carefully considered. You may not know how many folks will show up, and as with all hunting, landowner issues come first- there are some landowners who just don't want/can't accommodate large fields (either a parking issue or a chewing up the hayfield issue or a calving issue). You also need to be able to take your 'newcomer' field verrrry slowly- yes, this is a case where you accommodate the lowest common denominator which is not to be confused with a newcomer coming on a 'regular' hunting day (where they would presumably be in the company of an experienced mentor or friend to take care of their needs). Which means emphasize the ability of that field master to navigate the country in a way that still can allow for at least occasional glimpses of hounds and staff. All quite doable if you plan it out.

                    2. You need more than just a field master leading the way that knows the country. You need someone 'riding drag' and several other experienced members who are willing to give up a hard riding day to give newcomers help as needed (I'll suggest the ideal ratio is 1 veteran per 3 newcomers). Those veterans must be being willing to accompany someone who's having trouble back to the meet. Truly- if someone is miserable because their never- ever horse is having issues- their best option is NOT to try to work through it but to retire from the mayhem and have a pleasant ride back to the trailers in the company of a veteran on a steady horse. Said veteran of course knows how to rejoin the field and continue the day- but meanwhile, think ahead- maybe have some folks on foot at the meet to help with that horse and even offer to take that person back out to car follow (if the horse is okay staying at the trailers).

                    3. You can't of course predict whether the quarry is going to take hounds away rapidly and throw the newcomer field out- that's where the field master says you know, that's hunting, happens to all of us, even the huntsman, from time to time. So you just continue your trail ride- it is after all a great opportunity to explain land conservation, regard for landowners, and hey, just seeing the countryside from the back of the horse, until you have a hope of catching up.

                    4. If #3 has kicked in, and indeed this is your 'emphasis on newcomers' day, the clever hunt would at the end of that hot run, bring the pack back to that slow field and start hunting anew from their neighborhood. Yes, even if you have already drawn or run through the covert wherever they are. Not classic hunting, but it gives them an opportunity to see what it's all about- the hounds!

                    5. More contingency planning- if you have a rider who falls off, or just gets too tired to safely continue- again more willing volunteers car following, who can take the human while one of your veterans ponies the horse back to the meet.

                    At the end of the day, you hope everyone has had a good time, even if it's just a walking trail ride. Ideally they will learn what they, and their horse, need to know to get into the sport, and what future training options (summer trail rides, etc) they might look forward to. Or- if they are instantly addicted, guidance on the ability to hire a made hunter until their skill set is such that they can continue on with their own horse.

                    Another nice touch- give 'em a small keepsake- ideally something inexpensive but nice with the hunt's logo on it, and/or a St. Hubert's medal. Or make sure someone gets pictures of that group to send to all of the participants as a souvenir of the day.


                    • #90
                      One of the good things you can do for the new to hunting types is too hold a hunt just for them. You still need staff and members to help out but then you can tailor the hunt to them. If you get a couple of runs in then all is good.
                      A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky dangerous animals and you know it.


                      • #91
                        Beverly - excellent post! You should contribute an article to Covertside; "How to Host a Successful New-Commers Hunt" both from staff/leadership side and the side of the average member.