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Newbie to hunter pace

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  • Newbie to hunter pace

    Hi. I am a lower level dressage rider. Through an amazing stroke of luck I ended up with an 11 YO ISH gelding. He is basically built to jump and while he tolerates all of my circles, I can tell he would love to be doing other things.

    I was thinking of trying him out in a local hunter pace. His former owner used to do hunter paces with him and said he loved it. I am like a total beginner at jumping. I have popped my horse over crossrails and it was fine, but that is my jumping experience. He is also strong on trails but enjoys them.

    I have a lot more questions than answers. I found a local hunter pace that takes place in a month. I would like to do it, but I have no clue how to start, what I need, etc. My whole barn consists of dressage riders so I don't even have anyone to go with with and I understand you need a team of three. Any advice is appreciated.

  • #2
    If they're like the ones my hunt puts on, it's very much a come as you are. Wear safe, neat gear (we have western riders show up!) and go. I've seen people do them in dressage saddles because we have go arounds for all the jumps. You don't have to jump a thing if you don't want to. We also have a fair number of people who show up without a team. There's always someone willing to have an extra on the team.

    I'd call up the hunt or whoever is putting on the pace and ask. Most people are happy to answer all your questions or hook you up with a team.


    • #3
      I agree with candysgirl. Call the people who are putting it on. Some hunts have more strict attire rules than others. You don't have to jump anything, but you should have experience with various terrain, going up and down hills, through streams, etc. Make sure you get hooked up with a team who is comfortable doing the pace you can do. Some teams will be going for fastest time, while others are going for optimum time, some with little kids or green horses may just be going to trot the whole course. I would definitely do a trial run with other horses if you can before the event to see how strong your horse may get. You may have to let people pass you or pass other people and your horse needs to remain calm. They are a lot of fun, so enjoy!


      • #4
        Originally posted by candysgirl View Post
        If they're like the ones my hunt puts on, it's very much a come as you are. Wear safe, neat gear (we have western riders show up!) and go. I've seen people do them in dressage saddles because we have go arounds for all the jumps. You don't have to jump a thing if you don't want to. We also have a fair number of people who show up without a team. There's always someone willing to have an extra on the team.

        I'd call up the hunt or whoever is putting on the pace and ask. Most people are happy to answer all your questions or hook you up with a team.
        This is all good advice. If you are in Virginia or Massachusetts, PM me and I will see if I know anyone going.

        I can ride my horses without a sharps container.


        • #5
          Hunter paces are a blast. Kind of like an organized trail ride with jumps that you can go around if you do not want to jump.

          I third (fourth?) the suggestion that you call the organization that is putting on the pace you want to attend and ask them their requirements and if they have anyone who is willing to pair up with you. Be sure to be honest about how fast you want to go, etc. so they can best find you a partner. Most likely one of the experienced riders who already went out doing it at a faster pace will be willing to go out again with a new rider.


          • #6
            The hunter paces I have been to have several different "divisions", some jumping ,some not. They also have fast pace and optimum pace. They usually divide all the classes into junior/senior riders and usually have an Over the hill class as well.(old folks...hehe) Your horse needs to be able to navigate a variety of terrain-hills, ditches, water.


            • #7
              Hunter paces are so much fun !! Don't forget to bring lunch for after, most
              people in my area tailgate while waiting for the results, so we make it a
              party :-)

              You don't have to do any jumps at all. You can even walk the entire thing,
              but please allow faster teams to pass. But if you want to be competitive,
              a good idea of the fitness level you will need (both you and your horse) is
              that if you can do a good working trot, with maybe 1 or 2 short canters and
              a few walk breaks, then you're fit enough.

              As someone else mentioned, you should also be comfortable riding over
              varied terrain - up and down hills, crossing streams, open fields, maybe
              even along the grassy verge of the road where there is traffic. The footing
              may be rocky, so your horse may need to have shoes/boots. It depends
              on the location of the pace. If your horse doesn't like water crossing or
              has a problem with other things you might come across on the trail, it helps
              to have a partner whose horse will give yours a lead.

              You'll also want to bring your own water, as sometimes the start sites
              have no running water. You'll want to wear a watch so you can check
              your start/stop times (a regular watch will do fine). You'll want to bring
              your cell phone too, and get the phone number of someone from the organization
              that you can call should you get lost or have a problem.

              You may also want to consider using a little stronger bit than what you would
              use in the ring at home. Some horses get a little up about trotting around
              outside the ring and you'll want to be sure you have brakes when you need them.

              My mare loves loves LOVES hunter pacing. She gets in the 'zone' and actually starts heading
              towards the jumps on her own as she has a lot of fun with it.

              My mare loves loves loves hunter pacing. She knows when she's on a trail ride,
              and she knows when she's on a hunter pace. She gets


              • #8
                Hunter paces are great fun. You can certainly go ride in your dressage saddle, assuming you don't want to jump. I would bit up and go with a steady-eddie partner. Schooling attire is fine. We get eventers/steeplechasers/pony clubbers/endurance riders at ours.

                When you sign in that day they usually ask if you are a Junior, Senior or Mixed group and if you are Non-Jumping, Mid-Rail or High-Rails...there are different optimum times for these categories. You are free to go as slow as you want tho- the point is to have fun.

                The organizers will have you sign a release, you may have to provide a current Coggins. Once you are tacked up, you wander over to the Start where they give you a time. You complete the marked course and come back to where you started, where they record your time. You most likely will have to come to "checks" where an event person will record your pinny number and/or mark the back of your wrist in marker.

                Depending on your terrain, you might have to navigate hills, ravines, creeks, muck, paved roads, etc.

                We ride out at a good fox-hunting pace, so we will cover 5-6 miles in about an hour. Our terrain consists of woods, open fields (watch for ground hog holes!) timber, coops, logs, post-and-rail fences. Sometimes we have to navigate a field of cattle...depending on the fixture.

                It is good etiquette to ask the riders in front of you to pass through, if you feel they are moving too slowly. Remember to either pass them at a walk or a trot, never canter past other riders in the field, especially if they are on young/green horses.

                Have a great time!


                • Original Poster

                  Thank you so much for all the great advice! I am definitely planning to bit up because my boy is big & strong and gets very excited to be out and about. He tires quickly so that helps

                  I am planning to go by myself, so I took the advice of the forum and reached out to the organization planning the pace to see if they could find me a partner. I am 40, kind of a wimp and am not looking to eat dirt, so a steady eddie would be really nice. The woman who I spoke with at the Windy Hollow Hunt was really nice and is going to try and find me a partner.


                  • #10
                    Good for you. Have fun and send us a report afterwards!


                    • #11
                      I have been reading this post and wondering....amn that sounds like fun, where/how can I find a hunter pace in my area? Im in VA.


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by SonicBoom View Post
                        I have been reading this post and wondering....amn that sounds like fun, where/how can I find a hunter pace in my area? Im in VA.
                        You can check this website:

                        And there are a few left in MD (Goshen, Potomac and Carrollton)

                        depending on which part of VA.