Figuring out exactly how and when to prepare for hunting was very nerve-wracking for me when I first started, so now that I have a system that works for me I thought I would share it. Add extra time if you have a light-colored horse!
The Night Before: Horse Prep
Allow about 30 minutes to bathe and 30 minutes for your horse to dry. More if you’re drinking beers with barn friends.
A few tricks:
Use Orvus soap for your initial scrub of the body, mane and tail. Rinse/scrub with a curry comb hose attachment to really get down to the skin level of dirt.
Follow up with conditioner in the mane and tail. Rinse. Spray with Show Sheen and brush out from bottom to top to avoid breaking hairs.
If your barn hot water tends to go cold quickly, fill up a bucket or two with room temperature water before turning on the hot water. Put a water heater in the bucket, plug it in and let it heat up while you use up the hose hot water. By the time you are ready to rinse, you will have warm water.
Throw an Irish knit and/or cooler on your horse to dry off with some hay in a stall or under heat lamps. Make sure to keep an eye on your horse so they are not stuck shivering in a wet cooler. Just flip to the dry side once one side is damp. If your horse is likely to roll make sure to tie them in the stall while drying. If you want to Show Sheen the neck and rump of your horse to try to repel dirt, you can, but I think very few foxhunters do this. NEVER Show Sheen the saddle area of your horse. I learned this the hard way with saddle pads that literally slipped out from under my saddle while hunting!!!
If you are stalling your horse overnight, make sure the stall is picked out. Untie your horse and leave plenty of hay and water. If you are turning out your horse for the night, make sure they are DRY and definitely Show Sheen the mane and tail to repel dirt. It might seem pointless to bathe a horse and then turn them out for the night, but it certainly has a place if it will get the base layer of dirt off and make them happier in the morning (or avoid stocking up). Of course you will have to arrive earlier in the morning to do another bath if you don’t stall your horse.
Make sure there is hay and water in the trailer.
Lay out your saddle, saddle pad(s), and bridle near the grooming stall or wherever you tack up in the morning. All of this is already clean because you clean your tack after every ride, right? You absolutely need to during hunt season!
The Night Before: Human Prep
Get all the rider supplies you need ready. This takes me about 10 minutes for clothes and about 10 minutes for flask and sandwich case. If you are a morning person, you might be able to do this stuff as part of your morning routine, but I move at the speed and intelligence of Beltway traffic in the morning so it is easier for me to prepare everything the night before.
I always put all my hunt attire in the bathroom the night before so I can brush my teeth and get dressed early in the morning without waking my light-sleeping husband. You need breeches, socks, belt, show shirt, stock tie (I always store my stock tie with the stock pin stuck through it so I don’t ever lose it), hunting jacket, and a loose layer of clothes to go on top so your nice clothes don’t get dirty. This is a trick I learned from my show hunter days. When I get dressed in the morning, I cover my ensemble with a sweatshirt and pajama pants.
There are waterproof zip-up pants that are made just for this purpose but you can certainly get by without them.
Food and Drink:
Often I will try to get creative with my hunt breakfast tailgate contributions, but if you want to make things really easy, make a BIG batch of muffins, cookies or sweet bread and put it in the freezer days or weeks ahead of time. Let it thaw in your car the night before a hunt and you are in business!
My tradition the night before I hunt is to do a little bartending with whatever concoction I can make from the liquor I have at home. You can’t go wrong with port wine or sherry in your flask but the options are endless. Hard lemonade is great for hot days. Apple juice with whiskey or apple brandy is great for fall. You want something with a kick that is also semi-refreshing. Avoid anything carbonated because it will explode, and also avoid Baileys or other creamy or very sweet liquors because they will be disgusting, as I found out.
I believe a white meat sandwich with the crust cut off tied in paper is technically correct to put in a ladies’ sandwich case, but I normally put granola bars and chapstick.
Set your coffeemaker for the morning and put a to-go thermos right next to it!
If you are really on top of your game, put your tall boots, hunt coat and a tweed jacket for the breakfast in your car. Otherwise, keep all your clothes together and do this in the morning.
The Morning Of
Say, for example, the hunt begins at 8 am, and it takes 20 minutes to trailer to the meet. I would wake up at 5 am and arrive at the barn by 6 am to be safe. If I stalled my horse overnight, I might arrive at 6:30. Here’s a hypothetical time schedule.
5am…ish: Wake up, brush teeth, wash face. Some women wear makeup to hunt but I have no idea how to manage that level of coordination. Put on your breeches, socks, belt, shirt, and tie your stock tie. Pin to your shirt and throw a sweatshirt and pajama pants (or zip-ups) over the entire thing.
Grab coffee, hunt jacket, boots, helmet, gloves, sandwich case, flask, tailgate contribution and go!
5:30 am: Drive to barn
6am: An early-morning hunt would be during my horse’s normal breakfast time, so the first thing I do is feed right when I arrive at the barn. Up to your discretion if you give a half portion and feed the rest when you return home or a full portion.
While your horse is eating, investigate how clean they stayed overnight. Always assume you will need to do some touch-ups. Get a bucket of water ready during the 15 or so minutes it takes for your horse to eat.
6:15 am: Last-minute grooming. Make sure to check your horse’s hooves and legs carefully.
6:30 am: Hook up your trailer while your horse dries. (I trailer with a friend so I normally don’t do this but it does take about 10 min.)
6:40 am: Inevitably something will go wrong. You need buffer time! Check trailer lights, hay and water (again) and if all is well, get yourself ready. Put on your boots, straighten your stock tie, etc. Make sure to put your helmet and gloves on the trailer.
7:15 am : Tack up. Put your saddle on with the girth fairly loose, and you can even put the bridle on if it is a short trailer ride. NOT Pony Club approved but hunt people do it all the time so they can unload from the trailer and ride off. Alternatively, you can bridle your horse in the trailer once you arrive at the meet. Then you will need to arrive even earlier of course.
|The reins go under the throatlatch, and then you twist them several times and loop over the head so the horse cannot get a foot through them. Halter goes over the entire bridle contraption.
I would not recommend bridling your horse while tied to the trailer at the meet, unless your horse is a saint OR unless you arrive very early. There is just too much going on and too much of a high-energy environment.
7:20 am (but realistically, 7:30 am): Load and haul out! Plan backward so you arrive at the meet at least 10 minutes early. The hunt will not wait for you!
After the Hunt
Once hunting is over typically it’s a long walk back to the trailers, which is a good opportunity to cool out your horse and enjoy a few sips from your flask.
When you get back to the trailer, dismount, loosen girth, offer your horse water and untack. Splash some Vetrolin in your wash water, bathe your horse and check legs and shoes. Offer water again. If all is well, load up, close up the trailer ramp, switch from your hunt coat to your tweed, and enjoy the hunt breakfast while your horse munches on hay!
Just found out tonight that little Lefty is out of commission for a while with cellulitis. I have another horse I can ride but this likely means no dressage show in September 😦