Fox hunt clinic prepares riders for upcoming season

Brad the Percheron warmblood is a sight to see at the Santa Fe Hunt clinic at the Garner Cattle Company ranch in Garner Valley Sunday, Oct. 22. Diane Seiker photo

The Santa Fe Hunt club held a clinic at the Garner Cattle Company’s fields, pastures and forests in Garner Valley Sunday, Oct. 22.

The club “hunts” or more appropriately, chases, the fox with hounds, horses and riders. The chances are definitely in the fox’s favor and no animal is harmed in the sport.

At this clinic, the hounds were not present, but skills were introduced, practiced and honed, in anticipation of the upcoming hunt season that runs from November to April. Basic horsemanship, assessment of the riders’ abilities, safe riding in a group of horses, the ability to traverse uneven territory (hills, ditches, soft sand, rocky creek bottoms, etc.), opening and closing gates and determining how well the horses behave in the hunt field were all covered.

This clinic, which was a precursor to events planned for the upcoming hunt season, was scheduled to begin at 9 a.m., however, a number of riders arrived late, and the event didn’t actually start until about 10:15 a. m. It ran for about four hours, ending at about 3:15 p. m. for those who had to break down the tables and clean up the landowner’s property.  A regular hunt day does not wait for late arrivals and usually finishes about 2 p. m. or so. Many of this year’s hunts are planned for the Garner Ranch location, or “fixture.”

Horses and people from every walk of life and every size and shape took part in the clinic. Horse breeds such as Thoroughbreds, Arabians, quarter horses, ponies, draft breeds and more were all represented. The Pony Club children were also invited to take part in the day’s activities and made an excellent showing. Both seasoned equestrians and beginners were present for this valuable educational opportunity. Riders from as far away as Palos Verdes and as close as Idyllwild showed up that sunny morning.

“The majority of our hunt members drive more than two hours one way to get to our fixtures in Anza and Garner Valley,” said Clarice Grado, honorary secretary of the Santa Fe Hunt.

The opening hunt is scheduled on Nov. 11 at the Garner Valley fixture and the group will return again Wednesday, Nov. 22.

The December schedule for Garner Ranch is:  Saturday, Dec. 2, Wednesday, Dec. 13, and Saturday, Dec. 30.

“The pack of hounds will be present for these hunts,” Grado said.

Foxhunting is an equestrian sport where horseback riders chase a wild fox with a pack of hounds. The riders follow the hounds as they scent and chase the fox, sometimes at breakneck speeds. The “prey” scrambles through the countryside cunningly evading its pursuers. Jumps, water crossings, gates, hills and other obstacles are all to be encountered on a hunt. Hunt members are also expected to follow strict rules of courtesy, safety and etiquette.

The day was very successful with an impressive 57 riders in the field; 21 Santa Fe Hunt members and 36 guests.

“With the help of many volunteers, the Oktoberfest style punchbowl [meal] was also a success.  I have been Membership Chairperson for the past 20 years and Honorary Secretary for the past four years.  However, I am retiring and my apprentice, Clare Williams, will be taking both those positions this year,” Grado said.

The Honorary Secretary position is to keep a census of each hunt, collect capping fees from guests in the field and is the ambassador of the hunt who communicates with other local hunts in the Western states. Grado is the media contact and proponent for the club.

“It even makes a great spectator sport,” Grado said.

For more information on the Santa Fe Hunt club, please see their website at www.santafehunt.com. Clare Williams can be contacted at: coast2coastclare@hotmail.com, or (760) 492-4198.

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