Equestrian Events: Boxing Day Drag Hunts

Boxing Day HuntBoxing Day is one of the most popular days for Hunt Club members in the United Kingdom, the U.S., and Australia to go out with the hounds. (The season ends long before Boxing Day in Canada.)

In some jurisdictions like, the United Kingdom, hunting for animals with hounds has been replaced with a hound parade followed by a hunt for a scented bag or rag on horseback. Accordingly, many traditional Boxing Day hunts use drag hunting or trail hunting in which a scented bag is dragged along the trail or trails. In drag hunting, there is one trail. In trail hunting, there are multiple trails almost like a treasure hunt on horseback.

It's a reminder that all events, even annual events with a long tradition must evolve and change with the times.

Before the hunt, there is a breakfast featuring traditional favorites. After the parade of hounds, the horn sounds and they're off. The dogs pick up the scent and go on a hunt for the bag pursued by riders on horseback. Think of it as a hide and go seek on horseback on steroids. It is a fast paced equestrian discipline in which the riders gallop over hedges, ditches, fences, and natural obstacles.

In the past, ladies used to ride aside (on a side saddle) during hunts as demonstrated by some of the ladies in this video.

According to The Telegraph, in the United Kingdom, there are over 250 hunts on Boxing Day and tens of thousands turn out to watch. While most people associate hunting on horseback with Britain's upper classes, there is also a long U.S. hunting tradition, dating back to the 17th century with George Washington "riding to hounds". The Telegraph also indicated that John Huston, Spencer Tracey, and Walt Disney were active. Today, there are 156 U.S. hunt clubs and 14 in Canada.

How to Create a Hunt Themed Event

  1. Select a venue  with a hunt or equestrian theme.
    Examples include: Some pubs, like Hunt Pub at Hogan's Inn in King City, Ontario, have hunt themes. Many hunt clubs have banquet facilities. Others, like The Toronto Hunt (in The Beaches area of Toronto overlooking the lake), have been sold and converted into golf clubs with dining facilities or  equestrian centers and event venues like Waterstone Estate and Farms in Newmarket, Ontario. (It was the home base of the North York Toronto Hunt Club until the early 2000s.) Finally, some equestrian centres have large viewing lounges overlooking the riding arenas that can be decorated for special events.
     
  2. Visit a tack shop to pick up equestrian apparel, art, and decorative elements if the venue does not already reflect the theme.
     
  3. Plan the menu based on hunt club favorite recipes:
    • Appetizer: Marinated Shrimp (Toronto and North York Hunt)
    • Main: New Mexico Green Chile Stew (Caza Ladron Hunt, New Mexico)
    • Dessert: Carolina Trifle (Belle Meade Hunt, Georgia)

      This article from The Telegraph describes the perfect hunter's lunch (snacks really) for riders to tuck into their pockets and eat to keep energy high throughout the hunt.
       
  4. Include equestrian activities.
    If participants are up to it, a Boxing Day hack in the country on horseback would be exhilarating and gymkhana games would be a special treat for your group. These can be done at a walk for beginners. If your venue is an equestrian center with an arena, another option would be a parade of hounds by one of the local hunt clubs. 

Photo Credit: Jon

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