It is possible that it is unnecessary to point out that horses have been utilized in the sport of foxhunting for a very significant number of centuries. This is because horses have always presented man with the most obvious and practical medium through which to seek out and pursue his quarry, regardless of whether that quarry is a boar, stag, fox, or hare. It has always been the case that the species of animal hunted, the size and weight of the rider, and the terrain of the area hunted all have a role in determining the sort of animal that is used for riding. It is quite evident that the hunter, in the strictest sense of the word, is not of any particular breed.
If, on the other hand, the hunter is thought of as being responsible for the best hunting in England, Ireland, or the United States, then the Thoroughbred horse is the one that is thought of as being essential for a hunt. This is particularly true in areas where the fences are large and the hounds hunt in the majority of cases over grass, such as in the shires of England. In addition to this, hunting countries that are considered to be “heavy,” which means that the going may be expected to be deep and holding, obviously require a short-legged and powerful animal; and to generalize even further, a hilly country requires not only a horse with exceptional shoulders but also one that has natural balance, if its rider is to hunt with safety as well as comfort.
In a confined and trappy country, where there is much woodland and the fences are very varied in character, a handy horse of reasonable height is indicated. It should be emphasized that one of the most important requirements of a hunter in any of the countries suggested, or indeed in any country, good, bad, or indifferent, is a horse with plenty of natural intelligence, because a day with hounds can hardly be enjoyed anywhere, at any time, without both horse and rider finding the experience enjoyable
According to British rules, the modern show hunter is divided into three classes: the lightweight hunter must weigh 13 st. or less, the middleweight hunter must weigh 13 st. to 1412 st., and the heavyweight hunter must weigh beyond 1412 st. A Thoroughbred horse that can carry as much weight as possible has the potential to be the most admired and undoubtedly the most costly hunter. This is because the greater the amount of weight the horse is able to carry, the higher his market worth will be.
When evaluating a hunter, there are a few fundamentals that are of utmost significance and should never be forgotten. His body must be generous and sufficiently ample to allow his heart, lungs, and other organs to perform their duties under conditions of great exertion. In addition, he should give his rider as much of a reign as is humanly possible. He must, of course, be completely sound and stand on the strongest of legs.
It is essential that his head be of the appropriate proportions and that his neck be of the appropriate length in order to facilitate the several acts of balancing that are required of him during a hunt. It is believed that a high-class hunter always has the ability to discover a “extra leg” in times of need, which is almost as important as being fearless, bold, and tireless. It is clear that the Thoroughbred, or a horse that is as close as possible to having the temperament of a Thoroughbred, is the ideal horse for hunting, given that he is not allowed to change his fences and is instead required to take a defensive stance and boldly attack each one as he comes across it.
The capacity of a hunter to execute in a fashion that is expected of a good hunter when following hounds should be the primary factor that determines the value of a hunter. This does not, however, apply to the show hunter in England because no certificate or evidence of any type is required of his performance in that area. Additionally, he is not obliged to jump hurdles in the show ring, although this may be a requirement of entrance at various shows from time to time.
Under these conditions, the judgement needs to be focused on conformation and, to some extent, type, but mostly on the activity of the dogs. In addition, the judge will ride the exhibit to gain a better understanding of how the horse would most likely behave during the excitement of the pursuit and to determine whether or not the horse would have adequate control over his fences. The real level of success or failure that he can achieve is up to the discretion of the judge.
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