As we move into Fall, the seasons are changing, the weather is getting cooler, our horses are getting shaggy… and it’s time to start considering what to do with your horse now that show season is over. Enter, Fox Hunting, or better yet, Cub Hunting. So, what is Cub Hunting? How is it different from Fox Hunting? Why and where do hunts often participate? Here are some answers to your unanswered questions.
What Cub Hunting is…
Cub Hunting is essentially hunting in the early fall (late-August through October). It can also be called “Informal Season” or Autumn Season.” This is when the hunt usually takes the young hounds (young entry) out to experience hunting for the first time. The huntsman will take out a mixed set of older hounds and young hounds to let them all learn to work together. The hounds learn what quarry they are allowed to hunt (in most cases fox and coyote) and what scents they are not allowed to hunt (deer and rabbits). It allows the young fox kits and coyote pups to learn what it is like to be hunted and how to evade the hounds. This is also a good time for riders to condition their horses as there is a lot of walking and standing involved. It lets a young or green horse learn what to do in a hunt and at a “check” (when everyone is standing still).
Some riders believe every time they go out to hunt they will be running and jumping at top speed. This is a common myth. During Cub hunting there is a lot of walking and standing. It is a good time for riders to learn the country (or new country) and to learn all they can about the pack of hounds they follow. The hounds are encouraged to stay in what is called the “covert” (pronounced “cover”), where there are lots of closely gathered trees and brush or crops such as corn for them to acquire good scent.
Sometimes, but very rarely the hounds will strike on a good scent and the quarry will run from the covert. In this case there is a bit of galloping for the riders in the field, which gives everyone a taste of the hunting season to come. This can be very exciting and exhilarating. However, In states like Kentucky where heat is a factor in early fall, the Huntsmen and Masters feel it is best to not run the hounds or horses for a long period of time because it can lead to heat exhausted animals. It should serve as a reason to keep coming back each week to learn all you can and enjoy every minute of the sport.
Cub Hunting is not formal hunting. Most hunts do not require their riders to wear formal clothing. The horses and their tack are expected to be neat and clean, but horses need not be braided. Cub hunting usually starts earlier in the day than a regular hunting day, because the scent is low to the ground in the early morning. As the day gets hotter, the scent rises. Cub hunting usually only lasts a couple of hours rather than what can be four or more hours on a regular hunt day. After all, it is about training the hounds.
So, if you have an interest in trying out a new sport, try Cub Hunting. There is a lot to be learned, and a lot of countryside you will not see in a car or on foot. It will make you a stronger rider and help your horse to be smarter with his feet as well as give him something different to experience. Plus, what could be better than spending a day with horses, dogs, and friends?