Horses, hounds and riders

Open Day hunts are a highlight of the year for those who love the beauty of our countryside. Waimate farmers Dan and Bridget Studholme share their passion and experience of a day on horseback with the Waimate District Hunt.

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You spend all day out hunting. You come home caked in mud, legs like jelly and a big grin on your face. Everyone who hunts knows this. New recruits can tell you why this is: because once you’ve tried it quite simply nothing else will do. 

Hunting is brilliant because it combines so many of the things that make life worth living: the beauty of our countryside; the camaraderie of shared danger; the glamour of a mobile cocktail party; the application of hard-won skills; the escapist joy of living purely in the moment; the thrill of the chase and dressing up in fabulous costumes.

Of all these, what you will come to enjoy most is the relationship you have with your horse. 

Horses are herd animals and like nothing better than to hang out with a crowd of mates – especially if it involves galloping at reckless speeds and flying over fences. When horses in a field see a hunt go past or even hear a horn or the “music” of the hounds, they go insane with excitement.

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There are many key people involved in a hunt from the huntsman who cares for the pack of 12 couple harrier hounds (never “dogs”); the huntsman who can think like both hare and hound and can marshal his pack like a battle fleet;  the riders and their cherished mounts, the endless volunteers who prepare fences and run the club. 

Children are another of hunting’s joys. Rosy-cheeked pony clubbers in ties and hacking jackets, vying, fence for fence with the adults. There’s no other activity on earth where children and adults can compete and bond on equal terms – same hardships, same risks, same buzz. 

When you learn to ride there are all sorts of sensible rules about safety you follow: don’t jump when it’s too muddy or hard; don’t gallop round tight bends. But following fast-moving hounds gives you licence to ignore them all.

And when the hounds do chase a hare, things get rather exciting.

Afterwards, everyone’s amazed to be in one piece; you feel an extraordinary bond with those who have shared the experience. People who were strangers an hour before now feel like your oldest, most intimate friends.

Hunting is a sport for anyone. Admittedly the horse and the kit and the “cap” don’t come cheap but it’s not necessary to be the world’s greatest rider (I’m not) or even to be able to jump (there are always gates). The only things you do need are an appetite for speed and a steady nerve and a love of life.

Favourite thing about Waimate District?

Central to everywhere in the South Island

Favourite thing to eat in Waimate District?

Waimate berries when in season

Favourite place in Waimate District?

On the top of the Hunter Hills


The Waimate District Hunt

Established in 1882, the Waimate District Hunt is now in its 135th year. 

There is a hunt or ‘meet’ once or twice a week during the season, which extends from March to mid July.

Contact: Robyn Davis  P.  03 689 2285

Contact: Nicola Guy  M.  027 259 2688

eventKate O'Connell