Fall in Love with Hunter Paces

Updated June 6, 2023
horse and rider jumping log jump in hunter pace
All photos courtesy of Alissa Hof.

While the end of summer can be a drag, this conclusion also marks the start of a new season – fall. Soon the colorful foliage, crisp nights, and Halloween excitement will make you forget all about those hot and buggy summer days. Best of all, fall is an awesome time to be a horseback rider, as it’s now hunter pace season!

What is a Hunter Pace?

horse overlooking water on a hunter pace

Hunter paces are competitive yet laid-back events that stem from foxhunting. Teams of two or three horses and riders follow a marked course about 5-10 miles long. The terrain and jumps are designed to be like those one would find while out foxhunting, and typically all the jumps have a go-around. Therefore, hunter paces are popular among competitive jumping and trail riders. 

Many hunter paces are divided into multiple divisions to separate the leisure riders from those more competitive. Each division has an optimum time set based on the suggested riding pace for the course. The horse and rider team in each division that finishes closest to this time wins. However, despite the semi-competitive nature of hunter paces, most people go simply to have fun with their horses and enjoy time with their barn buddies!

If you live in an area where foxhunting is more common - such as New England, New York, and New Jersey - you can likely find a hunter pace in the fall or spring.

Preparing for a Hunter Pace

Prepping your horse for a hunter pace can take some planning, especially if it’s his first time out. Whether your horse is seasoned out of the ring or not, hitting the trails and schooling in open fields outside in the weeks before your upcoming hunter pace would be a great idea. This will help physically and mentally prepare you and your horse.

In addition, if you plan to do some jumping during the pace, it could be beneficial to school your horse over natural-looking jumps such as logs, hay bales, barrels, and water crossings if available to you. 

If your horse has never been off the property, it could also be a good idea to take him on a trailer ride or two to get him ready for the haul to the pace.

Remember to Have Fun

horse and rider walking on hunter pace

Once the big day arrives, double-check that you have everything you need, especially your helmet and water for your horse. It could also be fun to dress up in team colors or wear a shirt that matches your horse’s saddle pad. You can get creative at hunter paces and wear some wild colors and patterns. Just remember, the day is all about having fun.

The information provided in the Horsemanship Library is based solely on our SmartPak authors' opinions. SmartPak strongly encourages you to consult your veterinarian or equine professionals regarding specific questions about your horse's health, care, or training. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat or cure any disease or behavior and is purely educational.