Don and Elsie Priddy love horseback riding on the trails at their farm near Saskatoon and they wondered how they could share their experience. While surfing the Internet Elsie came across a hunter pace and realized she had her answer.
A hunter pace is an event with its roots in fox hunting. Small teams of riders follow an outdoor course laid out over terrain that is meant to simulate the riding conditions during a fox hunt. Organizers determine the ideal time to complete the course and participants are challenged to complete it in that time.
“In the morning we go and check the course and determine what the ‘mystery pace’ will be, based upon the condition of the trail and the weather,” says Elsie. “The teams with times closest to the mystery pace receive ribbons.”
The Priddys host a hunter pace once a month from June to September. Before the ride begins, they review the course and make sure there are no obstacles — other than the planned ones. The ride consists of two loops, allowing a mid-ride break at home base, and takes the average rider about two to 2-1/2 hours to complete. Most of the course is mowed native prairie with optional jumps and water hazards along the way.
One of the most challenging parts is the “duck dip.”
“It’s a small ditch that’s about 12 feet long and two feet across that’s filled with water,” says Elsie. “There are duck decoys at each end and sometimes the horses need encouragement to jump over it.”
Another challenge is a steep hill that is a novelty to many Prairie horses and riders. Natural cross-country fences of various heights are scattered throughout the trail. If the participants find the hill or obstacles too challenging, they can simply go around.
Similar to golf, teams may pass other teams by asking to play through. The entire trail is contained within connected pastures with no roads to cross. Riders must also keep watch for and count any (artificial) foxes they see. When the riders return to the start area, they enter their answers in a draw for prizes.
Following the ride, there are several obstacles to practice with including bridges, a giant ball, wall of trust, and water box and participants are welcome to stay and enjoy lunch and discuss the ride.
“One of the things that I like best about the event is that both Western and English riders can ride together. The jumps and other obstacles are all optional so people can choose their route,” says Elsie.
Individuals will be matched with other riders as for safety, riders are not allowed to ride alone. The event is promoted on the Saskatchewan Horse Federation (SHF) website https://www.saskhorse.ca/, through a Facebook site, and posters. The fees are $40 for adults and $30 for youth. Participants must sign a waiver, have an SHF membership, and helmets are mandatory.
The Priddys are the third generation to live on the farm and now son Logan and daughter Elan are working the land. The farm began as a dairy but eventually switched to a mixed farming operation, as well as a commercial Hereford operation, and horses have always been part of the farm.
Although organizing a hunter pace is a considerable undertaking, Elsie says it is a wonderful event and plans to continue organizing them long in the future. “I only wish that instead of staying behind to help organize, I was going with them on the trail.”