Count yourself lucky if, while driving down Hamel Road, you have seen twenty fox hounds in full cry followed by a procession of riders decked out in scarlet and black coats galloping on beautiful horses through an open field. Truly a sight out of an old English print. As if on cue, they stop, gather forces and then move on to another territory.
The Long Lake Hounds have been chasing fox scent in Medina, and now further west for 60 years. The club grew out of the much older Long Lake Trails Association. Members met by the shores of Long Lake and galloped their horses through the Wolsfeld Woods and across open fields. The last organized foxhunt in Minnesota folded during World War II and horse back riders in the area still yearned to hunt again. By 1959 the Long Lake Trails Association became the Long Lake Hounds. As more members joined, more trails were created around Long Lake and Medina.
The hunt does not actually chase live game nor kill a fox. The pack is trained to follow a drag saturated in fox urine and glycerine. The route is carefully planned – with permission gained from generous landowners. Trails are maintained by members. All of this chorography is enjoyed by members and guests every Wednesday and Saturday morning June-October.
Finding a good hunt horse is not easy. He (or she) needs to be willing to trot and canter over rough terrain. Hounds pop out in the most unexpected places and one’s horse needs to move on as if nothing has happened. A log across the path? No problem, just jump it. If the rider doesn’t want to jump, there is always a way around. The sound of the huntsman’s horn will not spook these hunting horses.
The hounds are also a well disciplined group. They are bred by the hunt, always breeding the best to the best. Those hounds who have a history of chasing wildlife or not listening are not used in the breeding program. Not enough hounds? Ask another hunt if they have a few to spare. It is called drafting, just like in baseball. The Long Lake Hounds pack consists of 15 hounds, about a third bred from the Long Lake Hounds pack and the rest from packs in Iowa and Illinois.
Long Lake Hounds is a “Drag” hunt, what does that mean?
A drag hunt means that prior to the hunt, a fox scent is dragged on horseback to create the scent that will be pursued by the hounds later that morning. The “fox” follows a pre-determined route across the property of over 200 landowners that have given the hunt special permission to ride. Hounds and horses then work together in pursuit of the “fox” to create a thrilling and traditional fox hunting experience. No live animals are ever hunted.
What does a Hunt look like in Minnesota?
During a typical hunt, hounds and horses travel 5-8 miles across open and wooded terrain. A hunt is divided into 3-7 lines, between which the “fox” circles the scent in an open field, allowing the hounds, horses, and riders to catch their breath. At the end of a hunt, the hounds are given treats and praised for their work. After the hunt, members get together for breakfast either at a tailgate or a landowner’s home.
Interested in seeing or riding in a hunt?
Visit www.longlonghounds.com or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/LongLakeHounds/.