Hunting with hounds consists of trailing the animal with a pack of hounds whose predatory instincts are used, until the animal is eventually taken without using firearms. Hunts with hounds were traditionally conducted on horseback, although today they are also carried out on foot. A single animal is hunted during a day of hunting with hounds.
The first evidence of hunting with hounds appeared on Assyrian bas-reliefs. The qualities required of a horse for hunting with hounds are endurance, calm and skills to overcome obstacles. Breeding is carried out with this in mind.
A horse for hunting must have a strong back, short hips, strong nerves and a low tailhead.
With nearly 7,000 horses, in 2012 hunting with hounds played an active part in the horse industry (breeders, veterinarians, caretakers, blacksmiths, carriers, outfitters, saddlers...).
Training was for both endurance and three-day events. A hunting horse had to be calm: it must accept dogs as companions without harming them, as well as the horn calls played during the hunt by its rider. It must also be able to isolate whip work directed towards the dogs and as an artificial aid.It benefits from riding specific to hunting, which provides horses with a natural balance by freeing the neck.
Throughout the history of the French hunting with hounds, the horse breeds used have evolved: in medieval times horses were heavy and similar to draft horses, in the 17th century, the Lusitano horse was preferred and in the 19th century the Anglo-Arab thoroughbred appeared.
Today, French saddles and rehabilitated trotters are used. Hunts with hounds offer a second career to racing horses. These horses have the stamina and character for this new work. Today, equestrian hunting with hounds is a discipline recognised by the French Equestrian Federation.