Thursday, June 11, 2009

Fall Foxhunt

This post has nothing to do with my two mares... but is LONG overdue!

You can click on any picture to view full sized. Most are quite big and it's hard to see them shrunk down on the blog. So just click on them, and they will pop up full sized!

This past fall my friend Woody invited me to go fox hunting. A friend of mine happened to be there taking pictures of the hunt! Here we are before the start of the hunt. I'm riding Woody's mare Amber and he's riding his gelding Charm. My two girls stayed at home as they have never been out on a hunt before. Notice my sunglasses - in the rest of the pictures just search for them to find me. In some pictures finding me is a lot like finding Waldo from a page in a Where's Waldo? book!

Yes, you're right, it WOULD have been useful for Woody to look at the camera!
And yes, helmets do not make for a good fashion accessory. However, they do protect one's noggin.
The hounds were very excited to start. The experienced hounds wore different colored collars from the hounds in training.
The only participants allowed to wear red on a hunt are the hunt masters. Everyone else is required to wear navy or black dress coats, tall black riding boots, tan britches, gloves, tie, and a black helmet.
It really was a gorgeous fall day!
See me? I'm right in the middle. Yup, there's Woody's back (again).

These are about 1/2 of all the horses out on the hunt. My friend was taking pictures mostly of the first field of horses. The horses are divided into three "fields" - the first field is the most challenging (goes the fastest and goes over jumps), the second field is less strenuous but still does some cantering, and the third field is for the elderly horses or riders who mostly just walk and maybe do some light trotting. Each field is led by a hunt master who communicates to the other fields via radio. They know the trails and figure out the best way to follow the hound master and hounds. You'll notice in the picture below the horses are divided up into two distinct rows. The row in the back is part of the second field and the row in the front is part of the first field of horses.

These pictures just don't do justice with how much cantering and galloping we did that day. Woody convinced me to ride with the first field which is the fastest and hardest paced group. I agreed since the farms we were hunting on did NOT have jumps. I don't mind galloping all over, but I am not an experienced jumper. I felt that jumping on a fox hunt is NOT the place to learn! I can jump over logs and small things, but haven't ever had any lessons. Amber, the mare I'm riding, is very experienced, which made up for my inexperience when it came to maneuvering through the hunt while following all the hunt rules (such as don't step on the dogs (that's really frowned upon), yielding to hunt masters and all dogs (they have the right of way), and staying away from any rider that doesn't have their horse under control (actually, that's more of a self preservation guideline then anything else).

Here's three pictures where you can have fun spotting me...

Here you'll notice that the hound master has a horn which he uses to communicate with the 40+ hounds with us.

Most people rode Thoroughbred horses. However, there were a few draft crosses and other types of horses thrown in as well. The pair of spotted draft crosses I thought were quite pretty. Rienzi and Shae would have towered over these horses as my mares are quite a bit bigger then any of these horses. At the very least, Ren's butt is twice the size of most of these horses! :)
Notice the gentleman behind us in the pictures below. That was NOT water in that flask! I was surprised at how much social drinking happens on a early morning fox hunt. I think (and luckily Woody agrees) it's best to leave the drinking to AFTER one gets off one's horse. Galloping and cantering through fields (where there could be holes in the ground to trip your horse and send you flying off) and through woods (where there are trees and branches that could whack you and send you flying off) seem plenty dangerous enough without being impaired by alcohol!

I'm in these next two pictures also.

This was towards the end of the hunt. The hounds found an old trash pile that the less experienced hounds decided to go dig through. The hound master had to get off his horse to collect some of the hounds who felt that finding dinner in a trash heap was oodles more interesting then listening to their master. All in all, we picked up a trail or two of some foxes and had a blast.
Just as an aside, I learned that fox hunting today doesn't actually include catching foxes anymore. The hounds pick up the scent and have a grand time running a fox to ground (when the fox runs into a den, etc...). The hunt club I was with actually puts out meat for the local foxes and embeds items like wormers and other medicines in the food to keep the fox population healthy.

No comments: