A-Hunting We Will Go
|No photos of the event, so you get cute stock fox pictures!|
On Friday night, Dino and I got our first taste of foxhunting, and you guys, it was SO MUCH FUN!
Unfortunately there is no photo or video evidence of the outing, because I didn't think it would be appropriate as the new kid to be snapping away with my cell phone. But trust me, it was awesome!
We attended a sort of pre-season event called roading - a way of getting the hounds, horses, and people fit for the season, and a great way to introduce newbies to the sport. The only fee I had to pay was to bring something for the potluck dinner afterwards, which was a nice bonus!
I was both nervous and excited getting ready for roading. Foxhunting has this mystique and aura of exclusivity about it, like a secret society. There are so many rules! What should I wear?! Will I do something offensive and embarrass myself?! Was my square saddle pad 'inappropriate'?! I felt like I was going to have dinner with the Queen of England and concerned about using the wrong fork.
|At makes hunting seem very, very scary...|
Roading is also, blessedly, a very casual affair so I didn't have to worry so much about wearing, doing, or saying the wrong thing!
We arrived at our starting point and unloaded the horses, and I introduced myself to several people in our general vicinity. Once mounted, it wasn't long before the hounds were unloaded from their trailer - very, very close to where we were standing! My friend had wanted to stand us far away from the hounds at first so that Dino could watch them from a distance, but as the huge undulating, wagging, sniffing, wiggling wave of Hound came bounding off of the trailer there was no turning back. I was about to find out exactly how my pony felt about foxhounds.
Dino. Was. AWESOME.
He didn't spook, he didn't startle, he wasn't worried, he just stood stock still and watched the hounds with interest. Several ran practically right under his nose, and all he did was reach his muzzle down to them. I was patting him and saying "GOOD PONY! WONDERFUL PONY!" over and over again like a moron.
Soon everyone was mounted, and we were off! My friend rode right up to the front, directly behind the Whip (essentially the Master's assistant) and I followed as we took off trotting down the road and turned onto a mowed path through a huge field. There was nothing but farmland for miles and miles; an absolutely stunning part of New Jersey.
Since we were roading, not hunting, the hounds were kept together in a close pack instead of allowing them to fan out and catch a scent. The Master and a couple other huntsmen rode up front with the hounds, and the rest of us followed at a distance. Dino was enthralled by the whole experience and was absolutely amazing for his first time around the hounds and riding in a big group with horses coming close to him, touching him, and passing him constantly. Soon my friend dropped back towards the middle of the group to ride with another friend of hers, and told me to follow close to the Whip's horse - a steady, seasoned foxhunter that wouldn't kick my pony if he got too close. We stayed at the front of the field the entire time, and Dino had no trouble keeping up with the experienced hunt horses! The ride was done mostly at a quick trot, with some walking and a couple short canters. Dino got a bit strong once in a while, but nothing bad, and about halfway through the ride I was able to put him on the bit for short periods to get him to focus back on me when he got a little too excited. A few times he performed a rather lovely collected canter while the other horses were trotting ahead of him.
|"I smell a fox..."|
At one point, we came around into a big open field to see the Master no longer on his horse. He called my friend over to pony the horse home for him, but as the group started walking back to our starting point, the Master's horse pulled away and took off.
So, of course, here come my friend and Sully galloping like the lone ranger after this horse! It was truly impressive. Thankfully they caught him after a few minutes, but it definitely got very exciting for a while there. Dino, being the rockstar he is, stood quietly and just watched the whole scene unfold, even as other horses were getting antsy and anxious around him.
We ended the evening with some delicious food and drink, and I got the chance to chat with some really great people and make some new connections. It turns out that riding at the front of the field like we did our very first time out is kind of a big deal, and I felt totally confident the entire time, never worrying about being able to keep up or being overfaced. I'm sure that will change when we go on our first real hunt with more galloping and jumping, but I'd say our first foxhunting adventure was a resounding success! Dino was totally perfect and fantastic, I had an amazing time, and I can't wait to do more!