Dino Puts On His Foxhunting Hat
|I could get used to this view!|
While the original plan was to hunt under the experienced wing of Sully's Mom, she and Sullivan had to sit it out this week since a certain big hippo has decided that he doesn't wear a shoe on his right front foot anymore. Thankfully, she set me up with another good foxhunting friend of hers who I'd met several times before and gotten along with very well, and she would ride with me and act as a babysitter/slap some sense into me should I get a case of The Weenies.
The 4am wakeup call came WAY too early. How do these foxhunting people do this twice a week?! Somehow I remembered myself, my pony, and all of the necessary equipment and was able to locate the fixture without a problem. Luckily, my hunting buddy made it in time too, even though her alarm declined to go off and she really had to hustle to get there! Relieved that I wasn't going solo, I tacked up, hopped on, and let Dino take in the sights and sounds of a giant pack of hounds and their very yelly huntsman while we waited for everyone to get ready.
My hunt buddy then informed me that she had just been asked to lead first flight, so wouldn't be able to ride with me in the field. Dino and I would be making some new friends, then!
I made the decision to go second flight since I wouldn't have any hand-holding. While I was fairly confident that we could keep up with first flight, I didn't want to overwhelm my tender little brain on our first hunting excursion. Dino, I'm sure, would have been just fine.
Once things got started, we took right off at a brisk trot down a country road in hot pursuit of the hounds and their quarry! There was something absolutely magical about being surrounded by a group of gorgeous horses, shoes and hooves clattering on the gravel and asphalt, riding through the mist of a very early morning as the sun just started to come up in the distance. It was unlike anything I'd ever experienced before.
Dino, naturally, settled right in and motored along on the buckle while I held the reins in one hand and took in the scenery. One of our new friends commented on how great he was, and marveled that this was our first time out hunting. "Yup," I said, "He's really fantastic!"
He's really fantastic.
After trotting down a grassy slope, the field stopped at the edge of the woods. The hounds were bounding through the trees in one writhing, wriggling, ear-flopping, tail-wagging mass, making the strangest sounds I'd ever heard dogs make. It was eerie and beautiful and soul-stirring.
Soon they had caught the scent of a fox, and we were off! The first challenge was to cross a steep creek bed into the woods, which some of the riders were calling a "ditch".
This was no ditch.
This was about 8ft straight down, and then 8ft straight up, and covered in huge river rocks.
But do you know what prepares you for situations like this? Trail riding with foxhunters who pay no mind to riding in and out of impossible-looking ravines and then taking off at a full gallop on the other side. The pony-eating "ditch" didn't phase me in the least, thanks to my many trail riding adventures over the past year. I floated the reins, leaned back, and Dino very handily picked his way down into the creek bed and back up the far side, no big thing. Some of the younger horses in our flight had issues with the crossing, flying all over the place and leaping through it, but we all got in and out relatively unscathed.
After that, we spent much of the ride trotting and cantering through the woods, picking our way through new trails, and doing our best to follow the hounds when they took off through terrain that was unpassable for the horses. We of course had to stop and wait a few times, too, while the hounds did their thing before taking off again. It ended up being a short morning, we were only out for about an hour and a half, but man was it FUN!
Dino behaved throughout the entire morning as if he had been hunting all his life. Hounds running through his legs, baby horses having meltdowns, and the barely-controlled chaos of fast riding in a big group of strange horses with a massive pack of hounds and a man bugling on a hunting horn and yelling at the top of his lungs didn't phase my SuperPony one bit. He was enthralled by the entire outing, and went from a hand gallop to walking quietly on the buckle seamlessly and obediently, as I knew he would. He handled tricky, rocky sections of the trail like a total pro, and I had complete trust in him to get us through everything safely. To top it all off, he was moving absolutely beautifully over his back during the longer stretches of trot and canter, clearly feeling fantastic from the previous day's body work! As far as Dino is concerned, he was made for the hunt field.
The people I met were also all so friendly and welcoming, and I really enjoyed getting to know some members of the hunt. Everyone commented on how wonderfully Dino did, and no one could believe that he is 18! My heart grew ten sizes hearing those compliments, and knowing that my pony was loving being a foxhunter, doing something he is really good at.
We will definitely be back to cap again this season, and next time I'll have no qualms about going first flight! Coops and logs be damned - my EuroPony was born to hunt!