WE FINALLY GOT TO GO FOXHUNTING! Or in this scenario, bobcat chasing. Whatever you call it, we galloped around for like 2 hours and it was freaking awesome.
This started as many of our adventures do, with Trainer saying “Hey Chance, you wanna ________?”. To which my answer is almost always yes, because duh. My friend Kathy was kind enough to invite some of her eventer friends out hunting with Independence Foxhounds, and a whole bunch of us showed up to see what this thing was all about. Independence is a small hunt, and they were very kind about letting us newbs have a lot of leeway with attire and tack. So if you’re used to very formal hunting, prepare to be offended by my appearance in these pictures. I, however, am very appreciative of not having to run around last minute and try to pull together something very formal for a first-time, lets-see-what-this-is-all-about kind of thing. Especially since the only really hunting appropriate thing I own is tan breeches. They even sent out an email mid-week saying we could wear raincoats, since rain was in the forecast.
Since the place where they were hunting is about 2 hours away from me (isn’t literally everything?) I left Friday afternoon after work and hauled to Trainer’s place. We set to work with the important tasks on Friday night, like preparing the flasks.
Then Saturday morning we were off bright and early to load the boys and head out. It’s been a long time since Henry’s been in a slant load, he kept trying to walk straight in and chested the divider. Derp. And since he was in the last spot, he also had to back out on kind of a slant, and step down at the same time. Double derp all over the place. Bless him. But we made it, got tacked up, and he immediately took up the role of Uncle to Trainer’s 3yo OTTB, Jack.
Everyone got mounted up with little drama, flasks in one pocket of the rain jacket, phone in the other (bc I gotta get pics of THIS!). We got a mini-briefing on rules and etiquette, sorted ourselves in second flight behind Kathy (poor Kathy, being responsible for all us idiots), and away we went.
We started out at a very civilized walk/trot, with periods of stopping and waiting as the hounds struck off looking for scent. We hung way back just kind of waiting and staying out of the way, while also being VERY ENTHUSIASTIC to be out hunting.
Then the hounds kind of went rogue after some deer and things hit pause while the staff went off to round them up. That’s when David, poor David he had no idea what he was getting into with us, came back and asked if any of us wanted to go for a gallop. Um. Yas. Yas we would. At that point we split off into two groups… the ones that wanted to run around and be idiots went with David, and the ones that wanted a more relaxed w/t experience stayed with Kathy.
And that’s how we ended up first flight. I think all of us thought that David was going to take us for a loop and bring us back, but basically we spent the next two hours galloping around. First for fun, then catching up to and following the hounds. We’d gallop for a while, then take a few minutes for “refreshments” (ie drinking and chatting).
Most of the trails were pretty open and flat with a few creek crossings, but it got a little wild a few times when we weaved through the woods. I took a tree branch to the knee that turned into a pretty bruise, and at one point while galloping behind Highlander (the draft/paint X) he tossed up a poop/dirt clod out of one hoof that got me right in the chest. And that’s how I got horse poop all over my saddle. Lesson learned – don’t gallop behind Highlander.
As with many things he does, Henry took this quite seriously. He listened intently to the hounds and horn, always very very interested in them but not scared. I think he caught on that we were following them, and the longer we were out there, the more into it he got. The hounds ended up finding a bobcat and chased it for a while before it climbed a tree. This led to more galloping around on our part.
Henry started out a little slow but by the end he was finding a whole new gear and was still full of run by the time were done, after almost 3 hours total of being out. He basically pranced back to the trailers.
And for the data geeks among us, the GPS map from the master’s horse and the hounds is pretty cool. Her horse covered almost 11 miles. No clue how far we went, but we went there fast. I should turn on my GPS next time.
Yeah that’s right, I said next time. Because holy shit that was fun, I totally want to go back. Galloping and/or giggling for 3 hours was basically all of my childhood dreams come true, and it’s some seriously awesome conditioning for the horses, especially with the different terrain and footing.
Except I want to be a little less ghetto next time, so I’m gonna try to pick up a plain navy or black coat for cheap. Luckily they’re all over eBay for like $25, since nobody wears the wool coats anymore. Henry also thinks he’s earned a hunt bridle, but I’m not convinced yet.
Maybe after a few more hunts, kiddo.
I can’t thank Kathy enough for inviting us, or Independence enough for letting us come see what it’s all about. Foxhunting has been on my bucket list forever and it was just as fun as I thought it would be. We will definitely be back!