After our first foray into foxhunting last year, I really wanted to do more of it this season. Henry seemed to love it, I thought it was a freaking blast, and it’s such good conditioning for the event horses. Independence Foxhounds hunts a lot on weekdays, which work always gets in the way of (pesky work, always standing in the way of life), and during the fall with our show season it always seems difficult to make it to their weekend hunts. Either we’re showing, or I’m trying to rest my horse’s legs a bit between shows. My trainer let me hunt one of her horses a few weeks ago, since I was in town for lessons anyway, and when the text went out about Opening Hunt (the Blessing) in the middle of a relatively empty stretch on our calendar, I was quick to jump on that.
The Blessing is Opening day for formal season, so it’s a big deal. There’s even more food and drink than usual, everyone braids and wears their formal attire, and there’s a priest doing a prayer before we head out. Very posh. Much Fancy. Since I had to be out of the barn by 6am to make the drive, I braided Henry down the night before and tucked him into his Jammies for the night. Of course, as I do every time I pull that dumb thing on, I had to stop when his ears were still tucked into it and make my “Lieutenant Dan, you ain’t got no ears!” joke that I do every single time.
Henry is like “omg please make her stop”. I can’t help it, I find it hilarious no matter how many times I do it. He has yet to find it amusing at any point over the years. Guess he needs to watch Forrest Gump to get it.
Yeah I know, I’m definitely not a classy enough person to be foxhunting.
Anyway, the next morning I fed him, hitched up the trailer, rolled his braids up in 2 minutes (thanks Quick Knot!) and we were off! I might be biased, but I think Henry is a damn handsome foxhunter.
We had a nice big group, which was fun to see, and we all gathered for the blessing while little cups of liquor were handed out. These foxhunters, man, they are nuts. I mean, eventers are nuts, but these people are even more nuts. I am not much of a drinker so I stood there holding my cup, kind of wanting to gag just from the smell of it, before pouring half of mine into Trainer’s cup. Even my little half-shot did not go down very well, and I quickly remembered why I very rarely drink.
After the blessing was done, we split off into first, second, and third flight – with the majority of our group of eventers going first flight – and off we went! The hounds were off and running pretty quickly, but whatever they were chasing (here it’s usually coyote) was fast, and took off onto neighboring property. We didn’t get to chase them for long before they had kind of scattered and quickly ended up far away while the staff tried to regroup. Of course, we don’t just stand around and wait for long… we occupied ourselves by galloping around the trails a bit, exploring the country and enjoying the company. We would stop and regroup and get updates via radio on the status of the hounds, run around a bit more, talk a bit more, and people would pass their flasks around. This went on for a while.
Eventually it was clear that they wouldn’t be able to gather all the hounds back up in time to re-cast, so all of us in first flight just amused ourselves by galloping around the property, or jumping coops, or whatever. It kinda turned into extreme trail riding, which is never NOT fun. Henry had a great time thinking that he was racing Flat (Flat is at least 3 times faster than Henry, but no one tell him that), and we covered a wide variety of different terrain, from gravel to sand to cannon-deep mud. Presto will definitely be hunting when he’s old enough.
Kathy got some video on one of our gallops, and I took some of a few people hopping over one of the coops.
After we were finished and the horses were taken care of, we all gathered in the pavilion for an awesome brunch. The dessert table was next level, featuring the cutest cookies I have ever seen in my life.
It was a really fun day of running around outside with friends, on my favorite horse in the world. We spend so much time working hard, fine-tuning, dialing in the details… foxhunting is like taking a deep breath, tapping back into that inner 12yo kid who just really loved galloping around on ponies. It’s fun as hell, and we definitely need to make time for it more often.