Giving Thanks

The Old Manse

Our Thanksgiving Hunt left from The Old Manse, on historic Monument Street in Concord. We started with a stirrup cup.

There was a lot to give thanks for yesterday — foxhunting, family and fabulous food.

First was foxhunting. Our hunt holds an annual Thanksgiving Day hunt that leaves from The Old Manse in Concord. Built in 1770, The Old Manse, became the center of Concord’s political, literary, and social revolutions over the course of the next century. In the mid-19th-century, leading Transcendentalists such as Bronson Alcott, Henry David Thoreau, and Margaret Fuller discussed the issues of the day here, with the Hawthorne and Ripley families.

Today The Old Manse is a National Historic Landmark that is right next to the Minute Man Visitor’s Center and the  Old North Bridge.

Turkey Trotters

The horses and hounds created quite a spectacle and many of the runners and walkers stopped to take pictures of us

I almost didn’t make it to the hunt. First, after I’d tacked up Freedom I discovered that I’d left his hoof boots in my trailer. This is one of the hunts that is very close to where I board and I intended to hack over. I didn’t have time to get Zelda clean and tacked . . . so I decided to count on the fact that the footing was good and just go barefoot.

Turkey Trot

Freedom did not find it amusing to face a river of runners!

Then, during the hack over from the parking area to the Manse, we encountered hundred of runners (there were 1300 entries this year, so while they should have been gone by the time we hacked down, we were not so lucky) coming right at us in the midst of the annual “Turkey Trot.” Not just runners, but runners wearing turkey feathers and some pushing strollers. That just about blew Freedom’s mind.

Calming down

Freedom calmed down once the runners went by but you can see that his nostrils are still a bit flared.

Just to be on the safe side, I hopped off and walked Freedom past the excitement. He was prancing and snorting the whole way down but he’s braver when I walk next to him.

He settled down once the runners had passed and he realized we were here to hunt. He loves having a job!

We had more of a job than we’d anticipated. The horse of our Hilltopper Field Master came up lame on the hack to the hunt and we were drafted for the job. Freedom isn’t a huge fan of Hilltopping — he likes to go fast and watching the First Field disappear in front of him is challenging. He

The first cast

The first cast was in Hutchins Field which offers a fantastic view of the hounds working

was pretty sure that I was doing it “wrong” by keeping him slow and got a bit worked up because of it. Still, because he’s a collaborative horse, he did his best. I suspect Zelda would have thrown a tantrum! It’s funny how the horses decide that they know more than we do.

The hunt took us up Monument Street and through some of our most beautiful fields. We had a good sized field (about 22 horses). The skies cleared as we rode and it

The first cast

All of the horses were watching the action

was a balmy 56 degrees. What a difference from last year when the Thanksgiving Hunt was cancelled because the snow made it too slippery. Yesterday we all rode in our light weight jackets.

After a romp through the fields we crossed over Monument Street and rode down along the Concord River. It was a shame not to be able to jump (Hilltoppers are not allowed to jump and certainly not

Stirrup Cup

One of the highlights of the Thanksgiving Hunt is the Stirrup Cup at the end. The landowners are most welcoming!

the field master) so we’ll have to go over there on our own and enjoy those jumps.

We ended the hunt with a second stirrup cup. Our welcoming hosts brought us drinks and snacks on platters. I could really get used to this!

By the time we’d hacked back to the start and I’d peeled off to ride back to the barn, Freedom and I had covered nearly 10 miles. Although he jigged and pranced the whole way back (like a toddler he kept saying, “I’m not tired”), once I had him untacked, he gave in and admitted that he’d worn himself out. He got a nice warm bath, a good roll and an extra ration of grain as a reward before I headed home to make Thanksgiving dinner for my very patient family.

Freedom is tired

Although Freedom insisted that he wasn’t tired when when we go back to the barn, he was ready for a nap.


The Instigator

Curly appears to be the instigator. She's the one who stealthily slips beneath the fencing to go exploring. And she looks so innocent!

Curly appears to be the instigator. She’s the one who stealthily slips beneath the fencing to go exploring. And she looks so innocent!

Today I got to the barn to find that the horses were playing musical pastures again. Curly was in with Freedom and Willow and Zelda was on the other side of the fence looking annoyed.

It turns out that Curly is a limbo dancer. Someone had pulled down two rails of fencing and she had scooted her way under the electric tape. She looks so innocent, but I am beginning to suspect that she is the escape artist who likes to explore. “What

Limbo horse

Someone, who shall remain nameless, managed to remove the top two rails of the fencing. Then Curly slipped under the tape. Obviously, Freedom and Willow had more food. She’s pretty limber if she can duck under that tape.

me?” She says. “The grass was greener on that side of the fence.”

Freedom’s Turn


Freedom was eager to get on the trailer and go some place fun. While Zelda can play hard to get when she knows we’re trailering out, Freedom is ready to go.

Freedom got the short end of the stick this fall with hunting. I pulled his shoes over the summer when he was dealing with the abscess-from-hell and by the time he was sound, it seemed too late to put them back on. Plus, I wanted to concentrate on hunting Zelda.

Last week I realized that Freedom needed a job. And he needed to get off property. It was after the great pasture switch up. When he’s in with too many girls he starts to think that he’s the herd stallion and forgets that he’s supposed to be a riding horse. He starts to become reluctant to leave the property and he worries where all the girls are all the time.

Wayside Inn

Our hunt left from Longfellow’s Wayside Inn in Sudbury. The Inn opened in 1716 and is the oldest operating Inn in the country. Riding by the front of it you can hear the hoof beats of history.

I’ve been getting the feeling that he’s disappointed when I bring the trailer and load Zelda up. “Take me!” he nickers from his paddock. So, I took him to a fixture where I knew the footing would be suitable for hoof boots: Longfellow’s Wayside Inn in Sudbury. And I remembered just how much fun he is to hunt.

Freedom loves hunting. He particularly loves the hounds and is always watching very carefully to see where they are and what they are doing next. Despite the fact that he hadn’t hunted yet this fall, he was very calm and laser-focused. I don’t think his ears moved out of their full alert position the whole time.

Sure, there was some jigging at the beginning of the hunt, but mostly he just enjoyed being out. His whole body radiated with pleasure and fun. Freedom is great to hunt because he is so tuned in with the hounds and because he is so light on his feet and balanced. When I ride him, I feel like we could run all day and he’d still have a reserve of energy.

Second cast

Watching the hounds work in the field.


We hacked over to the conservation land behind the Inn. This territory was originally hunted by Millwood Hunt Club, the predecessor of ONBH. There are still people who remember when you could ride to the Longfellow Inn and leave your horse in their barn while you had lunch!


Sudbury State Forest

Riding down the pipeline to the Sudbury State Forest.

Mary Martha Chapel

Our hunt ended by the Mary Martha Chapel. The Chapel was built by boys from the Wayside Inn Boys’ School operated by Henry Ford on the Wayside Inn property. Wood for the building came from trees felled by the historic hurricane of 1938.
The Martha- Mary Chapel is one of six non-denominational chapels built around the country as a tribute to Henry and Clara Ford’s mothers, Martha Bryant and Mary Litogot Ford.


Rockers Video

This lovely video was made recently about the rocking horses in Lincoln. Click on the image to watch the video.

Over the years I’ve posted about the rocking horses that live in a field in my town. For a long time there was only one. Now the herd is probably pushing 30! It turns out they are becoming a tourist destination. And they are multiplying. People are bringing more of them to the field and arranging them in patterns.

The rocking horses are community art.

The end of a ride


This afternoon I took Zelda out to see how she felt after yesterday’s escapades. Luckily, she was fine. Nothing felt off and I didn’t find any cuts or scrapes that I’d missed. As I got back, there was a magnificent sunset. If it hadn’t happened at 4:45 p.m., it would be been absolutely perfect.

The horses are fine

Zelda and Curly

Zelda and Curly back where they belong and looking tired.

It’s never a good sign when you wake up to an email from your Barn Owner with “The Horses are Fine” as the message heading. It means your horses have survived, but that they did their best to tempt fate.

This morning, all the horses were involved in a grand adventure, but Zelda was the one who really pushed the envelope.

It started around 5:30 a.m. when the sound of hoof beats — galloping hoof beats — woke the Barn Owners. They came down to the field to find that the horses were playing musical pastures. The fence that separates Curly and Zelda from Freedom and Willow had come down. They had switched sides and Freedom was now rocketing at warp speed around the pasture. When he hits fifth gear, he really flies.

In the meantime, Zelda and Curly continued their pasture hopping and managed to infiltrate the BO’s pasture to play with their horses. Zelda was delighted to have a bigger group to herd and took delight in tormenting the two geldings (who had thought it would be fun to have the girls over but soon realized their mistake).

The broken fence

Zelda took out the top rail and the post on the far left.

The BOs got Curly back on the right side of the fence and then turned to get Zelda. But Zelda didn’t want to wait. She wanted to be with Curly. Right now. Her thought process on how to fix this problem was amazing and a bit scary. I knew she was smart, but still . . . First she walked up to the fence and grabbed the top rail with her teeth. Apparently, she has figured out that she can slide the rail out of some of the sections of the fence. This one was nailed in. She pawed in frustration, backed up and ran at the fence, which is about 4′ tall.

The first time, she pulled up short. Yes, that was only the first time. Not satisfied with her approach, she turned and trotted down to the far end of the field to give herself more momentum. She then turned, galloped, and launched herself at the fence. She almost cleared it. But not quite. Luckily, the fence came down and the only thing broken were the rails.

By the time I got there, the horses were no longer lathered. They were still amped up (the wind was very strong today) and they were enjoying their “new” paddocks. After feeding them, I checked them all and, much to my relief, everyone was fine.

I put them back where they belonged and spent the next couple of hours adding electric tape to the fence in between the paddocks. If Zelda has figured out how to disassemble the fence, she needs a good deterrent — such as electrical current. I also had a long talk with her about not jumping the fences again. But I could tell that she wasn’t listening. She was much more interested in whether the fencing supplies I’d brought with me were edible.

I’d like to think she learned her lesson but I’m afraid that the only thing she learned was either to jump higher or that she’s big enough to destroy most fences.

Here’s to an uneventful Sunday.