Sneak Preview

fairhaven bay

Tomorrow we’re hunting the territory near Walden Pond. We did a reconnaissance of the trails today and expect to cover about 7 miles during the hunt. The trails are clear and the weather should be just about perfect.

Tomorrow I am leading the Hilltopper field for the hunt — so today I went out to ride the territory so I don’t get lost. It’s one thing to get lost when out on your own or with a friend or two; it’s an entirely different matter when you are leading a field full of riders!

Luckily when you are drag hunting you know where the scent will be laid, so you can pick your “course” in advance.

Leading the Hilltoppers is fun, but can be challenging. As the field leader, you set the pace and it’s inevitably too fast or too slow (simultaneously!) depending on whom you ask. If you ride first flight, there’s no question about how you will ride: fast.

Many times when we have guests, they ride in the Hilltopper field so that they can experience hunting in a more controlled manner and without the added excitement of jumps. But some of them have never hunted before, so you also need to make sure that everyone gets back to the trailers and hopefully has a wonderful time.

There are sometimes a few surprises — horses that don’t behave quite as expected, ground bees that make an unwelcome appearance, or hounds that get on the scent of deer.

After riding Freedom on the trial run today, I’m going to lead the field with Zelda. He’s still too amped up and will just be mad if I try to make him go more slowly. His idea of hunting is to gallop and while he will lead the slower field if I ask him, it may not be pretty, especially during the times when he can see the first field ahead of us. Zelda is far more amenable to a more leisurely pace (I hope).

I know this territory pretty well, and left a few discrete markers on the turns that are confusing. So, fingers crossed that I won’t get lost, that Zelda will behave and that I’ll bring my field back to the trailers with big grins on their faces!


The three second rule

Biting horse

This biting horse is actually a wild horse, not a domesticated horse.

I think we’ve all seen horse owners who are afraid of their horses . . . and many times those horses see that leadership vacuum and step right in, treating the humans around them like they are subordinate horses in the herd — and that can mean biting or charging at humans.

I’ve been up close and personal with two horses who had those tendencies — one charged me in the pasture, rearing up and striking out at me; the other would try to bite you while you fed.

It’s no fun to be in situations like that and even less fun when it’s not your horse, because the owner might not appreciate your method of dealing with their behavior. In these cases I’m a strong proponent of  John Lyons’ three second rule. In Lyons on Horses he wrote:

The horse never ever has the right to kick or bite you. Biting is more dangerous than kicking because it is a more aggressive act on the horse’s part. You can’t every justify that action in your mind.

I don’t want to be bitten. If the horse tries to bite me, I will try to kill him. His act is that dangerous and my rule is that simple. I have three seconds in which to kill this thousand-pound beast. The only limitation I’ll put on the murder is that his head will be off limits. Remember, I don’t want to blind him, I want to kill him. Immediately after I’ve exhausted the three seconds, I’ll pet him to reassure him that I still like him, but he knows that he made a serious mistake that almost cost him his life.

While this might seem to be an overreaction, you should take some time and watch how horses interact in a herd situation. Retribution is swift, can look harsh, and when it’s over, they all move on.

I won’t say that I tried to kill any of those horses but for those three seconds I was loud and scary. With one, I carried a whip and used it (not on his head).

My own horses are not aggressive. They can’t be — I’ve always had larger horses and it’s meant that manners are important for my safety and for anyone else who handles them. I have a zero tolerance for bad behavior and so most potential issues get nipped (pun intended) in the bud, before they become a problem.

Freedom will, on occasion, give me the evil horse face and pin his ears, but he backs right off if you growl at him or assert your leadership. Once or twice he’s cocked a hind leg — when that happens, he gets to run around in the field a bit until he wants to “join up” and behave like a domesticated animal again. In fact, he looks very offended if you chase him off.

Zelda will push the boundaries (she is, after all, big) but in a totally passive way — by not moving, or by walking off slowly, knowing there is no way that you can stop her. With her, it’s important that she always respects my personal space, picks up her feet nicely for the farrier, and stands quietly for getting tacked up.  She occasionally needs to be reminded that she can’t always be the boss, and she generally takes reprimands well. A growl or chain over the nose is enough to convince her to step down before any force is required.

How do you keep your horse in line? Have you ever reverted to the three second rule?

First Fall Hunt


Hacking down the causeway to the first cast.

Today was the first day of our fall hunt season and you couldn’t have asked for a better day. It was cool, sunny and spectacular!

I decided to ride Zelda because Freedom’s exuberance level has been a bit too high without hunting . . . I wasn’t sure how much fun it would be to bounce continuously for six or seven miles.

Zelda was a good choice. She was perfect. And she even walks when asks and stands quietly at the checks. She got the squealing and bucking out of her system before we left home (she had a good old time in her paddock after breakfast) and by the time the hounds were ready to cast she was alert but focused.

In this territory the first cast is on a flood plain which gives you prime viewing of the hounds. We had a small field and were able to follow close behind them getting a great view.There were two pups out for their first hunt and watching them was a hoot — Devon has springs in her legs and bounced through the tall grass like a gazelle.



The first cast was on a flood plain and offered excellent viewing of the hounds. This was Fortune’s first hunt back after recovering from an injury.


The first piece was a little over two miles and we covered it at a good clip. Unlike Freedom, who will always canter if given the choice, Zelda prefers a big trot but we also had a some nice canters. For a big horse she’s surprisingly light on her feet and even over the trappy ground she never tripped.

The second piece was through the woods. There were a few logs across the path and she jumped them without any hesitation and without getting quick. I think she’s ready to start jumping out hunting now.

We only hunted the first two pieces of the territory. The day was warming up and the hounds had done a terrific job (there was also some concern about ground bees). So we quit while we were ahead and hacked back to the trailer for refreshments.


Second Check

At the second check the hounds got lots of kudos from our huntsman.


This was Devon’s first hunt. She was a bit shy around the field but we enjoyed watching her bound through the high grass.

Padi at the check

Padi at the check.

Hacking Home

Hacking home.

Welcome to the September 2014 Blog Carnival of Horses

Carousel HorseWelcome to the September 2014 Carnival. I apologize for the delay in putting this together. I was almost caught up after my trip to New York to look after my father and then yesterday during a thunderstorm, our router and cable modem were blown up by a lightning strike.

How many of you, like Katherine, have bought a horse sight unseen? I’ve never gone quite that far, but I do have my own “Horse Hunt Fairy Godmother” who matched me with both Freedom and Zelda. She seems to know far better than I what kind of horse I will like (and those two are as different from each other as can be imagined).

And my condolences to Amy who writes A Work in Progress: A Middle Aged Broad’s Decent Back into Madness who lost her horse Sugar in August. It’s so very hard to lose such a special horse.

So now, with no further delays, here’s this month’s Carnival. Enjoy!

Tara Choate presents Friday Fair & Rodeo posted at Tara Choate.

Tara Choate presents Movie Review: American Mustang posted at Tara Choate.

Tom von Kap-herr presents Denise Wilson wins the CCI Grand Prix posted at Back Home in Bromont, saying “Having moved back to Bromont Quebec last winter, I now photograph all the events for the Bromont Equestrian Park, home to the 2018 FEI World Equestrian Games. This summer, by far, the most popular post I did was about Denise Wilson’s win during the Bromont International. I particularly love the photo’s I took of Denise and Winter. Even after looking at them a thousand times, I still feel the excitement of those few short seconds around the ring.”

Shya presents The World Equestrian Games Part I: Kimry Jelen posted at The Flying Shetlands.

Shya presents The Women’s Suffrage Movement and Artist Jill Greenberg posted at The Flying Shetlands.

Shya presents Poster Week! Part 2 – The Hampton Classic Horse Show posted at The Flying Shetlands.

L. Williams presents Horses are 3 Things posted at Viva Carlos.

Katherine presents Mail Order Horse posted at Rodney’s Saga.

Yulia Frolova presents A Stable Full of Logos posted at EquiGeo, saying, “Horses are the most beautiful animals – no wonder many companies depict horses on their logos.”

Suzanne presents Reverse the Curse posted at Confessions of an AA Event Rider and Convicted Overthinker.

Fran Jurga presents Hooves get the White Glove Treatment From Best Shod Horse Judge at Burghley Horse Trials in England posted at Fran Jurga’s Hoof Blog.

David Ramey presents Four Questions You Have to Ask Before Letting Anyone Treat Your Horse posted at David Ramey, DVM

Anna Blake presents Needs Confident Rider posted at Anna Blake Blog.

Alli & Dino present By Popular Demand, Some Information about Cushings posted at Ponytude.

Lauren presents Product Review – Horze No Turn Bell Boots posted at She Moved to Texas.

Bad Eventer presents Bad Eventer becomes Bad Dressage-er posted at Tales From a Bad Eventer.

Susan presents What to Say When He (the Chestnut Horse) Comes Back to You posted at Saddle Seeks Horse.

Amy presents Goodbye, my Sweet Girl posted at A Work in Progress: One Middle-aged Broad’s Descent Back into Madness.

That’s all for this month. You can submit your posts at any time for the October Carnival. In the meantime, go riding!