In September the fall season stretches ahead and the possibilities seem infinite. Thanksgiving is a long way off and the weather is more like summer than winter.
Now, as the season winds down I’ve had to break out my heavy weight Melton and brace against the winds.
Saturday was the annual blessing of the hounds and when I woke up it was barely 20 degrees and there was a stiff wind.
The blessing of the hounds is a centuries-old tradition of blessing the animals and humans involved in a the hunt. The blessing practice was brought to the US in the 17th century but it dates back to the 8th century and to celebrations associated with St. Hubert, the Patron Saint of Hunters.
Each year our hunt invites a clergy member, priest — or even a Native American Shaman — to the ceremony to recite prayers and bless the huntsman, hounds and horses. Each huntsperson is then awarded a medallion with the image of St. Hubert.
Some years we’ve had very elaborate blessing ceremonies; this year, the weather kept it short. The ceremony was held in an open field and the wind made the effective temperature in the teens. I think we were all thankful to get moving so that we warmed up a bit!
Considering the brisk wind and temperatures the horses were all well behaved; at last Tuesday’s hunt there must have been something in the air because despite the warmer temperatures, there was a lot of bucking and misbehavior. One horse also stepped in a hole, falling to the ground and nearly landing on her rider. That’s one of my greatest fears out hunting. It takes a lot of the pleasure out of galloping through an open field.
But Saturday’s hunt was uneventful. Freedom complained that it was too slow — he likes the galloping and the open fields were inviting. He settled for jigging and bouncing with a few leaps in the air for good measure, but he was quite well behaved considering. Unlike Zelda, who tries to sneak in some bucks, Freedom never intentionally misbehaves; you can’t say that he’s naughty. He just can’t contain himself. The best thing to do is just ignore the behavior and ride through it.
Saturday’s hunt included some lovely open fields. It was held in a town called Pepperell which was first settled in 1720. It’s far enough away from Boston (right on the New Hampshire border) that it has a lovely rural feel to it.
Of course all the warmth generated by the hunt dissipated as soon as we got back to the trailers and back into the wind. It was wonderful to retreat into the antique farmhouse (circa 1790) and enjoy the hunt tea in front of a roaring fire!
This week in the Boston area we saw the temperatures range from a balmy 60 degrees to a bone chilling 20. Hunting in these weather shifts is challenging for both horse and human as one day you’re too hot and the next you’re too cold. Helping the horses stay comfortable is key.
During the warm days we had I finally got both horses trace clipped. Usually I’ve gotten this done earlier as I think that trace clipping is a great way to keep your horse from overheating while still leaving enough coat on to keep them warm. For Freedom, it’s essential: he gets so excited and worked up that he can easily become soaking wet and then get very cold.
Zelda doesn’t get as hot. Probably because she doesn’t work as hard!
Why hadn’t I clipped them? This will sound dumb, but I couldn’t find my big clippers. I hadn’t used them since the spring and they were nowhere. I searched both barns from top to bottom. Eventually I found a pair on Amazon (open box return) at a good price and as soon as they arrived? You guessed it! I found the old ones. The new ones are slightly nicer so I suppose it’s a net gain and now I have a spare.
Then I had to wait for a day that was warm enough to give them baths, dirty horses and clipper blades just don’t mix. Finally I had clippers in hand, fresh blades AND a warm day.
Unfortunately, this mislaying of objects has become a disturbing trend. The same thing happened with my tall boots. At the beginning of the season I couldn’t find them. Normally, during hunt season, I keep them in my trailer along with the other things I need for hunting. My dressing room is resplendent with stock ties, jackets, spare bits, hunt bridles for each horse, and a few extra girths, stirrup leathers and saddles. It means that when I load up to go, I know everything is there.
During the “off” season, when I usually ride in paddock boots and half chaps, I usually leave them there or . I have an old, spare pair, but they aren’t really tall enough. After wearing them a few times, I found a really nice pair of Tredstep boots on eBay. Just my size, worn once and less than half of retail. So I bought them.
Guess what? You got it. I found my boots almost immediately.
So now I need to figure out whether this is just a case of brain overload — to many things going on — or old age. Let’s just hope that I don’t misplace anything more important!
I have never had the urge to cast my own soaps, but when I saw this adorable mold, I decided to try my hand at it. It is fun!
Now I have a growing herd of soap ponies. I’m thinking holiday gifts for my friends, items for the hunt club’s silent auction, and just filling my bathroom with them.
They are just the right size to hold in your hand.
For those of you who asked, I bought the silicone mold from GrandHorse on Etsy. The owner of the shop is an equestrian who makes her own molds. They are truly works of art!
Check out the winning ride from the Timed & Judged Jackpot at the National Mountain Trail Championship at the Oregon Horse Center! Would your horse do this? Zelda probably would. Freedom? Not a chance!
I see so many beautiful things when I’m out riding — we ride through such exquisite landscapes, enjoy the different seasons and experience the natural world up close and personal. I wish that I had the talent to pain what I see. I enjoy taking photographs, but on horseback (and especially on a horse that insists on bobbing like a cork on the ocean) the straight photo just doesn’t capture what I saw. So, thank goodness for Photoshop. I’m having fun taking the photos and making them just a bit more atmospheric and, in an odd way, truer to life.
Some mornings the idea of hunting is daunting. Especially Tuesday mornings. Last Tuesday, I had my doubts about the hunt. We’d hunted the territory recently and I was running behind schedule. I had driven my daughter to school, stopped to feed the horses, hitched my trailer and left coffee for my husband. It was already 8:40 and normally I’m pulling out of the barn with my horse groomed and tacked by 8:55. That wasn’t going to happen. I didn’t leave until 9:10.
But, I’d been looking forward to hunting Freedom. For various reasons he’s gotten left behind in favor of Zelda. This was his day. I knew that we could find the field if we got there too late. As it turned out, I wasn’t the only one running late, so I didn’t miss a bit of it.
And boy did we have fun. Freedom loves to hunt. He loves the galloping. He loves watching the hounds. He loves the chase. He was so happy to be out that the joy radiated up through the saddle.
I’d wondered how he would be. On my prep ride Monday, he was wired and spooky, jumping out of his skin. I came “this” close to coming off him at the end of the ride. A small animal — most likely a chipmonk — ran through the leaves. He jumped right with amazing
speed. I wasn’t quite so quick to follow. I lost a stirrup and felt a tad precarious as I tried to center my weight in the saddle.
Out in the hunt field, he was all business, focused on his job. He didn’t walk much (he has perfected the jig and the canter in place), but it’s a mannered jig.
It was not a fast hunt (much to Freedom’s dismay), but we got to see the hounds work up close — one of the puppies was hunting and it was fun to watch her leap and bound through the tall grass.
Riding back to the trailer, ready for a more leisurely drive home, I could categorically say that it was worth it.