Hedge hopping Tips

One of my dreams/nightmares is to go hunting in England or Ireland. While I feel fairly competent about navigating the territories that I hunt, hunting in the UK is an entirely different proposition.

Hedge Hopping

Blackthorn and Brooks offers foxhunting holidays (and some tips for Americans who might find some of the obstacles a tad intimidating).

Here’s a video that was put together by Blackthorn & Brook, a company that organizes riding and foxhunting vacations in England, that gives you some tips on “Hedge Hopping”. Certainly their rider makes it look easy enough and her advice is sound — strong legs, light hands and sit up! Of course, if it were me galloping down to one of those hedges, the loudest sound would be the beating of my heart.

Certainly, if I ever get up the nerve to try this, it’s going to be on a horse that already knows how to do it!

Watch the video and also read their blog post on Hedge Hopping Tips, then let me know if it’s in your future.

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If this whip could talk

Hunt Whip

This hunt whip belongs to hostess of our hunt on Saturday. She was a the Master of the Fox Hounds at the Millwood Hunt Club (which disbanded in 1969), a predecessor of Old North Bridge Hounds and it was gifted to her by the Millwood Hunt Field Members. One of our members carried it on Saturday and told me,  “She graciously lets me use it. I wanted to take it with me on Saturday. It has crossed the Framingham territory many times in the past. Many more than I probably ever will!”  What a lovely piece of history to carry with you.

 

Before the rain

Great day for hunting — shafts of sunlight punctuated by dramatic skies and gorgeous foliage. We rode about 8 miles and while it threatened to rain a few times, the first drops didn’t fall until we were back at the trailers!

Thanks to Suzanne for the photo of me on Zelda. I couldn’t stop smiling.

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Adrenaline Rush

First cast.

Heading to the first cast.

There’s nothing like a good gallop to get the adrenaline flowing. I never thought of myself as an adrenaline junkie. I don’t even like to ride particularly fast (okay, some people may disagree). But foxhunting has brought out that side of me. Now I need to have that thrill of the chase.

It’s probably due to Freedom. For him it’s all about the galloping. And the hounds. He love to follow the hounds. And he’s very keen about keeping up. Freedom is by far the fastest horse I’ve ever ridden and luckily he’s also one of the most balanced and sure footed. Now when I go out to hunt I get as antsy as him if we don’t get to move along briskly. He’s made me covet the whipping of the wind in my face and the thrill of whipping through the terrain.

Today we hunted in Acton and Concord. Much of the hunt is on private land so it’s a real treat that we get to ride there. The day was perfect for hunting: slightly

Hunting route

I forgot to turn on my GPS application for the first piece, so you just have to imagine the extra mile or so.

overcast and not too warm. The scent stayed close to the ground and the hounds were right on track. We had a few puppies out and also one of the old timers, Dandy. The first run was amazing! We got to watch the hounds work and got in a good long gallop all while enjoying the peak fall foliage. We gallop down the pipeline and end up in a huge open meadow.

Resting between the casts

The hounds gather around our huntsman in between the first and second casts. You can see the field along the tree line.

The second cast is the trickiest one for me because Freedom begins to anticipate it well in advance. We hack down the road to the cast and long before we make the final turn he’s dancing in place, flipping his head and begging to go. At least this time he didn’t spin around in place and bounce.

The second piece starts through wooded trails that are covered in pine needles. It’s a beautiful area where the wooded trails are more open, with soft glens off the main trail.  At one point we cross over an ancient stone bridge — presumably one of the oldest bridges in continuous use in the United States. This piece ends with a gallop through two more open fields — which are on my top 10 list of places to ride.

The third piece is similar to the second, a combination of wooded trails and big open fields. This is a great hunt for watching the hounds work which was a real treat.

The hack back to the trailers was lovely. The muted, soft colors of fall surrounded us.

Fall foliage

Hacking back to the trailers we rode through the beautiful muted landscape of the fall.

Fall Hunting at its Best

Tuesday mornings are tight for hunting.

The General Field at Surrenden Farm

This is the General Field at Surrenden Farm. It’s been in agricultural use since 1670. What an amazing place for the first cast.

First thing in the morning I hitch the trailer.

Next I drive my daughter to school (without the trailer, that would be way too embarrassing for the high school, although I did occasionally pull the trailer to the middle school).

Then it’s off to the barn to feed, groom and load up for hunting.

Most of the hunts are pretty close to the barn, but this past Tuesday, it was an hour away which gave me 20 minutes to get the horses fed and Zelda on the trailer.

It was worth it, though. It was a beautiful fall day and the hunt was at a lovely venue — Surrenden Farm inGroton — a 265 acre parcel that has long been a site for foxhunting

I think you can tell by my smile how much fun I had. Zelda had fun, too.

I think you can tell by my smile how much fun I had. Zelda had fun, too.

and agriculture. Surrenden Farm is now part of the Conservation Trust. The “General Field” where the hunt started was first named in 1670 when several landowners banded together and created a large feel for their mutual advantage. Set high up on a hill there are views all the way to Mount Wachusett.

It’s a great place to start a hunt, but a challenging one too. The General Field is huge and the big open space and the gusts of wind amped up all the horses. I was so proud of Zelda! She managed to hold it together during the gallop and there was no bucking.

The fields offer great viewing of the hounds working and then we were into the woods, along the river and riding through a grove of rhododendrons that must look spectacular in the late spring.

At this time of year it’s the trees that give the land the color. It’s prime foliage season in Massachusetts.

surrenden3