Front row seat

Hunt Log

I have to download this app for my phone! It shows you the route we took hunting today, how far we went and how long we were out.

Tuesday was our second hunt of the season. After  an unseasonably cold winter, we’re enjoying an unusually warm week. It was  75 degrees today — almost too hot! But I’m not complaining.

The territory we hunted today is a beautiful one with lots of open fields for galloping. We had a very small group which meant we rode as a single field and could move along at a good clip. What a gorgeous day to be out following a pack of hounds!

But the best part came at the second cast when I was invited to ride with the huntsman. Riding up front is like having a front row seat. You get to watch the hounds work up close and personal, something that you don’t always get to see when you’re riding back in the field.

I’m not sure who enjoyed it more, me or Freedom. Some horses don’t like to leave the field; Freedom never looked back. He loves following the hounds and always hates to wait his turn at the cast and go with the field. When I told him to move out, he was off like a shot, keeping a watchful eye on the hounds.

I think he wants to be a staff horse so he can stay close to the hounds. The problem is me. To whip you really need to know they hounds and they need to get to know you. Right now it’s all I can do to keep all the balls in the air, but spending the time at the kennels and working with the hounds is definitely on my bucket list.





About these ads

The first 90 seconds

This year I was awarded a "Masters Pin" for work done on behalf of the hunt. It features a hunt button and it's so pretty!

This year I was awarded a “Masters Pin” for work done on behalf of the hunt. It features a hunt button and it’s so pretty!

Saturday ended up being the first hunt of the season. After all my fears and concerns for Tuesday’s hunt, the forecast was thunderstorms and we didn’t ride.

I appreciated having a bit of extra time to prepare myself and Freedom. A few more rides under our belt and a few more days to plan my strategy.

I realized that the critical part of the hunt for me is the first minute and a half after the first cast. That’s when Freedom is the most revved up and eager to go. That’s when his brain is focused on the hounds and not on me. With no room to go forward, his only option is vertical motion. He never rears, but he gets a lot of air. After the first gallop he settles in (I always hope that we have a bit of a run before we have to pull up) and with any luck, he’s taken the edge off before the second cast.

The hounds were happy to hunt again, too!

The hounds were happy to hunt again, too!

The morning of the hunt I hedged my bets. I gave him an extra dose of magnesium (which serves as a relaxant) and I tacked him up and let him canter around the field for 10 or so minutes. He’d already seen the trailer, so he was raring to go. As soon as I landed in the saddle he was bouncing!

The hunt was a short trailer ride away and then we had plenty of time before the first cast. Freedom is tricky. He stands on a loose rein, deceptively quiet and calm. It’s only when the hounds leave the truck that his head snaps up and he becomes electrified.

True to form, when the hounds took off, he followed them like a laser. But a controlled laser. He knows his job and it was probably less than a minute before his brain returned. I felt a wave of relief when I realized that I could ride this horse today and he was on my team. Another rider was not so lucky; the young horse she was riding couldn’t handle the cast into an open field. She managed to circle him twice before her saddle slipped and she had to bail. There’s nothing like hearing “loose horse” as part of the opening play (she was fine; only her pride was injured).

The first piece was ideal; a good, long canter but not flat out galloping. Freedom settled down and I was able to ride him on a loose rein, without pulling. We skipped the only jump on the first run and came into the check. Of course he stood like a lamb the whole time!

The second cast he was off like a shot again, but by the time we reached the first jumps, he was listening. They were small jumps so I decided to go for it. I was glad that I was holding the neck strap because he left a few strides out here and there. He was so thrilled to be jumping again; we hadn’t so much as jumped a cross rail since the fall.

It was a great ride! What a thrill to ride a horse with so much power and joy. So happy to be out doing his job. Of course the next day I felt like I’d gone through the ringer. I had muscle pain in places where I didn’t remember having muscles. But guess what? I can’t wait to go out and do it again.

It’s an Easter Filly for Zenyatta

Zenyatta's filly by War Front was born a few minutes after midnight.

Zenyatta’s filly by War Front was born a few minutes after midnight.

Happy Easter to Zenyatta and congratulations to the entire Zenyatta team. Just a few minutes after midnight, Zenyatta delivered her third foal, a filly by War Front. Mother and filly are reportedly doing well. Isn’t she just the spitting image of her famous mom?

Is your trailer ready for the Spring Season?

Always pull out your mats to check the integrity of the floor boards.

Each spring when I pull out my trailer it gets a complete “going over” before a horse steps foot in it. We check the electrical system — one year mice feasted on the wiring which left me with no brakes or turn signals — pull the mats out, check the integrity of the floor and the ramp, and, of course check the tire pressures.

Under inflated tires are one of the easiest things to check and fix,  yet contribute to a huge number of accidents. According to the Department of Transportation’s national Highway Traffic Safety Administration, more than a quarter of automobiles and about a third of light trucks (including sport utility vehicles, vans, and pickup trucks) on the roadways of the United States have one or more tires underinflated 8 pounds per square inch (psi) or more below the level recommended by the vehicle manufacturer.

In 2003 the NHTSA estimated that there were 414 fatalities, 10,275 injuries and 78,392 crashes annually due to flat tires or blow outs. It also reported that of all SUVs experiencing tire problems in the pre-crash, 45% rolled over.

If you need just one more reason to check your tires, consider this: tires that are not inflated to the appropriate pressure result in a slight decline in fuel economy and when you are pulling a trailer, your miles per gallon is bad enough!

To get an accurate reading,  check tire pressures when the tires are “cold” — at least three hours after they’ve been driven on. When you drive, your tires get warmer, causing the air pressure within them to increase.

What do you do to keep your trailer running smoothly and safely? Any tips?


Spring fever

Exploding soda

Freedom feels like a can of soda that’s been shaken — and is just waiting to explode!

Tomorrow is the first day of the Spring cubbing season and I have a dilemma. The long winter has left me with two horses that aren’t really ready to hunt.

Icy conditions followed by shoe sucking mud have limited trail rides to walks. I’m all for walking as it’s a great way to build a base of fitness without pounding a horse’s legs. BUT, and it’s a big but, tomorrow we’re supposed to go gallop behind hounds.

Let’s see. I could take the naughty mare. She’s a much happier horse when she has a place to run and buck, but I’d rather it wasn’t in the hunt field. Our pastures have been too wet to allow Zelda her play time so she’s been doing it under saddle. Not a good idea.


Freedom is ready to go do something fun. I just need to coat my saddle with super glue.

Then, there’s Freedom. He feels like a can of soda that’s been shaken. I’m afraid to open the can because he’s just so full of energy, he can barely contain himself. I have taken him out for a few short gallops and even popped him over a cross rail or two. Those rides have been, shall we say, interesting.

While he’s fine if I take him for walks, once the excitement level ratchets up, he starts leaping, bounding and bouncing. Sigh. I’m not sure what he’ll do when he realizes we’re going to hunt, because even at the best of times his response to the first cast bears a distinct resemblance to the departure from a starting gate.

Adding to my concerns is the wind. We had amazing wind today and the hunt tomorrow starts in a big open flood plain. Wind plus hounds plus amped up OTTB? Yeah, sounds like fun, doesn’t it? It does . . . and it doesn’t.

Still, of the two, I think Freedom is my best choice. At least he doesn’t buck. And maybe I should bring a flask. I’m the one who needs to calm down.

Put another quarter in


During the last of the snow, Zelda demonstrated her opinion of my request to cross a stream covered with ice. To her credit, she kept breaking through when she took a step forward.

Zelda and I often disagree on how long our rides should last. She has an inner time clock and when she decides she’s had enough, she’s had enough. Imagine a 1500 pound paperweight. A grumpy one. Or a mechanical horse — you now the kind? Like the ones outside the grocery store where you put in a quarter? When her time is up, she runs out of steam. She plants her feet and when asked to move forward, she expresses her dissatisfaction with being asked to take even one step more, by kicking out or bucking.

I try to avoid getting in a flat out fight with her, but to convince her to move forward requires some strategy and tact. Two things that work are 1) asking her to spin in a small circle until she decides that going forward is less work, and 2) backing up down the trail in the direction that I want to go. Oh yes, and then there’s 3) spurs. They help, too.

Of course, I could also just put in another quarter.


Pedicure Day

For Zelda, my farrier uses hot shoeing which allows the

Zelda’s shoes being “hot set”. Don’t worry, it doesn’t hurt the horse (at least if it’s done right). It helps improve the fit of the shoe.

Today was the day that my horses got shod for the spring hunt season. That means shoes all around for Freedom and front shoes for Zelda. I’d pulled their shoes after the first snow and going barefoot for the winter was good for them. Both horses are coming into the spring with great looking feet.

In particular, Zelda was able to grow out the divot in her front right hoof — something that had plagued her since she’d arrived in June of last year.

For Zelda, my farrier heats the shoes in her forge and then shapes them to her foot. Working with hot metal allows the farrier to make subtle adjustments to the shoe, which (if done correctly) achieve a better fit. It is considered to be “hot shoeing” even if you don’t set the shoe hot.

Setting the shoe while it’s hot (not red hot) cauterizes and seals the hoof but it also can help set the shoe more precisely, enabling a tighter, more stable fit. This is especially true when you’re using clips.


The shoe is heated up in the forge so it can be shaped.

Is hot shoeing “better” than cold shoeing? I hope my friend Fran Jurga will pipe up here, as she knows a lot more than I do about this subject! My feeling is that if the farrier is skilled, they can achieve a good fit with either method, but that some farriers go with a cold shoeing method because it’s more economical (and faster) to tap on a shoe that’s a good fit and then rasp the hoof to shape it.

We had never hot set the shoes to Zelda before and that first time is always a bit of a gamble. Some horses don’t like it. But Zelda? She couldn’t have cared less.

Hot shoeing is not as common as it once was. Now farriers can purchase a wide variety of shapes and sizes, so custom fabricating or modifications are often not as necessary. When shoeing large, heavy horses, it is more frequently employed because the shoes they wear are larger and heavier.

How do your farriers shoe?