Freedom and I are still grieving, but we are keeping busy and moving forward. He needs a job and I need to be riding.
On Saturday, I took him hunting. Normally, the hunt in this territory is relatively short, but very pretty. I thought it would be good for both of us. It was a great hunt, but it was not short.
To begin with, Saturday was the Blessing of the Hounds. For those who don’t hunt, the Blessing of the Hounds is a celebration that marks the start of the formal hunting season. It is a tradition that dates back to the eighth century (when it was associated with St. Hubert, the patron saint of hunters) and it encompasses not just the hounds, but also the horses, riders and the fox (if there is one!). This ritual was brought to the American Colonies in the 17th Century.
At my hunt, the Blessing for the past two years has been a blending of traditions: it was performed by native americans who infused the ceremony with a spiritual quality that speaks to the history of our land along side the history of fox hunting. The songs, drum beats and the smoke used in the blessing ceremony are an amazing way to start the hunt, although not always appreciated by the horses. Below is a video from the 2007 Blessing of the Hounds.
Freedom was remarkably calm during the ceremony. It’s hard for him to stand for so long, especially when there are a lot of distractions such as beating drums. When the hounds were cast and the horses moved off, he was more than ready!
I guess the hounds were more than ready, too, because shortly after the first cast, they pack eschewed the scent that had been dragged by our “foxes” and took off after deer, leaving the field to ride the remaining two portions of the hunt without them!
The territory around Monument Street in Concord is exceptionally beautiful at this time of year so we all enjoyed the ride. There was still a lot of color in the trees and it was a good temperature for being out. We had some good gallops through the fields and covered far more ground than I had anticipated. I think that in the end we were out for three hours.
Now Freedom is somewhat like the Energizer Bunny. He has a lot of endurance and plenty of speed. About a year after I got him, I took him to a large field near my barn and decided to gallop him around it until he was tired. Then I planned to push him a bit more so that he would listen to me and then be grateful to stop. After we’d circled the field 12 times, I was too tired and gave up! So, when his tail started to drag at the end of the hunt, it was quite an accomplishment. It also kept him quiet for the rest of the day; he was content to hang out in his pasture and snooze in the sun.