After two weeks on Doxy, Freedom started to feel like himself so I decided that I would hunt this weekend, but take it easy and not jump him.
Saturday promised to be a fantastic day to hunt — and it didn’t disappoint. It was a picture perfect, sunny day in the mid-70s. After a week where we had overnight lows in the 30s it was a treat.
We had a good turnout with three fields — first flight, hilltoppers and our third field which is for people who enjoy hunting but don’t want to gallop or jump.
I started Freedom in the hilltoppers field with every intention of taking it easy. In fact, all the fields started with a bit of waiting as the hounds started off well but then came across some live scent — most likely deer — and while we could hear them give tongue off in the distance, they were not on the drag. That left the field waiting for staff and the hounds off the side of the trail, hoping not to disturb a nest of ground bees (that’s one of my biggest fears when hunting on warm fall days).
After nearly 10 minutes we moved on but at a controlled pace. Freedom was not happy. He was pleased to be out hunting and most obviously wanted to move on. Since we couldn’t, he decided to bounce. He was cantering
almost the whole time. When he wants to, he can canter almost in place and he was putting a lot of energy into vertical motion.
Our first check was at a glade in the woods. It’s a very pleasant place to pause as it was a little cooler out of the sun and gave the horses and hounds the chance to catch their breath.
I could tell that Freedom was feeling fine. I decided to move him up the first field and let him move out a bit. He’s funny. Now that he understands hunting, he will stand at the check on a loose rein and snooze. Once the hounds are cast, however, he is ready to go.
The second cast went very well. The hounds were back on track and we had a good gallop through the woods. Freedom still insisted on cantering the whole time but since he’s very balanced, I didn’t worry too much about it. As long as he keeps a good distance behind the horse in front of him, I generally let him choose the gait.
At the first run of fences, I realized I’d been wise to decide not to jump him. As soon as he saw the fences he started to flip his head and bounce. While he never really misbehaved, he was not focused and I wasn’t sure that he was paying enough attention to actually jump them. I ended up with foam all over my glasses and my jacket!
I did let him jump one fence after the third cast — only because it was easier than going around it. Freedom doesn’t like to gap the fences. He sees them and there is a magnetic attraction. However, we’ll have plenty more chances to jump this season.
We finished the hunt with an adrenalin charged gallop up the final hill. Freedom must have had some flashbacks to his racing days but we managed not to pass anyone.
As we pulled up at the trailer, I had a happy horse, but a tired horse. It wasn’t so much that it was a long hunt or a particularly fast hunt, but the heat coupled with his excitement had left him covered with foam. He even had sweat on his eyelids. While he wasn’t as hot and tired as the photo makes him look, he certainly appreciated his after hunting bath and grazing time.
As for the riders, we had a magnificent tea after the hunt. This was our annual lobster tea. We sat out behind the barn with lobster and killer shrimp chowder soaking up the afternoon sun.
It was a great day, for sure. And, for all fox lovers, keep in mind that the only thing that was chased (except for the deer) was some anise.