With an unusually early Nor’easter working its way up the East Coast, there were a ton of cancellations. But not our hunt. This morning dawned raw and cold but dry and we had the good fortune to sneak in under the impending weather. Good news because this is a territory we only hunt once a year and it’s spectacular, even in the gloom. This is a hunt where we ride through a working dairy farm, traverse a state park, and are treated to gallops in big open fields.
Driving over the thermostat registered 35 degrees and it felt colder. I’d broken out my heavy weight Melton and wore it even though it looked like it had lost a fight with our long-haired white cat. It was cold and if we were moving fast enough, no one would notice.
Sure enough, the hunt started off fast. Just as well because heavy rains last week kept me from riding and the 20 minutes I’d found to ride him in our field yesterday had not made a dent in Freedom’s energy level. He was ready to go and got the chance. The hounds were on the scent and we all moved along at a good pace.
I’d feared that the footing would be bad from all the rain. Certainly, there were places where it was slippery and others where it was deep and muddy. There were several fences that I chose to gap because I didn’t like the way the footing looked on the take off and didn’t want to guess what it looked like on the landing side. There are some great stone walls out on that hunt and several of them were quite jumpable.
Perhaps I was being extra careful because at one of the first fences the horse in front of me fell. It’s always a tricky fence with a sharp left turn after landing. Add a good amount of rain to the layer of leaves and pine needles and it became very slick. They made it over the fence fine, but the horse lost her hind end on the turn. Luckily both horse and rider were fine. I waited for her to remount and we jumped a few more smaller fences on our way to catch up with the field.
While we were moving, we all kept warm but the during the checks, the cold crept into your fingers and toes. I was grateful for my stock tie around my neck. This was a long hunt (a bit over two hours) with three casts. I must admit that by then end of the ride — when we had a nice gallop along an aqueduct — my legs were really feeling it. Freedom was starting to tire, too and was grateful when we walked the last bit to the trailers.
I was grateful for the hot chowder waiting at the tea. And the blazing fireplace.
Now we’re watching snow fall and shaking our heads!