First hunt of the fall season — and I’m tired!

Freedom waited patiently for the first cast
Freedom waited patiently for the first cast and then he was off to the races! For those of you who don’t know us, he’s the chestnut standing just ahead of the line.

About three minutes into the first gallop after the hounds were cast, I realized that I haven’t been galloping enough. My legs were already feeling “the burn” and we had a lot farther to go! However, once the adrenalin kicked in, I managed to stay with a very excited Freedom through all three pieces of the hunt. And then we were both tired.

The hunt left from Red Rail farm in Lincoln — an area of Lincoln that was originally owned by the family of John Quincy Adams. The current day farm is part of a country estate built in 1889-91, which is the most extensive and significant surviving estate barn complex in Lincoln and the most outstanding example from the town’s turn-of-the-century estate period. It is a significant part of a country-estate landscape designed in the later part of the 19th Century by America’s preeminent landscape architect, Frederick Law Olmsted (1822-1903).

This land abuts the trails that lead around Fairhaven Bay and on to Walden Pond, making it a very special historical hunt.

However, this is also a very fast hunt so while riding, it is not possible to contemplate the ride’s historical value. The hunt is primarily along wooded trails through a pine forest. The footing is generally good, although the proximity of the trees can test your navigation skills, especially when moving along at speed.

Freedom had been anticipating the hunt from the moment I pulled up the barn in the trailer. In fact, I through saddle on him and let him canter around our field for a few minutes as he was too worked up to eat and definitely too restless to allow me to safely put on his hoof boots.

His calm demeanor returned and he was very good while we gathered for the cast. But he was just conserving energy. Like any good race horse he was waiting for the gates to open — or in his case, the casting of the hounds. Once he saw them take off across the field, he was bursting with energy.

I was very glad that he now feels completely sound and back to his usual self. After the pebble incident he had some residual lameness and had a few temper tantrums that made me wonder if he had Lyme again. When I came out to ride this territory two weeks ago, he seemed fine at first but after jumping a few small fences, he absolutely refused to go near a jump. He jumped up and down and started to back up when asked to jump a simple log.

I was so worried about his behavior that I had the vet out the next day to draw blood. Her conclusion was that his behavior was most likely caused by hoof bruising but we started him on Doxy just in case. Even the results of the test were inconclusive: his titer is low but positive. After thinking about it, I decided to give him the course of Doxy.

Even last weekend he only felt about 85% right so I’ve been babying him and hoping that he’d feel okay for hunting, prepared to hack back if I felt he wasn’t right. I was relieved to find him eager, willing and looking for every jump. I opted to gap some of the larger fences, just in case, and he fought me on that choice!

He was raring to go all the way to the end. Jigging up the last hill and looking for the hounds. Once we got back to the trailer and he knew it was over, he started to droop. By the time we got home he was dragging. But so was I!

The next day I decided to take him for a long walk, figuring that it would stretch him out and loosen up any sore muscles. Certainly that’s all I felt up to. Freedom, on the other hand, wanted to go. After a two hour hack he was still jigging and full of energy. If I could only get him to share that! I don’t know about him but my muscles are still complaining. I’ll need to do some serious work to get ready for next Saturday.

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