As I sit and nurse my swollen, itchy elbow I am thankful that I was only stung once yesterday. It could have been worse. My friend Suzanne (Confessions of an AA Event Rider) was stung six times!
Yesterday would have been a very fun hunt — in fact, much of it was quite fun — except for the ground bees. I had ridden the territory on Friday with the field leaders and we emerged bee-sting free. We carefully avoided the trails known to be home to bees and we had a really good plan to hunt around them.
My other plan for Friday was to get Freedom out on a non-hunt and get him to relax. That plan was not as successful as the trail review; he jigged and jumped and bounced for the whole two hours!
On Saturday Freedom and I led the Hilltopping field. This was the slowest of the three fields for the day and was geared toward people and/or their horses who are just starting to hunt. I had four people riding with me: one experienced rider on a new horse, one rider who was hunting for the first time in five years (also on a new horse) and two riders who had hilltopped maybe twice before.
This is a good hunt territory for “newbies” for two reasons: much of it is along wooded trails so there is not so much open field craziness and we generally get a good long run (or in this case trot) after the first cast which gives the horses time to settle. The only bad part of these trails is that they have gotten quite eroded and some of them are very rocky and rooty.
We started off in good form. The group stayed together and we enjoyed a trot and a canter with everyone under control — even Freedom! He loves leading the field (nothing like an ex-race horse for loving the lead) and settled into a good rateable speed.
Every one arrived at the first check with a big smile on their faces and reported they were having fun.
The second cast started off more slowly and we were right behind the first two fields. This was fine until we hit the bees and then there was a real scramble to get out of the swarm. Some of the horses up front had escaped unscathed and we needed them to move along quickly so we could shake off the bees.
I got stung once and brushed a few off of Freedom. He didn’t appear to have been stung but the horses behind me definitely were. We beat a quick retreat down a pretty rocky hill and were glad to emerge from the swarm.
At the second check I choked down some Benedryl — note to self: bring liquid Benedryl next time because the pills are hard to swallow without water and left a terrible taste in my mouth! They’d gotten very powdery in my saddle bag. I had to do a quick check of Freedom who was dripping blood from his rear left leg. Luckily it was just a superficial scrape; he must have scratched himself during our wild ride away from the bees. Of course I’d put front boots on him (my post check ligament safety plan) but it never crossed my mind that he’d injure a hind limb!
The third piece of the hunt went very well. Right up until the end. As we started to turn toward home we were again swarmed by bees. We made a hasty exit, stage left, and managed to get away from them without too many stings. It’s a funny thing about riding in a group like that. Some people and horses got nailed while others escaped sting free.
Still, even with the quick retreat at the end we all got home safe and sound. One horse lost a front shoe but had the grace to wait until they were a few minutes from the trailers. All my field came back safe, sound and grinning from ear to ear. Mission accomplished.
On this last day of summer we had one of the highlights of our culinary celebrations: our annual lobster tea. There’s very little better than ending a great hunt with a great meal, eaten with friends on a sunny afternoon!
Now, if we could only have one hard frost to rid ourselves of those pesky bees.