I had my hands full


Hounds at attention
I love how the hounds are standing at attention. Of course, they are waiting for treats!

Today was the first hunt of the Spring season and boy, did I have my hands full! I thought about that idiom while I was driving back from the hunt and my fingers felt stiff and swollen holding the steering wheel. The expression may not have derived from an equestrian meaning, but it certainly could have. I didn’t get many photos today because I needed both hands on the reins and Zelda was pulling hard!

We had a spectacular day to hunt. Although it has been hot here in New England, today the high was in the low 50s and despite the promise of a cloudy day, it was bright and sunny. Zelda was my mount of choice. I’m hoping to hunt Freedom soon but although he feels good most of the time, we still have days when he’s not quite himself.

Heading to the first cast
This hunt starts at the end of an aqueduct.

Zelda was, perhaps, a bit more than herself. It’s funny how a horse who is kick along quiet at home turns into a fire breathing, snorting, piaffing, and bouncing ball of energy when she’s chasing hounds! I gave her a 15 minute warm up to make sure there were no bucks lurking, and she was pretty well behaved. My friend riding behind me did ask at one point whether I was asking her to leap from side to side. I guess it looked like we were dancing. Instead, we were negotiating for control. Zelda was pretty sure that I was doing it WRONG because I did not let her gallop full tilt down the first hill.

Waiting for the hounds
There’s a beautiful pond right at the start

All the horses were a bit jazzed up from the excitement of being out hunting again and the brisk weather. To accommodate a few people who wanted to go a bit more slowly after the first check, I held back and led a second field. It was when we approached the first jump — a nice log that crosses the trail — where the first real tantrum occurred. Zelda locked onto that log like a heat seeking missal and when I told her that she needed to go around it? She had a toddler-worthy meltdown. It’s always good to establish early in the hunt season who is in charge, so I was pleased when she capitulated, and even more pleased that she’s not that hard to sit even when she’s jumping in the air and spinning around. The silver lining of having such an eager horse is that I almost never have to post; she can canter in place with the best of them and that’s so much easier to sit.

I’m glad that Zelda is so enthusiastic about hunting. I will need to remind her at home that she is completely capable of collection and animation. That she does not need to be kicked into a canter and that I can remember clearly that she is not on her forehand when she’s galloping down those trails. I will also remember at the next hunt that I should wear gloves. By Saturday, my hands will just about have recovered!

Hacking home
Since it was the first hunt and neither horses (nor riders) were very fit, we hacked the third piece. My left ankle was very grateful for the break!

 

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