This morning, when I walked into my kitchen there was a fox in my backyard. A pretty healthy adult, who wandered around, hunting chipmonks. I figured it was an omen. I’ve been looking for the right day to hunt since last fall — it had to be not too cold, not too muddy, not too far away and I needed my ankle to feel pretty good. Zelda needed a saddle that fit, a girth that was long enough, and a few days of regular work so she wouldn’t be too fresh.
Today the stars aligned. The hunt was a six minute trailer ride away, the ground had mostly dried out, and it was sunny and mid-60s. With the weather that we’ve had this spring, that was a gift!
I will admit. I’ve been a whimp about going out and hunting again. My ankle still bothers me, and the knowledge of how much damage can happen when your body hits the ground has been sobering. I’ve never had much anxiety about riding — until now. Years ago, I remember hacking back after a hunt with a friend who said, “Thank goodness I survived that.” I feel a lot more empathy with her. It wasn’t the riding that made me anxious, it was the galloping in a herd that had me concerned. What if Zelda bucked? What if I fell off. Of course, looking at this rationally, I’ve been hunting for a long time. While I certainly have fallen off a couple of times over the years, it’s a small number when compared to the number times that I’ve hunted. And, even when I have fallen off, the only time I’ve ever been hurt was when Zelda fell on the ice. I had to remind myself that while some fear is healthy, it’s easy to overestimate the risks.
Zelda had no reservations about hunting. She quivered with excitement. She proved to me that all of her complaining about holding a collected canter is nonsense; she can practically canter in place in the hunt field. The first ten minutes she was, shall I say, bouncy. I was glad I had the super secure saddle (more about that in a subsequent post).
But my confidence increased as the hunt progressed and Zelda got a bit more tired. She really was a good girl and only tried to get her head down to buck (unsuccessfully), once.
After missing an entire year of hunting, I am relieved to know that I’ve healed enough — mentally and physically — to go back to something I enjoy. And I’m grateful that my horse loves it, too.