Thanksgiving is one of the “high holy days” of foxhunting. While most sane people are roasting turkeys and juggling dishes in their kitchens, foxhunters are up with the dawn, eager to get that few hours of hunting in before returning to stuff stuffing in turkeys and turn the ovens up high to make up for lost time.
In New England, sometimes Thanksgiving Day is warm and cheerful. I’ve hunted when it’s 60 degrees and sunny. This year, it’s cool and rainy. The hunt was cancelled — actually postponed — but I hadn’t planned to go. The location is an hour away and adding that much trailering time would have meant a very late Thanksgiving for the family (I’ve been known to suggest Thanksgiving on Friday, but that’s not the most popular solution).
Instead of hunting, I’m posting this ode to Thanksgiving that appeared on Facebook. It rings true to me because one Thanksgiving Hunt, I asked Freedom to jump a panel that’s in a big field. He stopped (the fence has no ground line and it’s small — maybe 2’6″ but quite vertical) and I represented him. The second time he jumped. Kind of. And we ended up with his front feet on one side and his hinds on the other. I climbed off and he scrambled over, but it did make me decide that the joy of the hunt was more than just a single jump.
T’was the morn of Thanksgiving and all through the land
Turkeys be roasting for dinners so grand
With potatoes and pie and stuffing of course,
But all that would come after I hunted my horse
I braided his mane, my Secretariat clone
For this splendid day, we’re both in the zone
My pony all turned out, and I in my cap,
Proceeded to First Field, jumping coops but a snap
The question was asked, not an eye did I bat
I lifted my hand, “Yes, I’d like to do that.”
A small field we were, just Roni, Steve and me.
We stood tall, me and Dan’s fourteen point three.
And then we were off, but despite perfect weather,
The hounds lacked a line on which they could feather.
The huntsman’s horse balked at a nice coop that day,
But he kicked on and cleared it, to show us the way
Was it larking you ask, for we might have gone ‘round,
But jumping is fun and for fun we were bound.
A bad habit perhaps , for in fox hunting lore
Horse jumps are but numbered, and then are no more.
But my pony was hot, the first coop was easy
And the larking was fun with no feeling of queasy
But some jumps it seems… and I’m not easily cowed
Seem to be surrounded by low hanging clouds
We hit a line briefly, but not meant to be
T’was foiled by haunch for all there to see
So the huntsman regrouped and recast the hounds
In a direction, where deer did not quite abound
The huntsman through a gate in the direction he cast
But my field master was eager, for no jump could be passed
The coop stood upright, but looming ahead,
An imposing leap of 3 feet but hardly to dread
First Steve, then Roni they took it in stride,
Great examples they were, on that I’ll abide
Eyes up, heels down, good leg on my boy
No cropper’s fee nor shirt did I wish to enjoy!
Up through the clouds of Arapaho and down,
But the down had no pony and instead just hard ground
Now forgive me if this next part seems somewhat astray
But I swear I saw him on that national day
His feet in my irons, his hands on my reins
I swore that my landing had shaken my brains
But my noggin was safe in my black riding cap
So no doubt, on my pony he satHe was chubby and plump, a jolly old saint,
And I laughed when I saw him in spite of my pain;
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head
Soon let me to know I had something to dread
Even if it had nothing at all to do with my head
But then he asked if I knew what day it might be
“Thursday…” I panted, forcing poor lungs to heave
But then he did say “And what else I do pray?”
“Thanksgiving” I muttered, “Bring me my horse and let’s be on our way!”
“I think not” he said, ‘“for you should have known better”
“Than to lark?” I replied, feeling now under the weather
“No!” He replied, “For all know of course,
That foxhunting is better when done on the horse”
As the clouds began to clear, I knew rather quick,
That talking to me was not Saint Hubertus or Nick
I started to remount but then my shoulder did say,
That’s about it Lieutenant, we’ll call it day.
But lessons are taken from such teaching you see
And applying them will make for a happier me.
When running and gunning on Thanksgiving DayDo keep in mind what I’ve learned ‘long the way.
When running toward coops take a quick look around
For an opening gap might be wiser, I’ve found
And when one must jump, do this now without blunder
Do stay on top with the horse just there under
But alas or alack, I’m not sure which one,
Comes the teaching point before this is all done
You can be doing quite well and then taken to task
For getting up on the horse and forgetting your flask.
— Sam Noel (author)