People have different things that winter reminds them of: Christmas, freezing cold temperatures, fires in the fireplace, snow… And winter reminds me of these things, too, but the first thing that pops in my mind when I think of winter is foxhunting. And, as always happens to me since I left TN (and my Pony Club and the people I foxhunted with), winter makes me miss foxhunting like crazy.
I have random memories of galloping across open fields on the tail of the staff horse in front of me, as we both raced to cut the hounds off from some deer they’d taken the scent of and bolted after. Of flying over ditches and coop jumps so big that the only thought I had as we approached was, “I hope we make this…” and knowing, afterward, that my amazingly brave horse was the only reason we did. Of the single instance where my horse and I accidentally got ahead (somehow) of the hounds and galloped, literally, alongside a coyote for a quarter of a mile before he got bored and lost us in the cover. Of sneaking shots of brandy or scotch during waiting periods with the staff member I was riding with to warm up, despite the fact that I was still underage and specifically told not to accept ANYTHING that Walter handed me if it came out of a metal flask, even if he insisted it was water (which it NEVER was). Of being a member of the staff and getting to be one of the handful of younger riders trusted with the responsibility of it. Of the adrenaline rush you get when you hear the hounds give tongue over the scent they just got a strong whiff of…
Sorry…I could go on for days on this topic.
These are some of the memories that define me as a rider, and I miss very much not foxhunting. Especially since I live in a horse Mecca where foxhunting is HUGE and much more common/accessible than where I lived in TN. And it’s made worse by the fact that I’m now 8 mo. pregnant, since I’ve discovered the very strong, perverse desire to do things I can’t do. Like ride. Or start running. Or start a weight-loss plan designed to make me look like a Frederick’s of Hollywood lingerie model by next Christmas. So, foxhunting’s just ANOTHER item on the list of Things I Can’t Do Right Now.
And I tell myself that Gabe’s not the right horse for it (because when he was younger he was too much horse for me to handle on the hunt field, and now he’s too old). And that we can’t afford the capping fees. And I REALLY hate the memories of being in below-freezing weather with numb blocks of meat in the stirrups (b/c it’s friggin’ IMPOSSIBLE to wear enough layers on your feet and still fit into your riding boots). And I have a strong loathing of waking up at 4:30am. Or any AM, really, before 7.
But when winter rolls around, I get the foxhunting itch. And I start reminiscing over my most exciting foxhunting memories. And the least exciting ones. Because even the least exciting ones meant I was STILL FOXHUNTING. And I start catching myself saying things like, “You know, for my NEXT horse, I think I want to get back into foxhunting…” Because I’m a glutton for punishment. And because there’s something completely, infectiously addictive about it. Much like tattoos or cocaine or eventing. Which is another thing I want to get back into with my next horse.
Though not that cocaine part. That’d be a first-time thing, technically, since I’ve never done it before and could, therefore, not “get back into” it. But I digress…
Though, actually, eventing is like the less-exciting, shorter younger brother to foxhunting, since foxhunting simply takes eventing’s most exciting phase and makes it last most of the day. So doing both sports would be a total win. And I’m still digressing…sorry.
And I saw this video, which, even though there weren’t many (if any) hedge jumps in our hunt country, did remind me A LOT of how many of our other elements (coops, ditches, fallen trees) rode when you’re on a run and have no choice but to haul it through the nearest opening you can to keep up with the hounds:
For a realistic view of what it’s like to hunt to hounds, check out some of the segments of this one (and you’ll want your sound ON for the full effect):
(Note: most of what sparks my memories are from the 0:18-1:16 mark, and then again from 1:50-till the guy falls, and finally from the 3:32-3:58 mark).
Though, in the interest of full disclosure to the experience, the last one is really nothing like my actual experiences of running with 1st Field, since my horses always made sure they were racing the Field Master and so the masses of horse hineys in front of the video-rider were almost NEVER in my view. And, during the few cases with Gabe where we were mid- to the end of the pack, there was much bucking and rearing and other displays of vague displeasure on his part at not being in front, so the focus was STILL not on the horse hineys in front of us.
The second video reminds me EXACTLY why I thought it was worth it to get up at 4:30 every Saturday morning and go ride in below-freezing weather for 5+ hours. 🙂