Saturday, November 10, 2007

Adventures in Hunting

The adventure began after battling rush hour in Austin. I hooked up the trailer, loaded Brego, and headed out for Brenham. A good friend from Dallas was going to be at Pine Hill in Belleville for the recognized event, and she was gracious enough to let me crash on her rented ranch.

The sun had already gone down by the time I got out of Austin, but I have a trusty GPS unit in the truck that helps me find the turns I need. After a couple hours, I left 290 and turned onto a rural road and my GPS unit said only five miles until my destination. And that's when the road ended. To be fair, there was a gravel road that continued on, but it was not thrilling to be bouncing along it with my "non-rural" LQ trailer behind me. After a couple miles down, crawling along, I noticed that I had not passed a single place where I could turn around. Wonderful. So I pressed on. About 4 miles down the road, I came to the wooden bridge. A bridge that I decided I couldn't drive over. It was pitch dark, the middle of nowhere, 4 miles down a single lane road that I could not turn around on, and all that went through my head was the "Deliverance" banjos. This was rural.

I studied the bridge and decided that since the creek was only 6 feet below, Brego would survive the fall if my trailer crashed through it. Plus, that's what insurance is for, right? I creeped across it and to my great relief, the bridge did not crash. After my heart rate slowed near normal, I continued down the dirt road, praying that I would find the ranch, my friend would be there, and I hadn't gotten the weekend wrong. This was not the kind of place to be stranded.

I finally came to the correct ranch and, although all the lights were off, I drove in and parked next to the arena. My friend arrived 15 minutes later, much to my relief, and I got Brego settled down into a pen. I stayed next to the pen in my trailer all night. There was not another horse in sight, so I knew Brego would be nervous all by himself. The night passed uneventfully.

I woke up and a heavy fog had rolled in, adding to the already growing nerves for both of us. I had to take the same cursed dirt road and wooden bridge out to 290 in order to make the meet. The trailer made it over intact once again. This time, I got pictures!

I arrived at the meet and was warmly greeted. I got Brego ready to go and hopped aboard. He seemed surprisingly relaxed for all the activity. When the hounds were released, he hardly spared them a glance. As the horn was blown, he barely flicked an ear. Hmmm, I thought, this is either going to be the best ride ever, or the worst.

I settled into the back of the second flight and we had a very pleasant hike around watching the 10 1/2 couple hounds work the fields. For about 30 minutes, we rode quietly, walking, some trotting. Then we hit an open field and the master of second flight mentioned something about trotting. Suddenly we were in a dead gallop. Now, to be honest, I thought that I have galloped Brego before. Wow, was I wrong. I didn't even know that Brego had this extra gear. He was tearing across a field, an unmanicured, overgrown field, and I am not so foolish as to think I am anything other than a slightly terrified passenger at this point. But, to his credit, Brego is no fool himself and chose his path very well, even at Mach 3. I remember being particularly impressed about how he avoided this gaping chasm in the ground where I had only just gotten a glimpse of it before it was beneath us.

We had a couple more nice runs and then retired. I did jump a little coop twice, but it was not anything particularly spectacular. Brego did his typical look look look chip jump at it. But I had to give him some credit. By all accounts, it was him that kept us safe today, not me.

I had a complete blast and can't wait to get back out there. As I anticipated, Brego did get upset when horses in the first flight galloped past him, but the hounds and the horn were not a problem. I wonder if he would do better in first flight, because then he would be in the thick of things, and not watching other horses gallop while he had to stay walking calmly.

As I drove home, a tired boy in tow, I reflected on how amazing this whole journey has been. I bought Brego in August if 2005 to be a trail horse. He did not much more than walk down trails for 2006. In March of 2007, I got an english saddle and started jumping him. He went cross country for the first time in July. He performed his first dressage test in September. And now he has fox hunted and we're off to another dressage show next weekend. That's quite a lot for a young horse to do in a single year. And yet, he does it with such obvious enthusiasm and playfulness. I am truly lucky to have such a willing and game partner for whatever adventure I can conjure up.

Early this morning, as I was getting ready to head to the meet, Brego suddenly got agitated. He heard something in the fog I could neither see nor hear. After a few moments, two black horses trotted out of the mist. They were the old Percheron team the ranch owners used to pull their wagons for their guests. They had come to see the interloper. I untied Brego so he could visit with them and as they touched noses, I was struck by the scene. Brego was magnificent, arching his neck, puffing his chest, trying to look tough for this little meeting. The old horse touching noses with him was probably mid twenties, an old black Percheron. Although he was obviously well cared for, his back was a little swayed, his joints a little angular, a little too much white around his eyes. Right before me was Brego today, but there was also Brego twenty years hence. And I was suddenly a little sad.

Our time with them is so fleeting. All that a person can ask for is one Good Horse in a lifetime.

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