Sunday, October 5, 2008

These Things Happen in Threes

Ah, the hunt. The long awaited opening day. I was dressed in my finest, Brego was braided, tack was cleaned. We arrived to the meet a bit early, enough time to chat and nip from the flask (I went with port, you purists!).

Is that a fox I see???

I had not ridden this territory and I was eager for news. The fences were big and not gappable because they mostly consisted of coops between pastures. First field must jump and jump around 3'3". Second field would jump some but very little. And hilltoppers would mostly watch. I checked out the coops and they looked good. Brego has done this sort of thing many times. I decided to go first, although my beloved field master would be leading second. First field master would be a three star eventer. I took another nip from my flask.

Waiting for the hounds

The Blessing of the Hounds was beautiful. The hunt hired a French Horn duet to accompany the meet and they were wonderful. They really set the mood.

Listening to the horns

The hounds were released and the blessing began. We had a front row seat because we were queued to go with the first field. Only three of us. The blessing was beautiful and we all had little booklets from which to read the prayer.

Brego always looks bored during ceremonies.

Anyway, first field riding. I picked up a position last in the field because I wanted to give Brego plenty of room to see the fences. Four strides as a rule. He is not so catty that he can ride behind a horse and see a fence a single stride out. We started out well, he jumped three fences very well and then, from the left another rider came careening by. Her horse's mouth was gapping and she could do very little to stop him. Three strides out from an airy oxer I was on line for, they cut over and took the line. She knocked Brego and I off the fence. This rider was not even supposed to be in first field and had joined up after we left the meet. Completely unacceptable behavior.

I circled Brego for a re-approach, but he was confused. This was a big oxer and he needed to really focus on it, but first field was already out of sight and second was hot behind us. He turned to join second field and again we missed the oxer. I called out to my beloved field master in charge of second, "We were cut off!" "Ride fast behind me!", she replied.

So we turned from the straight track and fell in line behind the master. We galloped around the perimeter of the pasture. We came to an open field and I could see first a field away. I asked for and was granted permission to rejoin. I galloped him across the field and resumed my position at the back of first field, now with four riders. One man saw me rejoin and asked what happened. I told him about the cut off and I had his sympathies.

On again, we cut through two more pastures and Brego jumped very well. The coops looked bigger from horseback but he knew his job and took them in stride. The a full flight across a field, a smile spreading across my face. Then I felt a bauble, a slip, and we were both down on our left shoulders. It happened too fast to comprehend, but I continued sliding and rolling away from Brego and rolled up over my head to land mostly on my feet in a crouch. Brego was already getting up to his feet. I ran the short distance up to him and my mind was going so fast. I scanned his legs, his hips, his neck and finished with his head. He was looking toward the first field, standing quietly, but ears perked and eyes alert. He was fine. I grabbed his reins and trotted him in hand after the field. Second field again rode up behind me and again my beloved field master took care of me. She halted the field while I mounted and then instructed me on how to regain first.

On again, Brego felt good. He was even and alert. We entered the woods and took our position at the back of the field. We jumped out into a field and again Brego felt fine. We took two little logs in the pasture and then we had one more coop back into the field were we all parked. The photographers were lined up, spectators along the fence line. Very busy. Brego felt fine, but when we got to the coop, I felt him hesitate, get a little deep, maybe look at the crowd instead of his job, and he hung a knee.

I am already pitching forward in this picture. I heard the hard knock of hooves on wood and I was thrown onto his neck. My recent riding position did me no favors. As Brego continued cantering, I pushed up off his neck. He raised his head, and either out of kindness or luck, heaved me back into a sitting position. I spent one more stride on his withers and then made it back into the saddle. In front of everyone.

I must say that Brego was a good man. He didn't drop his head or offer a buck to finish me off as I laid on his neck. He helped me back into the saddle and then looked for the next fence. Luckily, there was not one, just yet. The fields checked and I lost no time in telling my first field master that I was dropping to second field. My luck's good for three, I told her, and promised her a bottle of scotch at our next meet.

Bagpipes accompanied us may times during the hunt

Brego got a thorough check out and then we continued hunting for four hours, with long gallops. I could not believe how well he did from a conditioning perspective. Of other note is that the next fence he jumped, he cleared it by a nautical mile. I was happy to see he sharpened up after his near miss on the coop. Greenie moments happen, but he needs to stay focused, even with a crowd.

Still fresh!

Our final check was at a Christmas tree farm were customers were treated to the sights and sounds of the hunt. The hounds were incredible, plenty of voicing, and the pace was very fast. I stayed behind my field master the entire time and Brego finished strong, sweaty and tired, but completely sound and that's all one can ask for after this type of day.

Ambassador Brego

A family approached us to talk about hunting, and Brego was one of the few horses who would stand for the children. He loves children and gently lowered his head to smell their bellies. Then he let a little girl pet him on the shoulder while I answered questions for the parents. The mom asked the little girl if she wanted to learn to ride a horse, and the girl shyly shrugged. But she was grinning from ear to ear. Hooked.

The after hunt tea was too amazing for words. Brego settled into his hay while I settled into a couple of glasses of wine. After the adrenaline of the hunt wore off, the soreness crept in. I guess we fell at about 25 mph. I gave Brego a gram of bute and as much hay as he would eat and water he would drink. His appetite was good, but I have no doubts he will be very sore tomorrow.

Obviously, we scratched the show on Sunday. Aside from the fall, I think a little reset is in order regarding my position. I did jump grids on the TB and I might be on to something. More on that later.

I do love hunting though. It's a little mad, but the camaraderie is tremendous. At the tea afterwards, the MFH raised her glass to me: First stung by bees, now a fall at speed, and I love it more each time. Brego loves it as well. The hounds gave enough voice for me to really study how he changed. He followed the hounds closely, even when they were silent, and he just never gave me any clue he wanted to slow down or call it a day. So during the toast, I raised my glass to my horse. I never thought I would be so blessed.



fssunnysd said...

Sounds like a fantastic day, even with the greenie moments! And how great to see all the pictures. Thanks again so much for sharing the hunt experience!

blogfourfiveone said...

Sounds thrilling! Might I suggest an epsom salts bath for the muscles! Though wine will help as well, haha.

There is also a great article on percherons in this month's Canadian Horse Journal, they don't publish their articles online but I could scan it to you if you like :)

allhorsestuff said...

ABSOLUTLY fantastic hearing about the Hunt day! The photo's of you and Brego~Breathtaking!I love the one of you and he with his ear on your face! I think I am putting that one on my computor wallpaper for fall.
WOW...It always is so exciting reading about all you do and know.
I love your blog!

dp said...

Great photos, great story. And holy crap am I glad that you're OK. You've got some serious moxie, Daun. I don't think that I would have rejoined the hunt after a moment like that.

Erin said...

Way to go! Glad you recovered from a fall (and at speed!) Any fall can be dangerous, but one at speed is very frightening!
I'm hoping to foxhunt my PerchX too...only in Texas. So you are definitely a role model! I really enjoy your blog.

manymisadventures said...

Wow, hunting sounds like so much fun!

I'm glad you're okay. Falls like that freak me out, since I've had my mare slip with me a couple times.

How wonderful that you had such an awesome day. I admit I am pretty jealous, I'd love to try sometime!

bluejmpr said...

You truly take the phrase "getting back in the saddle" to extremes! Not even a whimper! What a great hunt it seemed to be. Thank you for sharing. The photos are really wonderful. You and Brego really have grit!

Daun said...

Thank you all for your kind comments. I hope to make future hunts MUCH less exciting!

Update on Brego: I checked him this morning and he seemed his old self. He was stocked up a little in all four legs, but eating well and his was able to stretch his nose to each hip for carrots. I had him jogged and he was sound (thank goodness!) and there was no heat either in his legs or his left shoulder or knee. I gave him another gram of bute to encourage him to move a bit more in the pasture and for any inflammation.

This evening I checked on him again. His legs were almost normal and I hand walked him for 40 minutes. He was VERY hungry! He was playful and mouthy so I know he is doing well. He'll get another full day off and then we'll do some light stretchy hacking on Tuesday and see where he is.

As for me, today I feel like I was slammed into the ground at 25 mph. :) I am very sore but nothing broken or injured, just some bruising. I have a nasty swelling on the inside of my left leg where I think I was pinned briefly against the saddle during the slide. I am very lucky neither one of us were seriously hurt. I will sleep much better tonight knowing Brego is just fine!

And still, when I think about the hunt, I grin uncontrollably. It's a sickness, I tell you.

Beckz said...

I would love to ride with an American hunt. Man it's so well prepared!

sidetracked said...

Oh what fun!! I love hearing all of your stories. There is a woman who shows hunters on our circuit that is also a member of the Wentworth Hunt and she is always tryng to get me to go. If I had a truck and trailer I would be right there.

Glad that the fall or skid as it sounded was nothing serious.

Maybe Mae said...

Whoa, what a drama-filled day! Glad you and Brego are fine. You looked great in your hunt clothes, btw. And at least you had the flask to take a nip from whenever the going got rough!

Mama2Arden said...

Chi says to tell Brego to roll really well and spend lots of time eating whatever he can find.... and the human side suggests having the old heating pad on hand and several really hot showers.

The post however... I'm tempted to get my big girl hilltopping next year (when she is four)... great pictures, great post!

Anonymous said...

Beautiful pictures! That sucks about the fall but thankfully you both were fine! What did you finally decide to fill your flask with?

Daun said...

Stacey and Mae,
I filled my flask with Port and although I had a few nips before the meet, I did not carry it with me. The fences were large and I really wanted to be sharp. And I am glad I left it behind because I would have a flask-sized bruise on my ribs right now!

However, my field master would offer me her flask at each check, laughing, and saying I looked like I needed a drink. Every time she commented on my falling, she would hand over the flask. So as usual, my field master took good care of me. :)