Official Hunt Report:
According to my sister, the Johannesburg (South Africa) Beagle Pack had a nice
hunt this past Sunday morning.
Mill Creek had its 1st hunt of the season and I actually participated ! I just fox hunted on something I picked up in a bucket at the airport! Before I get to the details of the morning – and I do mean morning (hounds departed at 6:00 am), let me give you some background so that you understand the history
behind my brave pursuit of country sport….
Eleven years ago I decided to breed my fabulous dressage mare (TB/Tennessee Walker) and selected a nice big 17 hand Hanoverian from Germany named Lehnsritter. I drove to O’Hare Airport multiple times to pick up my ‘buckets o’ sperm’ before my husband figured out what I was up to. That said, mare took,
filly born, branded ISR, fussed over and then (IMPORTANT) a horse property was purchased to accommodate my ‘problem’. The Filly chewed on my shoelaces and was nicknamed ‘Goat’ because I figured I would give her an ‘L show name’ at a later date.
I keep all of my horses until death which means I was in no hurry to train Goat because I would have her for 30 years. So we moved to the horse property, stopped riding as much and started shoveling and remodeling. I started FOX HUNTING on my fabulous, dangerous, psychotic and much beloved Mr. Mean. When
baby Goat was about four, disappointed with her small size (16 hands) which completely fails to make my butt look smaller, I rode her a little bit ( like 5 times). As my eggs neared expiration, I decided to QUIT MY JOB TO MAKE BABIES and have them surgically removed from my abdomen ! (Yes, that was a dumb
decision) Naturally, that meant the riding of Goat ceased and the horses were basically warehoused although I did still hunt occasionally.
Two summers ago, I moved Goat to the Equispa for a month because she was injured and she needed to be weaned from her mother (at age 9!) and then last summer I moved her to the hunt barn and actually rode her 5 times in one month bringing her total rides up to about 15. Then I trail rode her about four more
times until she bucked me off right before last Thanksgiving and the snow and ice ended the fun. This year. I rode her/walked down the driveway once in May and brought her out on hound exercise the Monday before last. Hound exercise was really exciting and she put in a massive spook or two. I was sure I would die but we both lived which inspired me to FOX HUNT this horse yesterday even
though she is totally green.
Green as in she can go on trails with others and walk, trot, canter but does not know how to canter in an arena or how to stay on the rail or go over more than a cross pole. Still, I took her to the hunt barn on Saturday and to get any kinks out, went on a trail ride Saturday evening that involved all three gaits and log jumping. She was fabulous on Saturday evening and I thought she would be good and tired for her 6am hunt Debut on Sunday morning. My mother
called with encouraging word that my sister who rides jumpers in South Africa , thought I was truly nuts to take this mare out and that I was sure to be killed. All of which bring me to the hunt report…
Which began at 4:30 am which must be the most despicable hour of the twenty four we are allotted. No person should ever have to rise before 10:00 am and only fox hunting and children can cause me to. As I dressed in cubbing attire and drove to the club, I called my sister in Johannesburg to let her know that should I die, she would inherit a very talented mare. She allowed that I more
likely would just end up in a wheelchair and pointed out that even a broken arm would be quite an inconvenience with a toddler. I drove on, smug in the knowledge that my darling Goat would be so exhausted from hauling my large derriere the previous evening that she would be a dream to fox hunt for the first time.
Dream she was, as I approached her stall at the club, I noted that my stallion selection for dressage had been dead on. Goat was performing a lovely, rhythmical piaffe at the stall door while screaming at the other horses, trailers and activity. (Apparently the mothers screaming dna had dominated.) I sought to subdue her with a carrot and place a saddle on her back as she raced around her stall, causing the saddle to fall off before the girth was
even on. Fortunately, a sympathetic FOLer (you know who you are – THANK YOU!) in the stall next door, held her head so that I could tack her, all the while thinking that my sister might have been on to something and that I hate riding in slippery boots instead of chaps. As the mare has less than admirable ground
manners, I was actually grateful to be on her back rather than under her swinging, screaming, brainless head. (The same head which caused an ER visit for a nose x-ray last summer.) With great difficulty ( assistance was needed again), I got her near enough to the mounting block to get on – which did feel much safer except for the sliding sensation from the too loose girth. Fortunately, she allowed me to tighten the girth and we had a few moments of
walking the club yard which seemed to help immensely. I reminded our hunt secretary that I wanted Evanston, Northwestern Memorial or Lutheran General hospitals and she agreed that they all had good spinal units. I instructed our auto traffic whip to tell my husband that I loved him.
Our Master welcomed some new members and we were off, heading down the road in the direction of Gurnee Mills (the shopping mall to the south). I was glad that Goat was barefoot as we danced down the pavement edge, single file. We headed east towards the fields west of the interstate and walked and trotted
into the territory. We had a major spook as some hounds came up from behind and Goat expressed grave concern over the hounds working in the corn along side. I was so very pleased that she at least did not show any inclination to kick anything. My biggest difficulty was controlling how quickly she was attempting to insert her head into the rear of the rider in front of us. Yes. The rider.
Naturally, as this is a major sin, I was working my tail and her mouth off, getting her to stay back, with more success as she settled and/or started to get tired? I was very fortunate that the Angel/rider ahead did not object, knew my situation and was babysitting us. We did walk, trot, canter as a field while our huntsman worked the edge of a woodland along the cornfield
waiting for hounds to find. Goat got some plough/slippery edge/ditch/washout/rocks mileage. As we hit the end of the first hour, it was time to for us to leave the field as she isn’t hunting fit and I didn’t want to over do it. My hunting guardian and I left the field uneventfully and hacked back to the club down the road with lots of cars (many driven by complete ***holes!) and even
had a bicycle encounter. None of which seemed to phase Goat. I was so happy to get off and I can’t even imagine how happy she was to have me off her back !
After taking care of goat, I changed into shorts and a T-shirt and sat on the sofa in the club debating the merits of single payer vs free market health care (how ironic) until the rest of the field returned at about 9:30. I went to help untack the huntsman’s horse while she did hounds and as for the hunting, I have no idea how it went after I left except that apparently no ambulances,
veterinarians or taxidermists were needed. Which, I guess, makes this entire email pointless for those of you who expected a play by play of the hound work. My apologies. I can only assure you that as I am able to concentrate on hound work, rather than the prevention of quadriplegia, I will deliver much more detail regarding the actual hunting.
On the unrelated topic of marketing our sport to others…..Have you noticed that Fox Hunting is so much more daring than bungee jumping or sky diving? If one bungee jumps the cord will either break and you will go splat or it won’t and you will be fine. In sky diving you will either have a successful parachute landing or you will go splat. Both are fairly boring in that disaster will be
predictable. Fox Hunting offers so much more! The endless variation in the ways that you could go splat! The horse could fall, you could fall, you could break an arm – or a neck or even the horse ! There are two parties involved, one of which does not speak at all and poops in public! Both can die, separately or simultaneously – who knows? Indeed who does know? No one, not
even the hounds, know where they are going to go or at what speed. You ride on the larger parties back and communicate with it by using your legs and hands in a language you made up, while possibly at great speed, while possibly going over rough terrain and jumping obstacles! Or, alternately, you could
fall off in a corn field or get your eye poked out by a tree branch. What could possibly be more daring than something referred to as a blood sport? No one ever really knows if it is going to actually be a blood sport and if it is, then whose blood? Who knows? What excitement!
A certain huntsman said with great disgust “hunting, its all about the food” when referring to the complete lack of appreciation of his art form. I am a purist and maintain that hunting is actually all about surviving to eat the food and furthermore, that the unknown is why gentlemen carry flasks.
P.S. I think that if the hunts want more members, dress code should allow black britches for those of us with AQHA rear ends….. The thought of beige britches is enough to discourage fox hunting!!