Saturday, March 22, 2014

Tally Ho!

The Horse That Does Everything now has one more notch in her belt: she's a newly minted foxhunter! And, not surprisingly, she was totally awesome at it.

I groom for, know, and have crossed paths with several members of the Brazos Valley Hunt. (Apparently Texas, despite being enormous, is actually a really, really small place.) At some point in talking to one of the ladies that I groom for, we got to talking about hunting, and she invited me as her guest to the closing hunt today for Brazos Valley. I've been out hunting with Hickory Creek before, but not with Brazos Valley. It was local, the weather was just right (overcast with slight mist and about 55 degrees), and I was game!

(First though, I had to dig out and clean up all of my tack and hunt clothes... it's been awhile since I've had all of my stuff out. I really, really enjoy cleaning my tack when I sit down and get to it - something about shining, good-smelling leather makes me feel so good. I take pride in a clean horse, clean tack, and sharp attire, so I made sure everything was looking nice ahead of time.)

The morning dawned a bit chilly, grey, and damp. I was NOT awake early on, but somehow managed to drag my butt out of bed and out the door by 6:00 in the morning. (I leave the house at 6 most every day, so it's not like that was super early or anything, but the bed was so warm and the pets were so snuggly.... so hard to get up on days like that!) I fed and groomed both ladies, and noted with some surprise that P had several new bite/kick marks on her, one of which was a solid chomp to the middle of her back. I had been hoping to start sitting on her bareback soon - the girl doesn't even have enough weight/muscle in her back for any of my saddles or pads to remotely fit her - but that puts that out of the question. O only had one mark on her, a good bitemark to the chest, but was otherwise unscathed. My guess is that there was a coup in the middle of the night, and O put in one last stand for boss status and came out on top. Yesterday, she was following P around like a little lost puppy, but today she was completely doing her own thing. Yesterday they were side by side sharing a haybag, but today O would move from one haybag to the next, and P would get out of her way and go to the other haybag. Hopefully this is the last of the fighting.... I'll have to separate them if they don't knock it off. I'm not sure P will take to being second in command very well.

Anyway. We loaded up, headed out, and made it to the property at around 8:45AM. The hounds were set to be released at 9:30AM, so I tacked up, met some folks, and hung out for a bit while O munched and napped.

ZZZZZmunchmunchmunch. She's efficient like that.

The hounds were released right on time, and I headed out with the first flight. This hunt operated a little differently than I was used to - the staff went off totally by themselves, and the first flight stayed behind with another staff member. The second flight (which was mostly a hilltopper group) stayed back even further, and they just walked. We trotted and cantered along behind the staff, but never kept in hot pursuit with the hounds, and never got up close to the master, huntsman, or the whips at any point. The grounds were really beautiful wild prairie, unimproved cattle pasture that wound through some rugged lowland brush and trees and came back up again for some beautiful vistas. It was actually really great - we were back far enough that we got to watch the hounds work a wide area, which is quite different from times when I have hunted in the past and we have been largely in the woods. It was damp and the wind was quiet (for here), which made for perfect scent conditions.

The hounds sent something to ground early on in the hunt, and we moved on to a different area. In a lowland covert, much to everyone's surprise, the pack suddenly all went from sniffing around to baying and leaping around with a prize. There was no chase, they just happened to find and get something. We weren't sure what they had at first, but they went nuts over it. As it turns out, they actually had gotten themselves a grey fox! How about that, good job hounds! Our field master turned to us and said with surprise, "that's the first time in 17 years that this has ever happened!"

(Disclaimer: we normally hunt coyote down here. Foxes are not that common, and grey foxes are not pests. Coyotes, on the other hand, are huge pests, especially in a cattle pasture like we were in. A lot of modern day hunts just do drag hunts, which is when there is a pre-laid scent that the hounds can go out and pick up without having to actually hunt a living thing. Down here, both Brazos Valley and Hickory Creek do live hunts, probably just because there are so many coyotes that it is kind of pointless to lay a scent - there is always going to be a scent. It is not common to kill. If something goes to ground, you don't flush it out, you let it live on to see another day. When this fox got killed today, I was truthfully sad. I love the clever little rascals and I always want them to see another day. The thrill of the chase, the tradition, the attire, the camaraderie, it's all wonderful and I do love it, but I don't have interest in killing anything for sport. I've never seen a kill happen on a hunt and hope not to again - and probably won't see it again, simply because it just doesn't happen often and that isn't really the point of modern day hunting.)

As for O, she was compltetely 100% spot-on could-not-have-been-better perfect. I actually thought something might be wrong with her because she was so chill! (She is quite fine though, thankfully - I think she just wore herself out overnight having fights with P.) I rode her with a martingale and pelham, simply because I was expecting her to be strong and wanted at the same time to stick with some tradition, but I didn't need it. I cantered along on a totally loose rein, even popping over some little logs. She stopped on a dime and stood like a rock. She didn't bat an eye when a few stray hounds came busting up out of the brush and right behind her heels. She just looked on with interest the entire time, and I didn't have to do a thing except enjoy the hounds.

Basically, she's pretty much just awesome.

She was unimpressed about standing for photos. "Dude this is boring... time for a nap."
After the hunt, she promptly zonked out and took a two hour nap while we had out post-hunt brunch. She must really have been pooped after whatever happened last night. It's normal for her to be quiet and napping after a ride, but she was really out - I don't think she moved a single foot the entire time we were having brunch.

Once we were at home, I watched her for another 3 or so hours while I putzed around the barn, cleaned paddocks, filled water troughs, trimmed Pmare, and put on blankets, and she happily snarfed hay the entire time. She is fine, I think she was just worn out from whatever happened with P the night before. I did give her a gram of bute just in case she was feeling sore from her bites and kicks, but otherwise she is just going to have a few days off to relax and recoup. Mares.

On a TOTALLY unrelated note, as it turns out someone did get video of our run at Glen Rose! I had to laugh when I first saw it - I thought we were FLYING along, but we were pretty much just slowly cantering the entire pattern. I thought the turns were crisp and tight, and they were really sloppy. I do have to say, the third barrel was pretty good though!

She's something else isn't she. She events, does dressage, jumps, does poles, has had roping work done with her, chases cows, barrel races, foxhunts.... she does it all!


  1. I love a horse that is game for anything, the hunt sounds like a blast!

  2. Awesome to have a horse like that! So much fun :)

  3. I just love that mare. And I don't even know her. That third barrel looked fantastic by the way!

  4. Woo hoo! What a versatile mare! FWIW she was really hauling after the last barrel, it was like you put your foot to the floor! Weeeeeeee!

  5. Good grief is does she have some get up and go! Wowza.

    And hurrah for versatility! It really is the most fun. =)

  6. I LOVE versatile horses that are willing to try anything. :D O is awesome! I would love to try a fox hunt someday but I don't think we have any around here. I'll have to check into it when Chrome has more practice on trails and around other horses. :)

  7. So cool! I really want to try a hunt one day. So, was the fox killed by the dogs or by the huntsman?

    1. By the hounds. They caught it before anyone even knew what was happening - we didn't even know it was a fox at first. I'm sure the staff and members of the hunt would not have killed the fox had it come down to that - they would have let him live on to see another day.

  8. Aww, poor fox. :( Totally agree about hunting coyotes - there's no shortage of them, and they're bad on small livestock.

    Dude, O is awesome. She took care of herself perfectly! A horse who naps when she's tired and eats when she's hungry is the ideal!