Tuesday, September 6, 2016

On to greener pastures

Hello, all two readers! I felt my blog was looking a little too early 2000s. I've made the switch to Wordpress so I have more bells and whistles to play with, and I hope you'll join me there. (Because clearly, a blog about the ancient sport of foxhunting needs a modern website.)

On to greener pastures and more detailed site analytics

Find new posts at: https://thefrugalfoxhunter.com

And while I'm updating my look, I'm also updating my social media. Follow me on Facebook for blog updates in your feed.

It's just like Christmas!

Sunday, August 21, 2016

When You Arrive at the Hunt Meet

So I realized that my last post skips from pre-hunt preparations to the end of the hunt. But what should you expect when you arrive? How do you avoid being the poor soul whose horse thinks it is a superhero flying AWAY from the trailers, and is seen galloping with a fleece cooler flapping, cape-like, from its neck? Well, since I have been that unfortunate person, I can tell you the tips and tricks I have learned so far.
That's why we call him Lefty the Bad Elf

When You Arrive at the Hunt Meet

There are a few foxhunters who will arrive REALLY early to the meet. This is probably the ideal thing to do so you can get ready at a relaxed pace, and keep your horse as quiet and calm as possible, particularly if you have a green horse. But honestly very few people do this. It is very common to arrive 20 minutes to 5 minutes (!) before the huntsman blows the horn and it's time to move off.

So if you are in that latter group, you want to be able to unload your horse and GO. This is why I recommended trailering your horse tacked up in the previous post. But being able to just unload and go takes some homework and preparation weeks or even months beforehand. You don't want a horse who is hard to load or unload, or who freaks out when left on the trailer without a buddy, or who leaps out like a bat out of hell. Hunt trail rides are a good time to sort out these issues in a low-stress environment, but don't try to "school at the show."

For the sake of this post I'll assume you already have done all the horse training you need to be safe. What you really want to know is how to park your trailer and get on your horse looking as polished as possible in as little time as possible.


"Dress me slowly because I'm in a hurry."
This translation of a Spanish saying I learned from my mother's family is key to most aspects of horses, especially the morning of a hunt meet. Take the time to do a task right right the first time, or you'll just have to waste time doing it again later. Preparing well and having a good routine are key to avoid accidents too.
Accoutrements of a well-dressed rider

A well-dressed hunt horse

Extra things to keep in your trailer for common mishaps:

There are countless articles out there on what you should keep in a trailer in general (water, haynets, first aid kits for humans and horses, etc.), but these items are good to have for loose horse emergencies that may occur right before or after a hunt!

  • Extra halters
  • An extra bridle
  • Lead ropes
  • Treats or grain in a bucket

Parking the Trailer

This is a key area where taking the time to do it right pays off. Admittedly I am not usually the one driving the rig, but here are a few tricks I have picked up:
  • Figure out where you are going at least a day ahead of time (check your email, call the hunt monitor, ask a master, etc.). There may be specific instructions as to what entrance to use and where you are allowed to park.
  • Think about your exit strategy. If in a muddy area, park slightly downhill in case you need gravity to help you get rolling.
  • Leave plenty of room around you for other trailers and horses. 
  • If you know where the hound trailer is, keep your distance. Most horses don't appreciate hounds running around behind the trailer when you ask them to unload.
  • I always put on my helmet, hairnet and gloves before I even unload my horse. One less thing to worry about.

Unloading Your Horse

For foxhunting you really want a horse who self-loads and unloads. Otherwise the rest of these steps are basically a nightmare, especially when you are on a time crunch.

  • If your horse pooped all over its tail or back legs while you were driving, use water and a wet brush or sponge to spot clean BEFORE you unload. This removes the possibility of frustration if it turns out your horse won't stand still once you unload him.
  • Pick out any manure by the back legs to make it less likely your horse will slip while backing out of the trailer. Do not throw manure on the grass--either bring a muck bucket or just shift the poo to an area in the trailer where it is less likely to be a problem.
  • Unhook your horse's halter from the trailer ties
  • Undo the butt bar
  • Ideally, horse walks off carefully and slowly. If not, hopefully you have someone with you who can help. Always good to err on the side of caution!

Final Touches

  • Either hold your horse or tie him to the trailer. If you are going to tie your horse, don't leave the lead rope so ridiculously long your horse can eat grass. Pretty much all of the broken rein/broken bridle incidents I have seen were due to tying the horse too long, then walking off and leaving them unsupervised. 
  • Take off shipping boots if you use them, do up your girth, spray fly spray if needed. You can do touch-ups if there is time but in my experience, at this point it is too late to do any major grooming!
  • Take off your horse's halter and switch your barn jacket for your hunt jacket (this keeps it clean up until the very last moment!). If you are REALLY organized, you have put a little piece of panty hose or a tiny washcloth in your jacket pocket to dust off your boots...but considering you're about to go sloshing through streams, brambles, and mud, it's not something to stress about.
  • Mount up. Check your girth after a few steps and you are ready!

I know all of this seems like a lot but it is like anything with horses. There are a million things to keep in mind at the same time, and you have to be very detail-oriented. But I promise, once you master the skills, your foxhunting routine will become second nature!

Monday, August 15, 2016

My Foxhunting Routine

Figuring out exactly how and when to prepare for hunting was very nerve-wracking for me when I first started, so now that I have a system that works for me I thought I would share it. Add extra time if you have a light-colored horse!

The Night Before: Horse Prep

Allow about 30 minutes to bathe and 30 minutes for your horse to dry. More if you're drinking beers with barn friends.

A few tricks:

Use Orvus soap for your initial scrub of the body, mane and tail. Rinse/scrub with a curry comb hose attachment to really get down to the skin level of dirt.

Follow up with conditioner in the mane and tail. Rinse. Spray with Show Sheen and brush out from bottom to top to avoid breaking hairs.

If your barn hot water tends to go cold quickly, fill up a bucket or two with room temperature water before turning on the hot water. Put a water heater in the bucket, plug it in and let it heat up while you use up the hose hot water. By the time you are ready to rinse, you will have warm water.

Throw an Irish knit and/or cooler on your horse to dry off with some hay in a stall or under heat lamps. Make sure to keep an eye on your horse so they are not stuck shivering in a wet cooler. Just flip to the dry side once one side is damp. If your horse is likely to roll make sure to tie them in the stall while drying. If you want to Show Sheen the neck and rump of your horse to try to repel dirt, you can, but I think very few foxhunters do this. NEVER Show Sheen the saddle area of your horse. I learned this the hard way with saddle pads that literally slipped out from under my saddle while hunting!!!

If you are stalling your horse overnight, make sure the stall is picked out. Untie your horse and leave plenty of hay and water. If you are turning out your horse for the night, make sure they are DRY and definitely Show Sheen the mane and tail to repel dirt. It might seem pointless to bathe a horse and then turn them out for the night, but it certainly has a place if it will get the base layer of dirt off and make them happier in the morning (or avoid stocking up). Of course you will have to arrive earlier in the morning to do another bath if you don't stall your horse.

Make sure there is hay and water in the trailer.

Lay out your saddle, saddle pad(s), and bridle near the grooming stall or wherever you tack up in the morning. All of this is already clean because you clean your tack after every ride, right? You absolutely need to during hunt season!

The Night Before: Human Prep

Get all the rider supplies you need ready. This takes me about 10 minutes for clothes and about 10 minutes for flask and sandwich case. If you are a morning person, you might be able to do this stuff as part of your morning routine, but I move at the speed and intelligence of Beltway traffic in the morning so it is easier for me to prepare everything the night before.


I always put all my hunt attire in the bathroom the night before so I can brush my teeth and get dressed early in the morning without waking my light-sleeping husband. You need breeches, socks, belt, show shirt, stock tie (I always store my stock tie with the stock pin stuck through it so I don't ever lose it), hunting jacket, and a loose layer of clothes to go on top so your nice clothes don't get dirty. This is a trick I learned from my show hunter days. When I get dressed in the morning, I cover my ensemble with a sweatshirt and pajama pants.

There are waterproof zip-up pants that are made just for this purpose but you can certainly get by without them.

Food and Drink:

Often I will try to get creative with my hunt breakfast tailgate contributions, but if you want to make things really easy, make a BIG batch of muffins, cookies or sweet bread and put it in the freezer days or weeks ahead of time. Let it thaw in your car the night before a hunt and you are in business!

My tradition the night before I hunt is to do a little bartending with whatever concoction I can make from the liquor I have at home. You can't go wrong with port wine or sherry in your flask but the options are endless. Hard lemonade is great for hot days. Apple juice with whiskey or apple brandy is great for fall.  You want something with a kick that is also semi-refreshing. Avoid anything carbonated because it will explode, and also avoid Baileys or other creamy or very sweet liquors because they will be disgusting, as I found out.

I believe a white meat sandwich with the crust cut off tied in paper is technically correct to put in a ladies' sandwich case, but I normally put granola bars and chapstick.

Set your coffeemaker for the morning and put a to-go thermos right next to it!

If you are really on top of your game, put your tall boots, hunt coat and a tweed jacket for the breakfast in your car. Otherwise, keep all your clothes together and do this in the morning.

The Morning Of

Say, for example, the hunt begins at 8 am, and it takes 20 minutes to trailer to the meet. I would wake up at 5 am and arrive at the barn by 6 am to be safe. If I stalled my horse overnight, I might arrive at 6:30. Here's a hypothetical time schedule.

5am...ish: Wake up, brush teeth, wash face. Some women wear makeup to hunt but I have no idea how to manage that level of coordination. Put on your breeches, socks, belt, shirt, and tie your stock tie. Pin to your shirt and throw a sweatshirt and pajama pants (or zip-ups) over the entire thing.

Grab coffee, hunt jacket, boots, helmet, gloves, sandwich case, flask, tailgate contribution and go!

5:30 am: Drive to barn

6am: An early-morning hunt would be during my horse's normal breakfast time, so the first thing I do is feed right when I arrive at the barn. Up to your discretion if you give a half portion and feed the rest when you return home or a full portion.

While your horse is eating, investigate how clean they stayed overnight. Always assume you will need to do some touch-ups. Get a bucket of water ready during the 15 or so minutes it takes for your horse to eat.

6:15 am: Last-minute grooming. Make sure to check your horse's hooves and legs carefully.

6:30 am: Hook up your trailer while your horse dries. (I trailer with a friend so I normally don't do this but it does take about 10 min.)

6:40 am: Inevitably something will go wrong. You need buffer time! Check trailer lights, hay and water (again) and if all is well, get yourself ready. Put on your boots, straighten your stock tie, etc. Make sure to put your helmet and gloves on the trailer.

7:15 am : Tack up. Put your saddle on with the girth fairly loose, and you can even put the bridle on if it is a short trailer ride. NOT Pony Club approved but hunt people do it all the time so they can unload from the trailer and ride off. Alternatively, you can bridle your horse in the trailer once you arrive at the meet. Then you will need to arrive even earlier of course.
The reins go under the throatlatch, and then you twist them several times and loop over the head so the horse cannot get a foot through them. Halter goes over the entire bridle contraption. 

I would not recommend bridling your horse while tied to the trailer at the meet, unless your horse is a saint OR unless you arrive very early. There is just too much going on and too much of a high-energy environment.

7:20 am (but realistically, 7:30 am): Load and haul out! Plan backward so you arrive at the meet at least 10 minutes early. The hunt will not wait for you!

photo courtesy Pat Michaels

After the Hunt
Once hunting is over typically it's a long walk back to the trailers, which is a good opportunity to cool out your horse and enjoy a few sips from your flask.

When you get back to the trailer, dismount, loosen girth, offer your horse water and untack. Splash some Vetrolin in your wash water, bathe your horse and check legs and shoes. Offer water again. If all is well, load up, close up the trailer ramp, switch from your hunt coat to your tweed, and enjoy the hunt breakfast while your horse munches on hay!

Just found out tonight that little Lefty is out of commission for a while with cellulitis. I have another horse I can ride but this likely means no dressage show in September :(

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Too Hot to Work My Horse...

So I put myself to work instead building jumps. In the woods it was "lovely, dark and deep" like the poem. It felt significantly cooler than in the sun, but I was still definitely sweating moving around old, rotting tires!!!

Here's the first one I made!
I sent that photo to a trail riding buddy of mine...and she inspired me to make a shorter, but possibly more challenging version for jump #2:

However I am not 100% sure my horse would actually jump what is basically a skinny the width of a tire, so I dumbed it down with guide poles.

And added a second element, just because I couldn't resist after finding the perfect-shaped stumps.

Then I went back and added a second element to the first jump for good measure (the tire coop at right, below). The heat was probably getting to my head at that point. I'm not sure if this last one will actually work out, just because of the approach--you need to jump into or out of it at a 90-degree angle to the main trail--but I think if you start with that coop, then the vertical will actually be very inviting.

We'll see if I am skilled enough to actually jump all of them. Good thing is, I put them together, so I can take them apart! It was a fun way to spend what was otherwise a miserable day to be outdoors, and I give myself 50 Frugal Points for the free jumps and free exercise. (Unfortunately you can only trade those in for smug satisfaction, sweaty BO, and battle wounds on your legs from sticker bushes.)

We'll see how it rides when it gets cooler. Unfortunately that won't be until the end of the week--and then we will be starting cubbing! I will ride really early a few mornings this week, but I typically stay in the ring when I ride before work. I want the morning feed person to be able to find my body if necessary!

We have a dressage schooling show coming up so it's probably not the worst thing in the world to do some early-morning ringwork. We'll be doing Training 1. The main goal is to be FORWARD! Lefty's least favorite word unless it's going Mach 10 alongside a corn field...

I was going to try and find a recent photo of Lefty doing dressage and there are none. Whoops. It probably is time to start doing some ringwork...

Here's a photo of Lefty and a sweet donkey to make up for it:

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Checked off the bucket list

Just returned from a relaxing trip to the Outer Banks where I had the opportunity to check an item off my bucket list--riding on the beach!

Luckily I was able to convey that my husband and I do know how to ride, but that I wanted a vacation from my grumpy Thoroughbred. Mission accomplished. Diamond, the little chestnut Arab gelding I rode, was pretty much point and shoot (aside from a slight magnetic attraction to the trailer). My husband's QH mount, April, was even more so--perfect for a more beginner rider. (Though they did try to stuff him into a 16" saddle for some reason.)

I was surprised by how deep the footing was! When cantering and trotting, we stuck to the tire treads left by people four-wheeling. Otherwise the sand was just too variable, and after a year of hunting, I am not one to be overly worried about footing with the right horse.  Regardless, it was a fun ride and I was very happy with the care of the horses.

In keeping with the original frugality theme of the blog, this was a pretty affordable experience ($80 apiece). While that is double what I pay for a lesson, I would gladly give up two lessons for a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Although once I buy a trailer in a few years, maybe it won't be once in a lifetime!

I feel a little funny about calling this a bucket list item because really I don't have a bucket list, but riding on the beach is something I've always wanted to do. Before, my dream experience was foxhunting just once in my life. Clearly from the infrequency of my posts, we see how hunting has turned out to completely overtake my life. But hey, nothing wrong with living everyday life like a vacation. I always try to make a point of appreciating what I have, and spending money on the things that count, not the things that don't. Because really, who needs to go out for dessert on vacation when you can make this in the toaster oven?!

We were supposed to have a hunt clinic to entice newbies today, but with a heat index over 100, the riding portion of the event was canceled. Right decision but a bummer since this year I helped organize the event, and we actually came home a day early so I could attend. Luckily I was still able to enjoy a cold one and snuggle hounds at the Hound Walk Happy Hour last night. Not a bad thing to come home to after a 6.5 hour drive!

Next weekend is our Opening Cubbing. Hopefully the weather will be reasonable enough to ride, but I doubt we'll really hunt till it cools down significantly.

Friday, July 22, 2016

It's so hard being fortunate enough to ride

Seriously, this is what people complain about?

"Blurred Lines in the Horse World: What it’s Like to Not be a Wealthy Equestrian", HorseHack
On the face of it, it's kind of hilarious. Boo hoo, poor me, I have a horse but I don't have the time or money to show! But I do remember feeling similarly to these writers when I was in high school. I definitely felt "less than" sometimes when I would see the girls whose parents bought them $60,000 Warmbloods tittering about something funny that happened at the weekend's A-rated show, or casually hanging their show team jackets on a jump standard, or rifling for fly spray in their lovely wooden tack trunks.

Of course I wished I had the means to ride more, but I think these girls never even knew what they had.  Now that I've seen the light of foxhunting, I feel very sad for kids who think that just because they can't afford to spend $300+ to ride for 10 minutes in the show ring, they're somehow less of a rider.  I felt that way too, since I didn't know there was a world beyond the cliquish, snobby hunter-jumpers. I was extremely shy, so I tried to reason with myself that I was at the barn to ride, not to make friends. I looked for excuses to hang around the horses--cleaning tack, mucking stalls, or just watching lessons. Eventually, I did make a friend who wasn't part of the show clique either. We raced our horses in the pasture and jumped rickety piles of wood we definitely weren't allowed to jump.

Now I'm still doing the same thing--with more friends who have an equal level of horse insanity, a more cantankerous gelding, and even more questionable jumps, one of which I affectionately call "The Pile of Crap."

My masterpiece
I say this with love, because I've been there--but if you are feeling sooo sad for yourself because  you can't show, quit whining and start riding! There is so much more out there to enjoy--and at much less cost. Go gallop around a corn field. Race around an empty pasture. Leg yield down the driveway. Jump a course in the arena (or do your best impression of it, like I do as I careen haphazardly near, around, on, and--rarely--over the jumps). Volunteer at a rescue, ride green horses, ride the geriatric pasture puffs owned by little old ladies--whatever it takes to get hours in the saddle. It can be done without spending a fortune, and without ever trying to squeeze your butt in an expensive pair of Tailored Sportsmans. In my opinion it's a lot more fun that way!
A discovery on the trail

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Ok, so sue me

I intended to post regularly this season...but new job, new marriage, and riding itself...you know. Excuses, excuses. In any case, it was an exciting and exhilarating hunt season! The highlights since last time:

My husband and I were The Fox and the Hound for Halloween, which, coincidentally, was the day of Opening Hunt.

Lefty gave me a lump of coal for Christmas. His owner gave me a nameplate saying "Left Her Smilin' " (Lefty's real name) which I put on my hunt belt.

We had several weeks of shying and skittering away from ground poles, so we learned about Natural Horsemanship groundwork. Lefty is no dummy...he caught on pretty quick once he realized I meant business and had the tools to put a stop to his shenanigans.

Countless gorgeous, gossipy, galloping trail rides with friends.

I drove a trailer by myself, hunted a green horse, didn't die, and then managed to make it home in time for my boss's twins' bar/bat mitzvah.

Lefty put me on the ground in front of my mom. Honestly, just a tumble--but my mom had never seen me fall in the 8 years or so she drove me to weekly lessons. Damn horse!

Lefty got loose with his "sister" Gimlet post-hunt. We were able to catch him after about an hour, but she was lost for the whole afternoon into the evening. A terrifying day, but one where the whole horse community rallied together to find them.

I hunted "by myself" since Lefty's owner broke her arm and couldn't ride. Not only did we not die, we had one of the best hunts I have EVER experienced, blasting around in the mud after the snow melted by the Potomac River.

Lefty got loose AGAIN post-hunt after refusing to get on the trailer. Thankfully, the field was coming back after I headed in early and one of the masters caught him for me. Now I am never  EVER hunting without the nylon rope halter in the trailer!

In perhaps the most expensive week of my life, we bought Dehner boots from Horse Country and a monstrosity of a truck to tow a horse trailer (eventually. Very eventually.)

I am so excited to break in the boots at our Hunt Races where I will be a crowd control volunteer! Come visit the races if you are in the DC area and feed little Lefty some carrots.

Until the Hunt Races, it's dressage and trail riding...maybe practicing my braiding skills!