Saturday, October 18, 2014

The Bane of Manes

So Opening Hunt is next weekend and I am SOOOO EXCITED!

I have lined up a horse to borrow as well as transportation. I've ridden this saintly horse several times before, including a lesson where I learned some ways to improve my galloping position, and how to ask for a flying lead change (something I have always wanted to learn but never really needed to considering I never showed much), so I feel confident about using him. I have my melton, canary vest, stock tie, and magical hairnet, so I feel confident about how I'll look. I also FINALLY resigned myself to the fact that my favorite watch is gone forever, and got a cheapo replacement so I won't be late like the last two times I've hunted (only one of which I wrote about...oops).

The one thing I am NOT so confident about is braiding manes. I've watched a lot of videos so I understand the basic idea, but I've never actually done it.

I French braid my own hair nearly every day though, and I've got a week to here's hoping Seven will look like this:

And not like that one person who shows up at a schooling show feeling really proud for braiding...until the braid ends up sticking up in all directions, falling out, and frizzing up to such a degree it would have been better not to try in the first place.

The day of Opening also marks my fourth year together with Byron and my last anniversary as an unmarried lady. Byron gave me his blessing to go hunting in the morning before we celebrate (not like he had much choice in the matter). Is it wrong that I'm not sure which I am looking forward to more--exploring local wineries in the afternoon, or outriding and outlasting all of the noobs who retire after an hour? Granted, I'll be on a horse that could hunt in his sleep...but still!

This week I'm also riding (not hunting) a horse a local instructor wants to get back into work and sell. He's a much different ride than the guest/husband horses I have been riding lately...he's a chestnut 8 y/o Warmblood cross who is a very forward show hunter type. He's only around 15hh but there is so much movement in that ground-covering daisy-cutter trot!

It's funny, but in the ring when they get quick, I get nervous and tense. Yet out in the hunt field when everyone else is doing it,  it's exhilarating. So, provided that he doesn't do anything too naughty, I think this will be good for my confidence.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Conquering the Ditch of Death at B's

Today I rode L's horse Blue (more on him at a future date--it's an amazing story I plan to write and submit around). It was an exciting day for me since it was the first time I got to wear all of my secondhand/homemade informal season finery! I scored a used Grand Prix jacket for $50 (ended up being a total of $80 since I had to have the sleeves lengthened), used Tailored Sportsmans for $30 ($50 with alterations), a used white ratcatcher shirt for $10 and I made my own stock tie (materials: $7). Of course I forgot to ask someone to take a picture of me though.

Hounds were moving off at 8, so I woke up at 5, spent 30 minutes fiddling with my stock tie, and arrived at the barn to get my horse ready at 6. Turns out that with a non-gray horse and tack already clean, you need next to no time to get presentable, so I put Blue in a stall and tried to make myself useful (the operating word being "tried").

I picked out stalls (successfully) but in the dark, I spilled about a third of the wheelbarrow's contents off the side of the manure spreader.
Blue pooped in his stall and rolled in it.
The owner of the barn spilled water from the trailer's tank ALL over her breeches.
We nearly took down B's fence trying to get through the gate to park the trailer.
And on top of that, it looked like it might rain.

Needless to say, we were late. Thank God I have one of those easy Real Women Ride hairnets because if I had to figure out hunter hair, we never would have gotten there. (Good thing foxhunters don't care about your hairstyle anyway.)

There were a couple of other stragglers who knew the direction they most likely went, so we hacked on the road and caught up with the group soon enough. We ran this way; we ran that way, then doubled back and did it again. Good thing was the skies were clearing--bad thing was that it was starting to get hot in my layers! Oh well, better to be hot and look proper.

Soon the pace settled down to that stop-and-go that happens when nothing is really going on except some horses walking slower than others and having to trot to catch up, which makes everyone behind them trot to catch up. A breeze started picking really turned out to be the perfect fall day.

Except for the Ditch of Death.

Up to this point, we had crossed a couple streams with no major incident. Blue is really good about being careful where he steps and can actually listen when he's revved up from other horses in front of him. But this ditch was at least a 45 degree grade, about 20 feet down and a larger hill up, and horses were trotting and cantering on the other side. Even though it wasn't my turn to go just yet, I knew Blue was going to catch up whether I was with him or not.

I looked down the ditch. I looked up the ditch. I heard my internal riding instructor yell, "DON'T LOOK DOWN, OR THAT'S WHERE YOU'RE GOING," in my mind. So I looked where I wanted to go--across the ditch--grabbed my "oh s***" strap, and I think I might have closed my eyes.

I'm not exactly sure what happened in between, but I found myself and Blue--still attached!--but stuck in a bramble on the other side. I kicked him on, accidentally cut off the woman hosting our hunt breakfast later--oops--apologized, elated--We made it! Good boy Blue!

Apart from that, the rest is kind of a blur. A couple hounds got stuck in someone's field fenced with hot wire so we had to stop and open the gate. I held the gate-opener's horse for her. Hounds nearly came right up on a fox but didn't get it--that was a lot of noise but not much running. We rode past a scenic outcropping of rocks where I had seen a picture of a fox gone to ground during cubbing. Mostly, Blue treated the whole thing like a bore, napping on the reins at checks and trying to put his head up his pasture-mate's butt  when he walked in front of us.

We hunted about two hours total, then headed back to wash horses (love trailers with a water tank!) and load them up to go to I's place.

With every turn in the driveway revealing another amazing part of the property--a pond with a fountain, literal amber waves of grain, an impeccable ring, a BARN WITH CHANDELIERS IN IT--I became more and more convinced that I needed to figure out a plot to get these people to adopt me somehow.

The food (quiches, bacon, sausage, hash browns, etc. prepared by the host's personal chef and housekeeper...oh, what a life!) was simple but it hit the spot. ESPECIALLY the macaroons for dessert. Chatted some, saw photos of one of the Master's steeplechase horses, showed off my engagement shoot pictures on my phone and generally had a great time.
One of my engagement shoot photos

Sorry if this post is rambly and has no structure. I just want to get the details down before I forget.
I am SO LUCKY to be able to do this at such little expense!!!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Three. Hours. Of Hunting.

Maybe one day I'll look back on this and laugh...but as of right now, I can count on one hand the number of two-hour-plus rides I've done in my life. Twenty minutes in I was convinced my ankles were going to just snap off from the strain.

But first things first. 5:30 a.m.--I wake up, hating my life. Then I remember I've been lent a horse to go hunting. I still hate my life because I am not yet caffienated, but I realize that this is a completely irrational thing to feel. It's a hunting day!

Misty morning in Potomac Hunt country. 
Still not entirely a functional human being (mornings are not my best time), I make it to the barn at 6:30 to prepare Seven Up for hunting.
When I see amazing views like this practically in my backyard I can hardly believe I am so lucky.

Of course he is gray.

And of course he has rolled since I bathed and Show Sheened the living bejeezus out of him the day before.
So I start scrubbing, and after about one and a half-ish baths, he looks presentable. I hope. His owner informs me that I'll be hunting him in a three-in-one bit, which I've never even seen before, let alone heard of. Oh yeah--and double reins. Good thing I had some practice with those in a lesson on a different horse last week (because I don't like riding that horse in a gag all the time when he doesn't need it all the time)...but I was very fumbly and unsure of my reins in that lesson, so I wasn't planning on actually hunting in double reins for quite some time...

A little blurry, but you cans see the main bit is a sort of loose-ring curb,
and then there is the option to use leverage when needed.
No time like the present, I guess. Especially when, for some reason, I find myself the very last person to mount up and I'm scrambling with my host to the pre-meet roundup (not sure if there is a name for it, but when the masters give announcements). I fumble a bit figuring out which is the curb rein and which is the snaffle, but then it clicks. I get it, and my hands suddenly remember the feeling of riding with draw reins (inadvisably, before I got a better trainer) as a kid.

Good timing, because we start trotting off past Seven's field, and past the neighbor's horses who are all worked up and galloping around their pasture. The hunt horses don't deem their antics worthy of any interest, which gives me time to figure out how to use the snaffle without engaging the curb. Success!

We draw first close to the farm--no luck. Then we enter the woods--and it's a pell-mell race to--what, I don't know, since I don't even hear the hounds with all my adrenaline. I'm just focused on keeping a distance between me and the next horse, and not getting impaled by any branches.

We come to a stop, then draw again in a corn field. I'm really regretting my fashion choice of a knit sweater over a polo shirt, since my sleeve is all soggy from washing Seven this morning, and after the run the rest of me feels like I'm wearing a wet dog. But there's no crying in foxhunting--the hounds find again, and we're running down a mowed lane through the cornfield. So exciting! I love how, when galloping, it feels so fast, and also like you have all the time in the world to perch up there and adjust your seat, your reins, to feel the breeze...and we keep going...and going...and ankles start to over-flex as my legs tire...and I'm starting to wonder if I should duck out and head back after this run...and we keep going...until finally we stop.

Seven couldn't care less about the gallop. He's got plenty left in him, so I decide to tough it out...which is good, because the remaining TWO HOURS is mostly walking and a little trotting. I honestly can't recall most of the details after that since I was mostly wondering if my hyperflexed ankles would just snap off, and I was preoccupied with not letting Seven jig too much. Except the FOOD after! Oh the food! So much cake! And I love  the option to start drinking at 11am (because it is just 100% ridiculous) but I always find myself guzzling water or juice at these things--too thirsty for alcohol! The host had a really cool dining room with exposed wood beams:

Phew. Through it all, I felt so alive I felt like I was going to die. But at least, I would have died happy.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Windsor at A's Farm

A drizzly, slow day today (well, slow by foxhunter standards, anyway), with about 30-40 people riding in one field. The only jumping and cantering we did was trying to get the horses past bees in the woods...had to go up and down that trail three times. Of course the hunt staff didn't get the bees since they were in front...they just stirred them up for us to ride through!

Windsor got stung a little bit the first time but the second and third time through, we were just enjoying galloping through the woods. He may be a draft cross but he does have plenty of "go." Too bad I don't think anyone else enjoyed it! On the ride back people seemed a little grumpy that we had to go through that area so many times. Oh permanent damage done, and that is the advantage of riding a gray horse--bugs are not as attracted to them.
Windsor is all dressed up and ready to roll at 7am!

I think we drew three or four coverts and hounds found twice. The first fox was put to ground (well, put in a hole in a tree--one of the Masters took a picture of it) and the second (maybe the same one, not sure) caused about an equal amount of hound music but I'm not exactly sure what the story was there. I was pleased that when the hounds put the first fox to ground I predicted that we would have to reverse for the staff to get back in front. Slowly but surely I'm figuring out the terrain and how the game is played. Also did much better at not riding up too close to people--Windsor was very relaxed today, except when his pasturemate left him and he wanted to follow. Can't really blame him for that. And there was plenty of gas left in the tank at the end of the day so I was glad he was feeling good. Overall, a very positive experience where I felt very confident--I knew the horse, I knew the place, and I knew a fair amount of the people so it was a recipe for success.

Speaking of recipes, after the hunt (around 10:30) we had an amazing breakfast. I felt bad for not having time last night to make the oatmeal muffins everyone seems to like, but there was PLENTY to eat--lox and bagels, cake, sandwich fixings, fruit, etc. And of course some "medicinal" refreshments. I have studying to do so I stuck to coffee today!
Made this for Windsor's owner to thank her for letting me ride him. She really likes it! (Though she said it's wishful thinking that her horses would hunt in a snaffle, ha.)

And, some exciting opportunities: After a year of trying to find a horse I could hunt, now that I've actually started doing it, I'm finding people are offering me more horses than I could possibly have time for. It's nice that I can be a little bit choosy now and not have to be a crash test dummy! Not that any of the horses I've ridden have been bad--I just don't want to have to worry about the horse while I'm new to hunting. From talking to someone about volunteering at one of the hunt events, I may have the prospect of some quiet lesson horses I could ride.

And a friend knows a professional photographer who wants to practice some action shots of horses jumping. He'll give us the photos free and there are plenty of great coops around where this friend boards, so I told her to sign me up!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

2014: How much did I really spend to get myself into the hunt field?

Complete honesty here. Hopefully someone will find it helpful.

Blowing the horn? Taking a swig from an imaginary flask? Who knows.

Hacking jacket--$50 on Fox Hunting Animals and Articles for Sale. Had to get it altered to fit, so final cost was $80.
White ratcatcher shirt--$10, used at the local tack shop
White stock tie--$40 at the local tack shop (yes, this was before I knew better)
Patterned stock tie--$7 from Sheilagh Barndollar on Fox Hunting Animals and Articles for Sale
Black melton--$270 new at Middleburg Tack Exchange (but reeeeallly it was a gift from Byron Yeah I'm just deluding myself there.)
Canary vest--$50 on sale at local tack shop
"Nice" (ie. not yet stained) breeches--$20
Brown gloves--$30
Brown boots--$100 used, plus $150 to have the uppers taken in. Yeah...spent way too much for super-old boots but I really enjoy them.
Saddle and 3 white fitted pads--$300 (saddle is an Ainsley Bartlett, bought from a friend, who threw in a bunch of saddle pads for free)

Polly-$300/month for four months= $1200

Willie-$200 for a month (never did get a picture of him--he was a bay TB with no markings and sort of a smallish Quarter Horse-y build)

Windsor-borrowed free

Tango-borrowed free

Lessons: I can't believe it, but I have taken almost no lessons this year. I'm not sure of the exact number but the total is definitely under $100 for all lessons in 2014.
Cubbing: Free
Hunt clinic: $40

6-cap package: $475

Total: $3,072

Frugal if! Though I guess most horse owners in the Maryland/DC/Virginia area spend at least $600 (a conservative estimate) on board and farrier fees each month.'s as if I just half-leased a horse at $300/month for a year, which would bring me to $3,600 before any lessons or clinics or other extras. Actually, it's like I saved money. Right?

Anyway, hopefully this breakdown of cost will help someone figure out what it takes to get your butt on a horse in the hunt field (and remember, this is the CHEAP way!).

I'm going to go throw up now. Why is this my hobby?


Welcome! I have been blogging for two years now, both for fun and professionally, but as I've done more and more blogging for work, I found I did less and less blogging for play.

Hence the new blog. It's going to be much more narrow in focus than my writings for Horse Nation and even my previous blog, The Collegial Equestrian--strictly hunt reports and other things related to my attempts to foxhunt on an extremely limited budget, and with no horse, truck, or trailer. (Though hopefully, I'll acquire each of those things one by one!)

The view from Windsor Castle
I'm writing for me, so I can track my progress, remember which fixtures to be afraid of, etc., but I hope you'll enjoy it too!