Riding Adventures

Do You Have to Be Brave to Foxhunt?

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This text,in reference to my incident with a loose horse and some impromptu outriding, sparked a thought-provoking conversation with a friend of mine. She said, “You’re a brave, brave woman!” and it made me wonder–am I? Or am I just stupid?

This is a question I should probably ask myself more out hunting. So often things just happen–a very solid tree branch whacking you in the face, your horse throwing a huge buck careening downhill, losing a stirrup while galloping uphill–and in hindsight I think, “Hmm. That could have gone badly.”

But more often than not, it doesn’t.

This particular incident that the text message refers to really could have gone either way. I was out trail riding and schooling some new jumps with a friend of mine on her young paint mare…when she went one way and her horse went another. She fell off, then promptly got up and yelled, “GO!” as her mare trotted off on the trail back home. This mare has some history of getting lost, so Lefty and I were on a mission. I could NOT let that horse out of my sight since she was heading right toward the road on the way home to the barn.

We were flat-out galloping. I had NO brakes–Lefty was locked on to that mare! I worried about the hard footing, the fact that the little mare was cutting STRAIGHT across a planted field–but I realized this was no time to stand on protocol and manners. My ex-racehorse kicked into 6th gear, opening his stride for a rescue mission. I saw a car on the road–then the mare crossed safely. Phew. I tensed every muscle in my body to slow down my Thoroughbred freight train, and trotted down the driveway following her. She went straight behind the barn owner’s house to graze, where she was soon caught and returned to her owner, who was meandering her way back to the farm on foot.

Somehow these “wow, that could have been bad!” moments tend to all turn out fine. It’s terrifying for a split second, when I realize, I have to deal with this or I’m going to die, probably–and somehow, those riding skills step up to the plate when things go wrong. This is why I spend hours and hours and miles and miles in the saddle (and, of course, because it’s fun). I don’t mean to say that accidents never happen–but I really don’t think they happen much more than they do riding in the arena. (And I say that as a former hunter/jumper girl who was terrified of trail riding!) Things just happen so fast out in the hunt field, and resolve themselves for better or for worse, that you learn very quickly what you and your horse are truly capable of. Often, it’s more than you thought, because who in their right mind would gallop downhill, or make their horse leap up a muddy bank…unless everyone else was doing it and having no problem? There have been a few occasions out hunting where I had no brakes on my little Thoroughbred. But I don’t worry about it anymore. I know he’ll come back to me. So on this little rescue mission, I barely gave it a thought. My entire focus was on keeping that mare in my line of sight.

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Lefty and the culprit

So is it learned bravery? Or learned stupidity? That is a question I can’t answer. Having too much fun.