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The Last of Autumn Hunting

On Saturday we hunted a fixture that goes by many names. It’s known to Area II eventers as Bittersweet Field, home of the Seneca Valley Pony Club Horse Trials, but to foxhunters it is the property where we host the spring hunt races–so to us, it’s the Racecourse. It’s also the property of the Kiplinger family, longtime Potomac Hunt people (yep, of Kiplinger’s magazine!). Their estate is called Montevideo, and the house overlooks the entire property: XC field, planted fields, stables and a lovely tree-lined drive.

Whatever you call it, Saturday was really just the quintessential autumn hunting day. We moved off after the Masters gave their announcements, and the huntsman put the hounds in a field of crops where they bounded around. We would have seen them leaping and porpoising if the plants were a little shorter but instead we just saw the stalks rustle. The horses were rustling too. Most wanted to move out! The hounds obliged and ran the first fox to ground in about 15 minutes.

The Leftist was feeling it! Some recent dressage lessons came in handy to try and canter in a somewhat organized way rather than just running flat. Apparently he was snorting like a steam train because his owner (my hunting buddy) asked if he was behaving for me. He was, just not happy about it!

We had maybe one other good run that day, and one hanging log jump. The racecourse doesn’t really have jumps on the trails we hunt. But even with the more relaxed pace and not much scent as the day got warmer, there was certainly lots of wonderful foliage and enjoying time with great friends and great horses.

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The Dream Team: best buds in the pasture and the hunt field

I wondered aloud if we would find our way to the other side of the property. I had only been there once, for the last hunt of the season. I remembered a fabulous roller-coaster-like trail, with a sheer drop on one side and a creek below.

“I hope not!” said Lefty’s owner. “Or at least I hope we would cross at a better place!”

I had completely forgotten. The way we got to that amazing trail was by fording a deep creek and scrambling up a steep, muddy hill, only for most riders to get their head stuck in a tree at the very top. Lefty earned his keep that day, since he scrambled up and then stood still while I untangled myself from the branches. It really was a nasty, scary crossing but somehow I had completely forgotten it, only remembering the reward on the other side.

Funny how that happens out hunting!

We did start edging towards that creek, but I think the scent was dying. The second half of the hunt amounted to a pleasant trail ride which was probably for the best on a warm day! I got to catch up with a hunting friend my age, and we were so engrossed in conversation that we completely missed the fact that the field had left us. Only the staff and hounds were left, with us two hanging in the background! We trotted on to catch up and to enjoy a great tailgate.

You know sometimes I wonder if these hunt reports have enough drama. Most days my takeaway is “I can’t believe how lucky I am.” There’s no rising action, conflict, resolution. It’s all just rising action, no conflict, and then food and booze.

Not a bad way to spend a Saturday.

Next hunt is Opening Meet! I’m already anxious about clipping and braiding! But it will all get done. And before then, it’s Barn Night at Washington International. Not sure how I’m going to fit all of this in, plus riding, plus pesky work but it will happen.

Pony races at WIHS 2014–last time I was able to go!