Hunt Report

Opening Hunt Traditions

One thing I really enjoy about hunting and horses in general is the repetition. Though our lives change, nature is comfortably predictable. Every year, fall brings thicker coats, foliage –and now, all the anxious anticipation and glory of Opening Hunt.

Photo by Pat Michaels

For me, Opening Hunt is inextricably tied to my relationship with my husband. When we were dating, our fourth anniversary fell on October 25–the same day as my first Opening Meet. Not only was he OK with me hijacking our anniversary to play with horses, in the days before I really put him through the wringer.

At the time, I was working at a barn some mornings, doing the feed and mucking, plus writing for Horse Nation. The Thursday before Opening Meet, my plan was to do the barn in the morning and then cover Washington International’s Pony Steeplechase in the evening. I was so excited for my first-ever press pass. Then a piece of sawdust got in my eye.

Thankfully, it was from the sawdust shavings pile, not a dirty stall–but my entire eyelid soon swelled to Quasimodo proportions, throbbing with pain. I finished my barn chores and drove home with one eye shut. I tried to flush it out with water. No luck.  But I was not giving up the opportunity to see the inner workings of WIHS–the stabling in the underground garage, the warmup arena set up around concrete pillars! So I just shut one eye and tried not to scare the pony kids with my teary, swollen face as I interviewed them. I took photos of the event, completely unable to tell if my camera was focused or if any of my pictures would come out.

It was bad. On my Metro ride home, I had to run out of the train at a random stop. The pain was actually making me nauseous and I threw up into the train tracks like a drunk coed returning from a frat party. Crying as I waited for another train, I called my fiancé to come pick me up from our station. I called off work the next day and got an eye doctor to fish out the (miniscule!) piece of sawdust from my eyelid. How something the size of the point of a pin could cause so much pain, I still am not sure. But missing my first Opening Hunt was out of the question

Once the eye was fixed, I got some rest and then went to go wash and braid my (generously lent) horse. I had never braided before and this horse did not make my job easy, weaving like nobody’s business for FOUR HOURS. I was so frustrated, and determined to finish that I failed to notice my phone was out of battery and that my fiancé had called, worried. It was dark, raining, and he had no idea if I had been kicked in the head, gotten into a car accident, or even where to find me if I had! Oops, bad fianceé move on my part.

But still, I was stupidly determined to attend my first Opening Meet on our fourth anniversary and for some reason he was OK with it.

Thankfully, the hunt went completely fine (despite a little girth “wardrobe malfunction” early on and some tearful cursing trying to re-mount my horse) and we hunted well into the afternoon. I was one of the few who stayed until the end, with more riders turning back with each hour, and I felt like a warrior.

From City to Country

This year, thankfully, was less dramatic. It’s my fourth Opening Meet, my third with Lefty, and my first wearing Potomac Hunt’s colors.  Finally, I feel like I know what to do–how to groom, how to dress, when to talk, when to be quiet. But the week before Opening is always full of nervous excitement. Now the pre-hunt routine is pretty automatic, but I did have to clip Lefty, get my braiding supplies together, figure out what to put in my flask…

And for the first time since my first Opening Hunt, I attended Barn Night at Washington International again. This time, both eyes were working (!) and I was surrounded by friends from the  local Pony Club and Horsemasters group. And I got to meet an old Horse Nation colleague who was covering the entire WIHS weekend. Even though I can see horses pretty much any day of the week (even luckier), there is still something magical about the tent barns set up in the street and the smell of horses in the city.

I don’t envy top showjumpers though. I enjoy watching horse shows once in a while but I think what I do is a LOT more fun.

The next day was one of preparation. I did work, but I zoomed off as soon as possible to bathe and braid Lefty. Another companionable tradition–drinking a beer and bathing your horse with hunting friends! All the horse prep went smoothly. (Though I’m not sure why I forgot that I am TERRIBLE at making hunter braids that stay overnight. They end up frizzy and sticking in all directions by the next morning, as I found out. But I started that way so I just kept going. I had to redo nearly all of them on Saturday morning.)

More traditions when I got home: collecting all of my hunt clothes, making sure my boots were polished, and filling my flask. Then the nervous energy set in and I invented a few tasks: ironing my stock tie and reinforcing the buttons on my hunt coat.

I was nervous about my braids (rightly) so I set my alarm for 5:30 am. The stirrup cup was to begin at 10am.

The Hunt Morning

All of the hunt preparation went according to plan, and we arrived at the meet about 30 minutes before the Stirrup Cup.  My husband said he would meet us to take pictures, but there was no sign of him.

I was getting worried, so I unlocked the car to check my phone. Three missed calls. I called him back–he was lost, so I gave directions.

“Will there be food there?”

“Yes, there are refreshments,” I said, giving Lefty a look just daring him to try eating grass again.

“No, not ALCOHOL, baby, I mean FOOD!”

“Oh yeah, there are cookies.”

“WHAT! So you’re saying I’m going to be surrounded by horse people who AGREE with you that cookies are breakfast?!”

“Yep, see you soon!”

So yes–even though this year was less traumatic than the days leading up to my first Opening, at least we maintained the important tradition of horrifying Byron.

I mounted up from the wheel of the trailer and Byron handed me my photo prop.

It’s the Good Seat Challenge Trophy, handed down in Potomac Hunt each year since the 1950s to the rider with the best seat…which is up to interpretation! I wanted to take advantage of the photo opportunity while Lefty was braided and clean.

After the Blessing of the Hounds the field gathered on the hillside for a professional photo and then we moved off, heading around the back end of the hunt club to draw in the woods. It always surprises me how LARGE the opening hunt ends up being! There had to be at least 100 riders.

Not much jumping, though I did ride in first field. Maybe one hanging log? But it was a fast day. We hit on a fox pretty quickly and ran for about 20 minutes straight, then gathered hounds, enjoyed our flasks, hacked back, and I think we must have caught on the line of the same fox because we ended up galloping back the same way and doing nearly the same thing all over again.

The problem with a large field is that it significantly increases the potential for rider stupidity and general chaos. I won’t name names, but at speed, Lefty very deftly avoided a rider who was very casually standing around right in the middle of the path the entire field was galloping through! Not sure what the reason for that was, but it doesn’t really matter–I just rode my own horse, and I was really happy he saved my butt!

Maybe there was another check in between there somewhere, but those were the two big runs of the day. We ended up back near the hunt club and the staff decided to call it a day.

Photo by Pat Michael

It wasn’t the epic “last man standing” type of Opening Hunt, but it’s kind of hard to complain when you and your horse come home safe AND your husband comes to take pictures of your prized toilet seat!

Just me on that last one?


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.

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!




Why I’m Frugal

So the other day at the barn I was talking to one of the dressage ladies about my path to foxhunting, how writing was a big part of it, and how I’ve continued to blog (sporadically) about my adventures as the Frugal Foxhunter.

She asked, “Why are you frugal?”

I told her, “Because I’m in my 20s and I have half a horse.” Which is true.  And also, I think my husband would have a heart attack if I didn’t at least try to be semi-responsible about the cost of my horse habit. But the question kept popping up in my mind this week.

I work at a wealth management firm, so I literally get paid to think about money. In the time I’ve worked there, I’ve realized that wealth is about so much more than money. It’s about creating a life of fulfillment, whatever that means for you. Unfortunately a lot of people are rich–they earn a big income, they have a huge house , they spend a lot of money–but they’re not building anything. They’re burning through cash for whatever reason, so they’re not truly wealthy in their portfolio or their life.  The cost of living is high in the D.C. area where I live, so it’s easy to justify the idea that you need more, more, more without really thinking about what makes you happy.

Like this kind of happy. On-the-buckle happy. (photo courtesy Pat Michael)

I think the same thing happens in the horse world in general and the equestrian blog world specifically. Obviously we’re all in it because we love horses. But it seems to drift away from that sometimes. Maybe it’s an epic search for the CWD or Antares saddle that turns into a giant headache somehow. Or maybe you’re sticking with an awful horse because you feel like you have to.  I just notice a lot of the time it seems like people are going through the motions and it’s not clear if they’re really having FUN or not.

So how am I frugal? I try to get as much bang for my buck as I can, and I always try to think about what different experiences are worth to me. Admittedly, as my income has grown and I don’t have to ride any bucking bronco with 4 legs, or work all weekend writing freelance articles, I don’t do that anymore. I do spend more on my horse habit than I ever have in my life. I pay for half of Lefty’s board and my hunt subscription, and that’s not insignificant. But it’s way less than the cost of owning a horse in my area. I never buy riding clothes new. My saddle is an old Crosby, basically a postage stamp. The Chevy truck, admittedly, is a total luxury and a total gas guzzler. But the idea is to pay it off, then save up to buy a horse and trailer so I don’t have a car payment and a board payment on top of that.

I know–it’s a total justification, like saying drinking a Miller Lite is “responsible drinking”. (Which I do, by the way.) But it’s worth it to me. And I always try to think of my horse spending this way. Am I going to get $150+ worth of enjoyment out of an event?  $45 worth of education out of a lesson? This is how I make my horse decisions, and of course I weigh it against what is responsible for my budget. (Sometimes I get overly excited and throw caution to the wind–but it’s always burned me, like when I bought an $800 saddle, sight unseen, and the tree was broken. That HURT.)

Horses are not for the extremely frugal–like the kind of personal finance bloggers I follow who retire at age 30 to go live in the wilderness or travel the world in an Airstream eating only granola bars for sustenance. But there is a way to do the horse thing–and have a LOT of fun–in a way where I’m “acting my wage” and not living above my means.

How do you make the horse habit fit into your finances?

Hunt Report

Joint Meet With Goshen

Yesterday I hunted with Goshen for the first time. Just like when I hunt anywhere, I washed my horse, cleaned my tack and got all my clothes and boots ready the night before. I had a celebratory sip of the Castle Hill cider that would be filling my flask. I set the coffeemaker. I hung up my shirt, britches, belt, and stock tie up over the shower door (the easiest way I have found to get dressed in the morning without having to open drawers and wake my light-sleeping husband). I even fished a clean fitted saddle pad out of the garage–I’ve been hunting in just a Fleeceworks half pad lately because I don’t have a fitted pad with wither relief, but I figured we could look more normal for our hosts. This was a big mistake.

A) Looking normal is overrated. B) Changing any element of the plan the night before a hunt means something absolutely will go wrong.

All was well when I bounded out of bed Sunday morning. I even had time to sit down and eat my yogurt! But I walked out the door with everything BUT my prized Dehner boots. Oops. This is why it also helps to have a supportive spouse trained and ready to go. This is not something that happens overnight but it is so handy to have for a foxhunter. Do not make him or her attend too many horse shows, or social events where the main topic of conversation will be things like the distinctive smell of smegma or how much money it takes to find the perfect saddle. Build up goodwill with things like fun lessons on a steady horse. Try not to let your supportive spouse or significant other die on a trail ride–this is more difficult than it seems but also very rewarding.

In my case it really paid off and my husband jumped out of bed without even brushing his teeth (gross, but also sort of sweet) to bring me my boots while I got Lefty ready. It’s a small thing. My barn is not far from my home. But I was nervous enough at hunting new territory and socializing with new people and I would not have been able to go out and have a cracking day out hunting without his help!

Business as usual for the rest of the hunting prep–we actually hauled out on time, which is probably a first, and arrived early at a fixture Lefty’s owner has not seen since the age before cell phones.

The Goshen people like to party. I knew there would be a stirrup cup before the hunt, but at Potomac, a stirrup cup means volunteers on foot hand out baked goods and little cups of sherry, port, or cider while you are milling around and socializing on your horse before the hunt. Nope. At Goshen, a stirrup cup is apparently a pre-hunt party in the clubhouse! All I had was one chip and some guacamole. I had a feeling if I had any alcohol I would be peeing myself at the sight of the first coop. And just hanging out chit-chatting was not good for my pre-hunt jitters when I felt the time ticking down for getting my horse off the trailer!

I did get to chat with two of the members, who asked whether I would be going first flight or second. “First, I think,” I replied.

“Oh good! We have some nice coops from this fixture, really nice coops.”

Oh God. “Nice” could mean anything. I chose to believe it meant something along the lines of “under 3 feet.” I was glad when I met up with Lefty’s owner again to go get the horses ready. I felt so much more comfortable when I was on his back, with my buddy who, as homicidal as he can be in the arena, has carried me safely through over 50 hunts so far!

The hunt began with a brisk trot up to the first draw in a corn field. It was a good warmup, but no sign of a fox. Conditions did not look promising for hunting (60 degrees, sunny and breezy) but at the very least we would have a nice ride out in the sunshine. We moved on to the next draw in a covert of trees–but first, we had to jump a decent sized coop. Probably 3 foot. Lefty made it with no problem but his owner did not–her horse decided not to follow Lefty’s lead. Of course I only realized this about 20 strides after the jump. I looked back, and saw her gelding standing to the side while others kept jumping and I realized I would have to go on by myself. Second field was taking a longer route around the jump and she would join them. At least there were others from Potomac–one of whom was a Master. I would just have to do my best to blend in on my little bay horse and not screw up!

We jumped at least two more big coops–one of which I had to growl at Lefty to “GIT ON OVER” since he seemed a little wiggly–and a log but honestly it is kind of a blur. It was the right amount of jumping. The wooded trails at this fixture were very windy and roller-coaster-y with a lot of muddy creek crossings so it took all my focus to balance him up and stay right in the middle with him. Finally we crossed a creek and bounded up to a clearing where the second field was waiting for us. Lefty immediately flung his head up and whinnied like an idiot for his pasture-mate. I did some leg yielding to try to instill the idea that hunting means WORKING, not whinnying like an idiot, but it was basically for show. He wanted to be with his friend and safety blanket and so did I! So I moved back to 2nd field for the rest of the day.

Not from this particular day’s hunt, but a good representation of L and R’s bromance.

A great decision. Not only did we move out and actually end up jumping some logs, but we had an AMAZING view of the fox running through the trees. I have not viewed a fox since I went car following two years ago. But the second field at Goshen all saw him plain as day while first field was busy jumping and re-jumping the same damn coops in various configurations.

We hacked in happy and safe. A successful day even for a worrywart with an opinionated horse. And it could never have happened without the proper preparation of equipment, horse, and spousal support staff!



Miscellaneous Shenanigans

Equestrian Blogger Secret Santa!

We take a break from your regularly scheduled silence for…Christmas!!!

This year I decided to not be a Scrooge and participate in Fly on Over’s Equestrian Blogger Secret Santa. True to my blog theme, I gave an EXTREMELY frugal gift that I hope the person enjoys. I enjoyed making it anyway. It sort of centers around an inside joke that I tried to explain and I hope it comes off as intended! If not, I made cookies too.

My Secret Santa was Alli from Ponytude. She knows how to make a foxhunter smile!


My kitty Manchego was intrigued.


Hand and foot warmers: How I survive the winter, whether I’m hunting or not.

Carhartt socks: Essential for the days I forget the toe warmers.

Chapstick: I was seriously impressed by this one! Perfect for a windy day of hunting.


And the fun stuff: I am especially excited to try a concoction with the Absolut Mandarin. I would have never thought of it myself since I tend to go with port or Apple Jack, but I think that will inspire some really tasty flask fillers.

I had a real “small world” moment when I realized who my Secret Santa was. Back when I was freelancing for Horse Nation, I came upon a story idea from a podcast she posted on her blog with equestrian sport psychologist Dr. Jenny Susser. I had actually completely forgotten I even wrote it and it was fun to go back.
Confidence-Building Tips from an Equestrian Sports Psychologist
Thank you Alli for the gift and for re-introducing me to your blog! I see you’ve been bitten by the foxhunting bug and I hope our paths cross in the hunt field or at hunt races sometime!

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Click here to see everyone else who participated in the Secret Santa…


We Only Scared the Children a Little Bit=Dressage Success

So a week before the schooling dressage show, Lefty’s cellulitis episode seemed to have resolved. I never scratched my entry, so we had about 5 days and one lesson to prepare for our Training level  1 debut. Great idea!

Now the Training level 1 test is pretty straightforward. Trot centerline, halt, trot to the left, trot circle in the middle, canter circle at one end, canter down the long side, walk, change direction and do the same thing on the other side. Guess which aspect of that is most exciting to a rotten Thoroughbred? Flat-out running down the long side of the ring. I had to do a one-rein stop in the damn arena! It was news to Lefty that the test did not call for “Go as fast as equinely possible at F.”

By the time the Sunday show rolled around, we could at least stay in control for the duration of the test. It was not necessarily pretty, round, and fluid for the entire test–but at least we did all the movements in the correct places. My goal for the show was for Lefty not to kill me or any of the Pony Club children I was competing against, so anything better than that was just a bonus.

We hacked over to the show, hosted at a nearby friend’s barn. Ponies, ponies everywhere! Lefty was mostly behaved and the hack over was good to settle his two brain cells. I felt quite fancy being all cleaned up for our debut! Unfortunately the show was running late and as we stood around waiting Lefty was getting a little dancy and impatient.

My coach shooed me into the warmup arena to put Lefty’s little brain to work. There were some ugly faces. Ear pinning. Head tossing. But I just kept repeating my mantra, “Just keep riding, just keep riding,” and kicked him into my outside hand every other step, and it all seemed to work out. He did make me ride every step though, especially near the short end of the dressage arena bordering the warmup area. We might have had to jump that, you know.

It was our turn to warm up in the arena–since it was a schooling show, and every single horse seemed to be spooking at the judge’s table, they allowed a few minutes for each rider to school in the ring. I was so focused on my leg yields toward the judges’ stand that I didn’t hear a word of the commentary in this video. Oddly enough I think I rode the warmup better than the test!

Video of our test, with whispered commentary from the peanut gallery that I didn’t hear until I watched the video. Highlights: “Kick him. KICK him!! Asshole.”

Thoroughbreds. I do think we did better than our snail’s pace Intro A dressage show last year, and honestly I was thrilled that we did all the movements in approximately the right places, without blasting down the long side of the arena.

While I was waiting for the class to be pinned, I was chatting with one of the teenage riders who seemed frustrated with her performance. Apparently her horse was not forward enough.

“I can understand…” I said, “Lefty does the same thing. But I figure being a little behind is better than galloping around at Mach 10 in the dressage arena.”

“That’s for sure,” she said, “I saw your horse acting up in the warmup and you did pretty well with him…I would have been scared!”

So we didn’t run anyone over…but we might have scared the children.

Unfortunately, a day after the show Lefty’s cellulitis came back in a different leg and he got another round of meds and about a week off while the swelling went down. Thankfully this time it resolved faster, and now he is on some supplements the vet recommended. We’re thinking he just wasn’t getting certain nutrients he needed.

We’re just back to riding now! Hunt report TK.

Riding Adventures

Do You Have to Be Brave to Foxhunt?

FullSizeRender 3

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.

IMG_6582 2
Lefty and the culprit

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



Miscellaneous Shenanigans

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:


Newbie Tips

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!

Newbie Tips

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!

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 😦