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New look!

If you subscribe to the blog via an RSS feeder you may not have seen yesterday’s blog redesign! I’m still working out the kinks but I think it looks a lot more like a real website now and less template-y.

I’ve also launched a new service: Equestrian Pen Pal matchmaking. A new foxhunter contacted me a few months ago and we have been pen palling it up ever since. I’m really enjoying the longform letters, and I know there are other riders and bloggers out there who would probably enjoy it too. So if you fill out the “Want an Equestrian Pen Pal?” form, I’ll match you with someone I think you’d get along with (once enough people sign up). I hope it takes off and we start connecting with riders and foxhunters all around the world.

Spread the word! It’s free!

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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.

image1.jpeg
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!

 

 

Hunt Report, Uncategorized

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!

My Life, Uncategorized

Mayhem

May is creeping up, and with it, insanity…

This weekend I volunteered at the Potomac Hunter Pace and a horse management clinic for Pony Club kids, and in between attended my bachelorette party in DC. All fun, but I was so exhausted I practically had an out-of-body experience driving home from the farm on Sunday.

One of the larger hunter pace teams

I left a trail of bachelorette party dick straws in my wake Saturday night. Here’s one at Board Room.

As the wedding approaches though, I find myself caught between excitement and dread. It’s fun to complete all the final details like spray-painting candle votives and designing the programs, and I felt so much happiness welling up when I went to get our marriage license from the Baltimore Circuit Court. My hand was shaking as I was filling out the form just thinking about beginning my new life with Byron and all of the things we have planned, from riding and ballroom dancing to the less glamorous (but still exciting) things like how we will manage our money together. It felt so momentous and official, and that was just paperwork!

But I have so much anxiety about how the day itself will go. Both of our parents are divorced, and between us, we have a total of eight parents with their new significant others, not all of whom play together nicely. I know it is just one day, and that it’s just a party, and that the important part is our new life together, but ever since I was little, having both sets of parents in the same space just freaks me out. I’ve seen how fast it can turn from completely fine to you’ll-be-reading-about-this-in-my-memoirs levels of crazy.

I’ve already informed family that they need to be on their best behavior, and alerted a few key people that if any drama goes down, I want to remain in blissful ignorance. But what with people insisting on inviting new people last-minute, and parents wanting to change around details that have already been decided…it’s not helping my stress level in a time that should be full of happy anticipation. I just can’t stop thinking that I know something is going to happen because obviously, it’s life and things go wrong. I’m just not sure how to keep it from bringing me down on my special day…

If anyone has advice I’m all ears!

So is Salsa.

I found a pretty TB mare under all that winter hair!

My Life, Uncategorized

Wedding Schmedding

After a year and a half of being engaged, the big day is approaching in May and I feel much less curmudgeonly about it than I did at this time last year. I was so overwhelmed by all the ridiculous nonsense you have to decide as a bride-to-be. Here are a few examples of actual exchanges I have had with various people involved.

Florist: So what are your colors for the wedding, hon?
Me: Um…I don’t know, like…wedding colors?
(I found a different florist who understood what I meant by that)

The one I went with has a really cool shop

Me (to invitation printer on Etsy): …simple, clean and elegant would be best–not too many curlicues or flourishes, and not too much mixing of different fonts to “look” vintage. It would also be great to throw in a little quirkiness without going over-the-top. For example, I LOVE the RSVP card you have listed at the link below with the choice of titles from Mrs. to Marchioness. Even a nod to the fact that it’s a library wedding could be fun (like a due date RSVP card or call card) but I’m not set on that idea 100% since I can see where it could get a little cheesy.
(So–elegant, but not too elegant. Quirky, but not cheesy. Please, read my mind.)

Byron ended up designing it and I filled in the text

DJ: So…hypothetically, let’s say the moment for the Electric Slide presents itself.
(I just find that funny to think about)

Me: So between all the pattern and colors for the tablecloths, I have literally a million options?
Caterer: Yes, you can customize it to your colors exactly!
Me: Ok. Mom, pick a color.
(she chose slate gray–thumbs up from me)

Byron: Can we put a new washer/dryer on the wedding registry?
Me: No.
Byron: How about a TV stand?
Me: No.
Byron: How about adding to your horse fund?
Me: It’s NOT POLITE Byron!

After much grumbling I agreed to a “bridle” shower/steeplechase tailgate party–though I stipulated no gifts and NO PENIS HATS

I suppose this is why wedding planning exists as a career–it’s maddening if you’re not the Barbie Dream Wedding type! I am glad that I gave myself a lot of time to sort it all out…

Hunt Report, Uncategorized

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 up…it 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!!!

Hunt Report, Uncategorized

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 going…my 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.