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.

Clothes:

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 😦

Posted in Newbie Tips | 4 Comments

Checked off the bucket list

Just returned from a relaxing trip to the Outer Banks where I had the opportunity to check an item off my bucket list–riding on the beach!

Luckily I was able to convey that my husband and I do know how to ride, but that I wanted a vacation from my grumpy Thoroughbred. Mission accomplished. Diamond, the little chestnut Arab gelding I rode, was pretty much point and shoot (aside from a slight magnetic attraction to the trailer). My husband’s QH mount, April, was even more so–perfect for a more beginner rider. (Though they did try to stuff him into a 16″ saddle for some reason.)

 

I was surprised by how deep the footing was! When cantering and trotting, we stuck to the tire treads left by people four-wheeling. Otherwise the sand was just too variable, and after a year of hunting, I am not one to be overly worried about footing with the right horse.  Regardless, it was a fun ride and I was very happy with the care of the horses.

In keeping with the original frugality theme of the blog, this was a pretty affordable experience ($80 apiece). While that is double what I pay for a lesson, I would gladly give up two lessons for a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Although once I buy a trailer in a few years, maybe it won’t be once in a lifetime!

I feel a little funny about calling this a bucket list item because really I don’t have a bucket list, but riding on the beach is something I’ve always wanted to do. Before, my dream experience was foxhunting just once in my life. Clearly from the infrequency of my posts, we see how hunting has turned out to completely overtake my life. But hey, nothing wrong with living everyday life like a vacation. I always try to make a point of appreciating what I have, and spending money on the things that count, not the things that don’t. Because really, who needs to go out for dessert on vacation when you can make this in the toaster oven?!

We were supposed to have a hunt clinic to entice newbies today, but with a heat index over 100, the riding portion of the event was canceled. Right decision but a bummer since this year I helped organize the event, and we actually came home a day early so I could attend. Luckily I was still able to enjoy a cold one and snuggle hounds at the Hound Walk Happy Hour last night. Not a bad thing to come home to after a 6.5 hour drive!

Next weekend is our Opening Cubbing. Hopefully the weather will be reasonable enough to ride, but I doubt we’ll really hunt till it cools down significantly.

Posted in Riding Adventures | Leave a comment

It’s so hard being fortunate enough to ride

Seriously, this is what people complain about?

“NOT SHOWING IS NOT THE END OF THE [HORSE] WORLD” by Sarah Mahoney, HJU

“Blurred Lines in the Horse World: What it’s Like to Not be a Wealthy Equestrian”, HorseHack
On the face of it, it’s kind of hilarious. Boo hoo, poor me, I have a horse but I don’t have the time or money to show! But I do remember feeling similarly to these writers when I was in high school. I definitely felt “less than” sometimes when I would see the girls whose parents bought them $60,000 Warmbloods tittering about something funny that happened at the weekend’s A-rated show, or casually hanging their show team jackets on a jump standard, or rifling for fly spray in their lovely wooden tack trunks.

Of course I wished I had the means to ride more, but I think these girls never even knew what they had.  Now that I’ve seen the light of foxhunting, I feel very sad for kids who think that just because they can’t afford to spend $300+ to ride for 10 minutes in the show ring, they’re somehow less of a rider.  I felt that way too, since I didn’t know there was a world beyond the cliquish, snobby hunter-jumpers. I was extremely shy, so I tried to reason with myself that I was at the barn to ride, not to make friends. I looked for excuses to hang around the horses–cleaning tack, mucking stalls, or just watching lessons. Eventually, I did make a friend who wasn’t part of the show clique either. We raced our horses in the pasture and jumped rickety piles of wood we definitely weren’t allowed to jump.

Now I’m still doing the same thing–with more friends who have an equal level of horse insanity, a more cantankerous gelding, and even more questionable jumps, one of which I affectionately call “The Pile of Crap.”

My masterpiece

I say this with love, because I’ve been there–but if you are feeling sooo sad for yourself because  you can’t show, quit whining and start riding! There is so much more out there to enjoy–and at much less cost. Go gallop around a corn field. Race around an empty pasture. Leg yield down the driveway. Jump a course in the arena (or do your best impression of it, like I do as I careen haphazardly near, around, on, and–rarely–over the jumps). Volunteer at a rescue, ride green horses, ride the geriatric pasture puffs owned by little old ladies–whatever it takes to get hours in the saddle. It can be done without spending a fortune, and without ever trying to squeeze your butt in an expensive pair of Tailored Sportsmans. In my opinion it’s a lot more fun that way!

A discovery on the trail
Posted in Rants | 3 Comments

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!

Posted in Hunt Report, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Back to business

The wedding is over. The marriage is happy. I have a new job.

Now time to get back to foxhunting!!!

Today was my second hunt clinic with Potomac, but in contrast to last year when I was so worried about impressing the owner of the horse I borrowed and not falling off and breaking every bone in my body, this year I actually helped other new people. It was a great feeling.

I’m leasing a new horse, Lefty, who so far has shown himself to be completely trustworthy and fun. He doesn’t care if he’s with the group or not; he doesn’t care if we’re going faster or slower than the group; AND he is super careful and balanced going downhill and into ditches. All of this makes him the perfect hunt horse in my mind because I’m 100% in control, not relying on the person in front of me to babysit!

 
Instead, I can actually be the babysitter, which I’ve been doing all summer with a friend and her young horse, and today at the foxhunting clinic. Of course it’s fun to be on your own and go as fast or slow as you please, but I remember last year when I was so appreciative of friends who would give me a lead over jumps or help me walk through a stream rather than leap over it.

Lefty on the hilltop

So on Thursday I gave a copy of “Riding to Hounds in America” to a hunting newbie,  and today I babysat two horses and riders who had barely ridden outside an arena. I even struck up a conversation with a complete stranger my age (something that ordinarily terrifies me). As it turned out, she was in a very similar situation to me last year–borrowing horses, a little more than slightly obsessed with the charm of hunting.

My secondhand boots

It’s amazing how much more confident I feel not being the new kid on the block anymore. After borrowing so many different people’s horses last year, the hunt members feel like extended family. And not the stressful kind of family that make you freak out over whether they’ll all behave themselves at your wedding (which, if you’re wondering, they did). More like the kind of family that will wash your horse for you just to be nice, or recognize when you need a little liquid courage. And who won’t judge you for sipping from their flask before noon.

I still can’t really believe I get to do this regularly.

Posted in Riding Adventures | 2 Comments

The Story Behind the Story

So recently I had the pleasure of interviewing The Anonymous Foxhunter as part of my plot to get innocent, impressionable riders hooked on my drug of choice for a Horse Junkies United article. But as often happens when you are working from home, life continues on with little regard for who you may be interviewing at the time.

Byron quite helpfully volunteered to get some spaghetti and meatballs started while I was on the phone.

“It’s about time he did something without me telling him to!” I thought, and went upstairs to conduct my interview in peace.

Twenty minutes in, a Byron-shaped flash darts in front of me, clutching his hand on his way to the bathroom. I raise an eyebrow, but Byron doing strange things is actually pretty normal so I don’t think anything of it until he thrusts his finger in front of my face, which is super bloody and looks like he tried to chop it off, because that is nearly what he did.

My eyes widen, but The Anonymous Foxhunter is on an anonymous roll talking about anonymous things so all I can really do is sneak into the bathroom, “Uh-huh”-ing my way through about 30 seconds of conversation, grab a towel, wrap it around Byron’s hand, and shoo him out the door.

When the interview was over I went to the kitchen to figure out what the hell happened and whether dinner is even feasible at this point. I find a hunk of ground meat which somehow our cats have ignored, and an onion cut in two halves.

That’s all it took. One attempt at slicing an onion. The skin was still on it and everything.

Sometimes I really don’t know how he has managed to survive this long.

Posted in Miscellaneous Shenanigans | 1 Comment

Becoming the Stereotype

Against my intention (what with the whole two-year engagement and all) I have totally become the stereotypical stressed-out-at-the-last-minute bride. Any uninvited suggestion from friends, family, or wedding vendors that would require me to reevaluate or deviate from MY PLAN is enough to make me completely lose it.  Today I had to sic my mother on the caterer because due to errors on my part and theirs, major changes were required and I simply could not handle making any more decisions. All I want to do is make my little crafty things and stamp my little stampy things and do things I have already planned on doing. That is what I have the brainpower to do at this point.

Crafty things

 

Crafty things
Stampy things make me haaaapppyyy

Paradoxically, because I hate planning parties, I got all the planning done way ahead of time and now I have declared myself DONE, despite any suggestions to the contrary. I decided everything months ago, so now I want nothing else to do with wedding organization other than me showing up. Why do people not understand that?

Yeah, this reception is going to be baller

Also we went to the hunt ball…it was kind of anticlimactic because we had to leave before the dancing, and we only got photos of us being blinded by the sun…but trust me, we looked sexy.

I just have to remind myself that it’s all good stuff happening! The details are annoying but everything in my life is pretty awesome!

And I am also enjoying plenty of ride time. I’ve got buddies to trail ride with and plenty of horses that I am welcome to ride…plus a few prospects to lease for hunt season once I begin my new job after the wedding, pending trainer approval…

Not either of these horses, but it’s a cute photo

Isn’t it comforting how no matter how crazy things are in your personal life, horses just keep on keepin’ on? Winter coats leave their wake in all fleece clothing and car interiors, we all suffer through pollen and mud season, and for foxhunters at least, spring is the time to get back out there and start preparing for next season.

I can’t wait!

Posted in My Life | 1 Comment

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!

Posted in My Life, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

The Anonymous Foxhunter

I have good news but that will have to wait for a later post…in the meantime, I’ve been writing a lot and riding consistently(ish). Gotta prep for my D rating in Horsemasters Pony Club! In short, all of my rides could be described as: 1) transitions and 2) STOP PINCHING AT THE KNEE GODDAMMIT! Not terribly interesting to write about.

But what IS interesting (and hilarious) is my new favorite Youtuber, the Anonymous Foxhunter. And as spring begins, it’s the perfect time to take her advice to heart and start that long, slow distance work on the trails…

In other news, I am super pumped for our hunt ball this spring. I will be wearing this black dress because I already own it, and thus it is already paid for. Byron, on the other hand, will be testing out his brand-new wedding tux.

Not Byron in the photo, to avoid confusion—that’s my little brother and me

My hair is about twice as long as in this picture now though, so I will be doing my own updo and reliving my Homecoming and Prom days when I would have a bunch of my friends over and do their hair for them!

Posted in Miscellaneous Shenanigans | 2 Comments

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…

Posted in My Life, Uncategorized | 3 Comments