The week between the two hunts was filled with much sightseeing, Prosecco, and hobbling up and down the Tube stairs. We saw all the London sights from Buckingham Palace to Stonehenge to the Tower of London. Seriously folks, England is a short, relatively inexpensive flight away. If you have always dreamed of visiting a foreign country, book that trip and go! You cannot trade those experiences for anything!
Finally the night before the hunt was here, and we had a huge steak dinner along with many samples of whiskey and port to ensure that our hip flasks were filled properly. Michelle decided to sit this hunt out since the pins in her ankle had acted up the last time and there was a forecast for snow on Saturday. Cold and metal joints don’t mix!
Sure enough as we headed to the meet Saturday morning, big snowflakes came falling out of the sky. Had I not been heading to ride for half a day across the countryside, it would have been absolutely stunning! I expertly took a “nervous wee” before I mounted up and patted George on the neck. He was wired that day, I’m sure due to the change in weather, so we meandered around the horse lorries until the field master peeled off toward the meeting grounds that was a short hack away.
We met the hounds and other riders at another very English looking house where the snacks and the port were plentiful. This was a joint meet with a neighboring hunt club so there were twice the amount of hounds and twice the number of Huntsmen. It was a little chaotic but exhilarating! Our field master was a jolly old fellow, a little crazed (I dubbed him the mad hatter), riding a stunning grey 3* eventer that continuously practiced it’s airs above the ground while waiting for the horns to sound.
Finally, the hounds moved out and off we went! George was a piece of work, he thought he needed to be with the hounds- a big no no for someone in the field and DEFINITELY not where I, a lowly amateur and visitor, needed to be. We did some fancy prancing and galloping all while pointing him at jumps and praying he would pay attention to his big feet. Finally, my shoulders and confidence had enough of his nonsense and I started following the crowd that was going around the jumps. George threw an epic hissy fit then settled down and turned into the gentleman that I remembered from the week before. Suddenly I was riding a jumping machine! I confidently pointed him over some of the biggest, solid fences I’ve ever jumped and had the time of my life!
My favorite parts of the day were when the hounds were working, the field master/mad hatter would look behind him, smile slyly, and take off galloping trails and countryside while we waited for the hounds to sound off. He kept the field thoroughly engaged and didn’t leave us sitting still in the snow for long. The port in my hip flask definitely helped and I was rarely cold throughout the day.
As our day came to a close and we bid the field master good night, I reflected on how lucky I am to have been able to participate in such a wonderful sport! Thanks to the hunt club for being so accommodating and of course, my friend Ellie for coordinating this vacation for us! Without her connections and encouragement, I would have never agreed to get on a horse that I didn’t know and gallop unknown countryside.
Also, special thanks to my painted steed, George. You showed me the ropes of a sport I always was enthralled with and definitely showed me I could handle just about anything when there was enough port in my hip flask and friends shouting words of encouragement. You are a special horse and I hope to cross paths again one day!
Until next time, crack on and TALLY HO!