When I said, in my previous post, that it was a fairly slow hunt, that does not mean that it was some leisurely hack through the woods. It simply means that it was not “combat riding”, as a new visitor labeled the New Year’s Day hunt. Although you might think otherwise from the bloodied horses & riders, and the broken spur of one junior rider who had had a crash with a whipper-in, resulting in their spurs locking up and, thank God, his breaking in half as their horses parted ways.
My own little New Year’s Eve crash was with a cedar branch. Granted, everybody in First Flight had to gallop through the cedar branches upon approaching Shu-Shu’s coop (the coop I’m jumping in the accompanying picture to yesterday’s post). However, if you ride through these two trees, right through the midway point between them, you’ll only get a light smack in the face and then you’re done with it. Go on a few clear strides and jump the coop and hurry on. But no. Not me. I had the bright idea to drop a rein and block my face. Which, Shaggy being the good, responsive boy that he is, sent us close to the trunk where the branches are much thicker, much less giving. It felt like that tree was some nasty troll exacting payment in flesh and blood by shredding my eyeball out of it’s socket. Three strides later, I had my rein back, but I only had a vague idea of where we were, as I only had a dim, watery view of the world around me. It was my best jump of the day… no loose legs, no floppy seat, no levitating high above the saddle. A good firm, secure seat.
As it turns out, there’s only two tiny scratches…one on my lower eyelid and one on the bridge of my nose. Dammit! Will I ever get a black eye for my troubles?!
Other adventures of our slow day included one horse getting tangled up in barbed wire (he was ok), our Master ending the day with a bloodied face (and never felt the injury), Jeff & Chancey made it over the Bloody Jump (YAY!) and, at the end of the hunt, we viewed a coyote flushing 5 or 6 deer out of covert, with the hounds on his trail. It was a glorious sight.
We covered 10 miles in about 3.5 hours and reached a max speed of 19 mph. Well, at least me and Shaggy did. I know this because I carried my Smartphone and was running my CardioTrainer app. On New Year’s Day, we covered 13 miles in 2.5 hours and got up to 24 mph. The few who kept up with the Master went a bit further, I think, as it took some doing to catch up after unveiling a coop near the end of the last big chase.
At the start of the day, I was feeling MUCH better than the previous day. The soreness was mostly gone and the previous day’s hunt had been a good warm-up. The port was stout, the conversation lively, and before the stirrup cup was over three landowners had stopped by to report coyote sightings. We had many viewings through the day… one fat red coyote standing in the woods, just watching us. One Whip watched a coyote pup playing. A couple chasing a coyote across one pasture, and later, another young couple overtook a coyote in another pasture. The coyote managed to get away. In between all this we were charging through dense, thorny brush that threatened to snatch us off our horses, galloping madly through thick woods, dodging trees, leaping huge logs as we ducked overhead branches (which immediately corrected my hand and forced me to be more giving of rein), and racing across hill and vale as Mada’am Master yelled HOUNDS AWAAAAAY!!!!
What little bit of experience I had with goat-tying served me well as I hurried to get gates and unveil aforementioned coop. My stubby legs and complete lack of flexibility did not serve me (or the poor rider stuck behind with me) well at all, though. The only thing saving us at the gates were the thick woods slowing the front-runners down, and the hounds losing the trail. Or the riders losing the hounds. It was all happening so fast I can’t quite remember. We weren’t quite so lucky at the coop, though. I managed to mount more quickly, thanks to the coop, but it was wide-open smooth sailing and horses and hounds were full steam ahead. It turned out well for my partner’s horse, though. He was a bit out of shape and needed a breather. We pushed ahead as best we could, and Shaggy made me proud by leading the way over some tricky coops – one with a downhill approach with deep, slick footing, the other half-hidden behind high grass and weeds, both of them with hard turns upon landing to stay out of the plowed and planted fields. We gave them a much needed breather once we reached a road and could no longer hear Master or hounds. By the time we caught up, only a few riders and a few hounds remained. The horses were spent and we slowly made our way back to the kennels. Near home hounds tried to take off again and Shaggy proved himself yet again when he got the opportunity to head off the hounds and we helped a Whip get them back to Master. One second I’m wondering if he’s completely spent and the next he’s off to the races with just a smooch and a squeeze….and feeling like he’s gonna run off with me again like he did going up to the coop I unveiled. Let me tell you, there’s nothing scarier than being on a runaway horse headed to a coop with a wire over the top of it and the Master, the Field Master, and another rider in front of you. I feared he would (a.) plow into them, stumble over them and attempt to jump (b.) Plow past them and attempt to jump (c.) plow into them and stumble to a stop, or (d.) Plow past them -still, a BIG NO-NO, and stop. So, part of my brain says “circle him”, part of it says “pulley rein” and part says “flex him one way and pull hard with opposite rein”…o wait, maybe that IS pulley rein. With a fractured half of my brain still functioning (the other half is freaking out over the possibilities of impending disaster), I somehow manage to get him turned away and back in hand into a controlled gallop and up to the coop and stopped to do my duty of pulling the wire back.
As we did our best to catch up, we met a rider who had given out and was headed home. We were within sight of the kennels and my lower back was exhausted and it would’ve been so easy to throw in the towel, but my horse was still going strong (maybe a bit too strong!), I had actually been riding in good, secure form (at least it felt that way), and I really HATE quitting. So, with quivering muscles I continued on. And was rewarded for it by Shaggy taking the lead like it’s all old hat and proving yet again that he has no bottom. I LOVE this horse! And I stand in awe of my great and glorious God that dropped this treasure into my life.
Praise God from whom all blessings flow! Praise Him above all ye Heavenly hosts! Praise Father, Son, and Heavenly Ghost!