It was a very small crowd that showed up for the “post-Valentine’s” hunt, which created an even more action-packed day for me than usual, as Shaggy and I were called into service to help the Whippers-in.
It turned out to be a much more positive experience than I expected. For months now I’ve considered how much fun such a job could be, and I thought Shaggy well-suited for it, but (a) I wasn’t sure how I’d handle being yelled at (I don’t know why I ever questioned my reaction though….we still laugh about Mary D’Arcy screaming at me from across the arena, “KICK, Jennifer, KICK!” Her yelling served me well in that I tried harder and I kick, kick, KICKED my little heart out, but it never had the looked for effect. What I needed then was the Joanna solution: a whip and the 1-2-3 treatment. Just goes to show you that an Olympic coach does not always make the best coach. Anyhow, I digress.) On to my second reservation … (b) I was certain I’d quickly get lost. Over the past few weeks I started to understand the sort of yelling I could expect, and I began to equate it less with a sense of degradation that some may take it as and more for the sort of yelling I’ve been known to employ myself. I began to see it for what it is – an urgent matter being conveyed in the absolute strongest sense possible to get the quick results required. And what with the distance separating Huntsman and Whips, a certain amount of shouting is indeed necessary. I couldn’t always make out certain words, but I could get the gist of what I was supposed to do half the time, and the other half there would be one Whip or another to point me in the right direction.
The best part of it all (well, aside from seeing those beautiful hounders work AND viewing a big bushy coyote), is that all while I was focusing on the hounds, and Huntsman, and where to go, and what to do, there was very little time left at all to think about riding…and I felt like I had the most secure, fluid ride in the hunt field I’ve had to date!
At least, it FELT that way. Many times what we feel when riding isn’t quite the reality. Though we were all fortunate and happy that one member took some excellent videos (thank you, Teresa!), and the blur that was “Shagifer” looked pretty good to me! The rest of the horses slowly LUMP – d e – d u m p – CAN – t e r – u m p e d quietly across the screen, while Shaggy rat – a – tat – tat “photofinished” his way across to catch us back up, as I had misjudged how long to hold back and hold guard at a certain point. He spoils me so…I don’t have to think when I’m on him; I just look where I want to go and he gets me there just as quick as I want, over whatever obstacles lie in our way. If I get confused about where to go, and am unsure, he will hesitate long enough for me to figure it out, as when we came up to the pond after the last coop and I was hearing conflicting directions, then Kris took right and I took left, but I was still unsure until I got around and heard my name being yelled again. At that point my uncertainty fled and Shaggy freed up again! He REALLY spoils me. Which is why it was such a surprise when he refused the itty bitty baby coop into the “Fun Field” when we were retrieving some wayward hounds on our way to the kennels. He did pop over it after refusing it, but it served as a reminder that no matter how perfect we think our beautiful beasts are, they are still “only human” and mistakes WILL happen. We must ever expect the unexpected. And yet, that begs the question, “if we expect the unexpected, then how can anything be unexpected if the unexpected is expected? As you ponder this conundrum, I will leave you with a few of my favorite quotes of the weekend…
“I was in my happy place, then I look up and there’s the gorge and then it’s like Man From Snowy River and I’m thinking “HOOOOLLLY SSSSNNNIIIIKKKKEEYYYYYSSS!!!” ~Jeff (galloping, head down on horse’s neck, through trees and brush)
“Your horse is a rockstar!” ~Angie to Yours Truly
“Why are y’all in my yard? Get out of my yard!” ~The Colonel (as the hounds swarmed around him)
“Only Jeff could rip his shirt in the hunt field!” ~more than one person (hunting without coats during a heat wave proves to be a Catch22)
“Is self-defense legal?” ~”The Fox” (referring to a near-miss: a driver that swerved to HIT hounds and TRIED to run me & Shaggy over as we galloped over a bridge)
And last, but not least, another good one from “The Fox”, referring to me and Jeff, “That’s crazy! That sounds like something they would do!” …I have no idea what she was talking about – base jumping, perhaps? – but it sounds fun to me!! 😉