Fox Hunting, Our Adoption Journey

Recalibrating

After a stressful week of mocking up a profile book on Snapfish in my evenings after work, I received word that we would need to provide a PDF file of the book or else miss out on opportunities. So, I hunkered down and devoted the last two days, very nearly solely, to creating a book from scratch in Photoshop. It’s now at about 92% completion and the remainder will need to be worked on when Jeff and I can sit down together to tweak it.

So, with that out of the way, yesterday evening I decided to take a close look at the next wave of paperwork awaiting us. As I stand at the foot of this mountain, I realize that the mountains behind us were only foothills. At one point I was almost in tears at the shear enormity of it. At another point, I wanted to pull my hair out. And, at yet another point, I sent Jeff a text saying I was going to shave my head. I’d hop up, walk around (with the dogs shadowing my every move) and just pray out loud for help. Then, I cleared my mind.

Breathe in. Breathe out.

Visualize myself hunting on Shaggy. Feel him swallowing the distance up, his muscles bunching and stretching beneath me. Feel the reins in my hands, my own muscles stretching with his.

Breathe in. Breathe out.

See the coop ahead. We race to it and soar over. We land in mud and it flies up, hitting my jacket, my face. I hear the hounds, the horn. I cluck to Shaggy for more speed.

Breathe in. Breathe out.

See the gulch ahead. Gathering reins. Plunging down. Leaping across. Scurrying up the bank. Hurry on.

Breathe in. Breathe out.

More speed. See the coop ahead. Sit up. Leg on strong. Look up. Fly over. Galloping ahead, straining for more speed.

Breathe in. Breathe out.

On and on we go, till my heart is light, my mind is eased and my breathing calm.

Recalibration complete.

Now, where’s that coop? I mean paperwork?

20130427-073527.jpg

Advertisements
Standard
Fox Hunting

And now for something completely different…

image

I am sad to report that the season has ended and it will be another long summer before we see again the sport that has so warmed us through the winter. The Closing Meet of Cloudline Hounds dawned upon us with just enough of a chill in the air to allow us some small measure of comfort in our coats, however there was more than one hardy rider wilting in the sun by the time the three and a half hour hunt was done.

But, before I get too far ahead of myself, I must say I had many strange looks when I unloaded my mount for the day. A 13.1 hand high Paso Fino does not your typical hunt horse make, and I nearly began to doubt my decision until I reminded myself of the fire and grit and indomitable spirit housed within that lilliputian body. To quote Shakespeare, and Red Pollard, “though he be but little, he is FIERCE.”

Shaggy is on the mend and doing well, but there is still a bit of puffiness in his knee, so I decided to take it easy on the old boy. I had originally intended on riding Snickers, but when my Yankee friends offered me the ride on Viento de Pleybeyo I could not refuse. It had been over two years since I’d last ridden “Little Man”, or “Little Shit” as his New York owner is wont to call him, but it was one of those rides that stays fresh in the memory for years and will leave one smiling a decade later. There was nothing fantastic about the location, the terrain, or that day in general aside from him. It was only a short ride in the pasture, but sitting upon his back is all it takes to make the dreariest day bright and beautiful.

Ah, but I digress. The day in question is not that one so long ago, but rather that of our most recent hunt. And THAT day was indeed a bright and beautiful one, made even more so for me by this fleet-footed, smooth-gaited, high-spirited little pony. We started out at the back of Second Flight as this was his first hunt and I had my doubts of his ability to make the jumps. Somewhere along the way, though, he managed to prove his mettle and put me back where I most desire to be – helping with the hounds. And he laid all my doubts to rest as he took jump after jump with all the bravado of a pony on a rip-roaring tear! And, most wonderful of all, his jumps were just as smooth and easy to ride as all of his gaits on the flat! Now I know exactly what I’ll be in the market for when it’s time for The Shagster to retire… let’s just hope all Paso Finos have that same fire in their blood as that little gust of “Wind”!

Standard
Fox Hunting

Think long, think wrong!

image

The weekend before last was hot and windy and should’ve been a blank day, but those Cloudline beauties are on FIRE! It was as wild a hunt as ever, and, yet again, I lost the hunt. I did have company this time, and I learned another way NOT to go. I could pass the blame off and say that I didn’t have the best guidance, but the fact is, when it came down to the critical moment – that point in time where a “not-so-great” fast decision would’ve been better than a great slow decision- I didn’t go with my gut. I might have still gotten left behind had I gone with my first impulse, but I doubt it.

Thankfully, I no longer fear mistakes as I did in my youth. I am learning much from them! In the words of some guy I heard on the radio the other day, “I’ve learned more from my failures than my successes.” The lessons learned are burned deeply into the murky depths of my psyche and shine brightly on the ever developing Cloudline territory map in my mind… right now, big sections of the “map” are still dark and unreadable, but the points of light are getting more numerous and perhaps soon the whole map will shine just as brightly as the Eastern Seaboard at night.

And next time I will have in mind these words of wisdom…

“A good solution applied with vigor now is better than a perfect solution applied ten minutes later.” -General George Patton

“In the words of the ancients, one should make his decisions within the space of seven breaths. Lord Takanobu said, “If discrimination is long, it will spoil. ” Lord Naoshige said, “When matters are done leisurely, seven out of ten will turn out badly. A warrior is a person who does things quickly.” When your mind is going hither and thither, discrimination will never be brought to a conclusion. With an intense, fresh and undelaying spirit, one will make his judgments within the space of seven breaths. It is a matter of being determined and having the spirit to break right through to the other side.” -Hagakure: The Book of the Samurai

Standard
Fox Hunting

The hunting gets impossibly faster and wilder each weekend!

image

About the best I can give you for today is to quote Diana – “Someone must have been hauling butt, because those hoofprints were REALLY far apart!!”

As for me, I think it’s possible that I might have done something right, but I really don’t think so as I pretty much got lost, made several bad directional decisions, and ended up being left behind. On a high note, I managed to avoid hitting another tree (it was a spectacular near-catastrophe in front of everybody), and managed to find a few “lost” hounds, as well as the remainder of the field that got left behind when “The Fantastic Four” (Susan, Jeff, Mary & Carey) jumped a barbed-wire fence in pursuit of the hard running hounds. Once again, the hound trailer was called to the Webb Hill Country Club to pick up hounds off the golf course! The Fantastic Four and their handy hunters passed us in the trailer as we hacked home. It was a long, long ride home. Overall, CardioTrainer tracked my day’s ride at 15.5 miles in 3.5 hours… NATRC eat my dust! As for me, I’m still coughing up The Fantastic Four’s dust!

Standard
Fox Hunting

Let’s get on down to the main attraction, with a little less talk and a lot more action!

image

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!!  😉

Standard