Friday, November 25, 2011


When I was a kid, a horse crazy kid in a suburban non-horsey family, all I wanted to do on a holiday was to sneak out of the crowded house and ride.   Just me and a pony outside in the cold air cantering along a cornfield... alone, while families gathered warm and cozy in houses filled with the aroma of a turkey dinner with all the trimmings.  I  fantasized that I was a pioneer... over the fields we go...  laughing all the way (oops, that's another holiday).

So, yesterday was the Thanksgiving Hunt.  It was 28 degrees when I left my house and not a car on the road.  If you listened really carefully, you could hear the roasting pans sliding into hot ovens.  But I wasn't intent on the day's food.  I was going riding.  That pioneer kid shaking in anticipation...

Photo by ONBH Member, Rick Arsenault
There is something fantastic when you set out early in the morning to the Meet knowing that all over the US,  Hunts were gathering, decked out in their finest and eager to be a part of this amazing tradition.  So I wasn't alone but instead, a part of a community of eager holiday foxhunters living their own fantasy interpretation.   And it was a good one!

Generally, the field heads off at a good clip, each horse knowing which buttocks to follow.  There is order and flow.  It might have been the cold air or it might have been holiday happiness or perhaps the stirrup cup before we left...  all of us were on steeds breathing fire.  They wanted to run after our pack of tonguing hounds.  They would not be denied their gallop.

You can tell the real Hunt Horses from the rest.  They stand at the checks, ears rigid following the sound of the happy hounds.  Their stillness hides their readiness to dash off the moment the hounds are cast...  As I looked around,I noticed most of these intent ponies were mares... hmm a job?  A task?  You can hear the whispering... are you ready?  I've got it!  There they go!  Tally ho!

And, my little pony? Somehow a week's worth of Lyme treatment and a fabulous dressage lesson the night before gave her wings and attitude. She jumped everything as if she was running Rolex... careful, clean and really, really big!
Photo by Rick Arsenault

Sug was wearing studs to counter the slippery frost.  They gave her the ground... The first two pieces were brilliant...  she wanted more and after the last 4' leap over a Novice/BN log pile into a stunning pirouette and thus avoiding the member in the scarlet coat..  I banned her to the very last spot in the Hilltoppers where she had to walk, trot and canter like a normal horse... not her fantasy - a fiery breathing timber horse.

Photo by Donna Rassulo
Like a toddler sent to bed...  first we have anger (foot stomping, prancing and bouncing), then we have acceptance (true gaits) and finally relaxation (breathing).  I think she was kind of grateful that someone did for her what she could not do for herself. ( Hmmm, maybe I am a good parent.)

The Hunt ended on a beautiful estate in Concord with a Stirrup Cup.  Riders on one side of the fence and 50 or so guests on the other...  being served sherry, hot broth and grilled sausages on silver platters by wait staff in tuxedos.

The sun was shining.  The air warmed by its rays...  was it the broth?  the sherry?  Or was it the comradely of a group of pioneers out for a holiday ride?

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