Fox Hunting Life with Horse and Hound

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Coyote In the Mist: A Fleeting Engagement

coyote.crop.sheila armstrong hodgsonIllustration by Sheila Armstrong Hodgson

The primal fears of our ancestors remain not that far beneath the surface of our psyche. We think of ourselves as sophisticated human beings. Superior to the animals around us. We communicate well between ourselves. But can we cross that border to reach understanding with other wild species? I had an incident that challenged my rational mind and brought to the surface some deep, dark fears from the primeval past.

It was early November, the time of year when I like to get my small country property tidied up and put to bed for its long winter sleep. I had been tied up with city matters for most of the day and returned home with just enough daylight hours left to finish some cleanup work on the three-acre field at the back of the property. This remote little idyl borders on the cedar swamp which marks the property line to the west.

Mongol Derby 2014: In the Hoofprints of Genghis Khan

mongol derby.startDay-One, Time-Zero, The Start! Foxhunters, race riders, and racehorse trainers were the frontrunners by Day-Three.  /  Richard Dunwoody photo

I am bent over at the waist, hands on knees, gulping air as the vet checks my pony. His heart rate is seventy-two and will come down to the required sixty-four in about five minutes. Mine is about two hundred beats per minute and no one cares. I used to watch my basketball player son stand like this during timeouts, trying to recover, and now I completely understand. I am exhausted and have only twenty minutes to recover before leaving on the next jet-fueled pony! This is Day-Six of the Mongol Derby and the urtuus (horse stations) are starting to blend into one.

I imagined myself romantically naming each pony and remembering everything about the rides between stations. As it happened, I not only forgot to name them—as half the time I was hanging on for dear life as they rocketed out of the stations and bolted for the next ten to fifteen kilometers—but I do not remember individual urtuus. I remember moments of complete panic as I thought I was going to die, or moments when I feared my comrades-in-saddle were going to die. Interspersed are memories of lovely meadows and fragrant pine forests, incredible views across mountains, and long, long rides when we wondered if we would ever get there.

Recreating Your World

price.steveI used to think that the phrase “recreational rider” made the person sound like something of a second-class citizen among equestrians. “I foxhunt,” or “Endurance is my game,” or “My next horse show is in two weeks,” sounds far more exciting than “Oh, I ride around a ring and go out on trail rides now and again.”

That’s not to say that such pursuits and disciplines aren’t more challenging, but by the same token plain ol’ pleasure riding shouldn’t be sneered at, a conclusion that came to mind when I spent a recent week with terminally horsey friends in Virginia.

Too Connected?

winegar.karen_and_shadowKarin Winegar writes:

I'd like to see someone address the irritating practice of riders using Blackberries, I-phones, etc. during a hunt. The first time I saw it was in Aiken last year, when several young members immediately pulled out their devices after the ride--effectively excluding themselves from the post hunt joie de vivre and conversation. I was sad to see this. Have MFHs addressed it?”