Gina and I closed out our second season hunting with Harvard Fox Hounds on Saturday!
I spent Friday afternoon braiding Gina’s mane- Harvard is generally pretty casual, but I like to braid for Opening and Closing Hunts. Friday night was very rainy, and Saturday dawned damp and cold. It was drizzling at the fixture, so I left Gina to hang out in the trailer while I poured port into my flask (I finally unearthed them from a box a couple of weeks ago!) and read instructions on how to to tie a mud knot. Once the rain tapered off a bit, I unloaded Gina, tacked her up, tied her tail, and joined the rest of the group milling around, waiting to set off.
There was a big field on Saturday- maybe 40 or 50 riders. Most of them chose to ride in second field; I don’t think first field had more than a dozen or so people. Everyone was eager to get going, so we hacked over to the north side of Flint Creek and cast the hounds in a gully beside a creek. The hounds were off instantly, darting off down a twisty trail that led the field up a steep, short hill and into an open meadow. Gina was raring to go; I was very grateful to be riding behind a friend’s big Canadian warmblood mare- that mare wouldn’t move any faster than necessary, and it forced Gina to a slower pace.
We moved along at a brisk trot and slow canter for nearly an hour as the hounds hunted. It’s so interesting to watch them work. I don’t know a lot about what I’m seeing (and there’s not a lot of opportunity to ask questions in the moment), but hearing and seeing a hound scent something, voice their find, and watch the rest of the pack stop what they’re doing to go help the strikehound search is an incredible sight!
There were a couple of exciting stream crossings. One involved jumping (or sliding) down a bank into the moving water, which was too exciting for a few of the horses who had to find alternate routes. Gina hopped right in and climbed out the other side as if she’d been doing it all her life. Another trek across the stream had us hopping up a big bank to go out and trying not to hit a tree limb with our heads!
The hounds pursued a line to the road that runs through the property, where they lost the scent. It was a good hunt, though, and spirits were high as we hacked back to the parking area. Hunt breakfast was delicious (as always), and after breakfast the MFH awarded buttons, colors, Field Hunter of the Year, and Hound of the Year. As this was the 20th season of hunting for HFH, the MFH had also brought a lot of photos, magazine articles, and newspaper stories about the group; it was so fun to look through them and see how the hunt has grown over the years.
I’m grateful for another season of hunting with such a nice group of people, and glad I got to do it on my very best mare! Gina will hopefully be pregnant next season, so we’ll have to see if Candy can learn to be a good hunter in the span of a few months!