I went hunting on Saturday for the first time since November. Various social obligations and the weather kept me out of the field in December, so I was more than ready to get out this weekend.
The weather was excellent for hunting: it was a bit humid, and the ground was damp from rain earlier in the week. The temperature started out in the mid-40s and rose to the low 50s. The wind was almost non-existent, a rarity for Oklahoma. This combination made for great scenting conditions; everyone knew it, and the excitement was palpable.
The field hacked out about a half mile from the parking area to meet the hound truck. The hounds were cast and immediately opened on a line. The masters set off at a brisk trot after them, and the first flight field master followed. For the next hour and a half, the hounds were hunting well, often in full cry. Gina and I stayed near the front of the field as we trotted through narrow wooded trails, galloped over open terrain, scrambled up and down hills, and splashed through Flint Creek at a run.
The hounds eventually lost the scent and the field took a breather on an open hilltop. The masters gave permission for larking, so Gina and I led a group of junior guests over a couple of post-and-rail fences. Gina was full of piss and vinegar all day long; I don’t know if it’s because she hasn’t been out in a while or what. She was unusually strong and spent most of the day ignoring my repeated half-halts. She charged all the jumps we took, springing over them as if she was running the cross-country course at Rolex. Gina’s not usually like this- she’s typically respectful and relatively quiet, and never, ever makes me contemplate hunting her in anything but an eggbutt snaffle!
As we started to make the descent down the hill to get back home, the hounds opened on another line. I had a brief moment where I wondered if this was how I’d die- charging down a steep, rocky hill on an exuberant Thoroughbred who was trying her best to push the draft cross in front of her down the hill faster.
After a short chase, the quarry evaded the hounds, and the field turned in for the day. I untacked Gina, who finally seemed tired enough to stand still and eat hay. I didn’t linger at hunt breakfast long, as clouds were beginning to roll in and I didn’t relish the thought of driving home in the rain.
Days like this are my favorite. A good chase is exhilarating, and I’d like to think Gina enjoys it as much as I do!