Hacking with Harvard

Harvard Fox Hounds has been hosting conditioning rides all summer long; they’re essentially low-key trail rides that make riding in the dreadful heat and humidity more bearable thanks to the company. This weekend’s ride was fairly close to me at a pecan farm south of Tulsa, so I decided to take Candy.

Candy went out for a hack in the hay meadow on Friday afternoon with a barn rat astride Gina (in a bareback pad- good mare!) and the barn owner riding her draft cross lesson horse Sundance. I wasn’t sure if Candy had ever really gone out an arena before, so I wanted to make sure she had a positive experience with quiet horses accompanying her. She was a little tense at first and spent a few strides jigging nervously before settling down to walk quietly behind the other horses. Candy took a cue from Sundance and spent about half the ride snacking on the lush hay meadow grass.

Setting off a little unsure about where to go and what to do.
Setting off a little unsure about where to go and what to do.

Since she’d been so good on Friday, I opted to take her to the HFH ride on Sunday. We arrived a little later than I would’ve liked because Candy wasn’t keen to get on the trailer, but she was immediately at ease once unloaded and grazed quietly while I tacked her up. (I’ve never seen a horse more enthusiastic about eating- she scarfs up bits and pieces of stray hay, takes every opportunity to graze on the lead line, and is now all about snacking and trail riding.) The weather was spectacular- overcast and 85 with little humidity.

"How did everyone get up there??"
“How did everyone get up there??”

It was a fairly big group, around 20 horses. Candy was a little confused and nervous as we set off; she lingered at the back of the group, looking curiously toward her peers, as if she couldn’t quite figure out how to keep up with them. She got quite tense when the group rounded a corner and she couldn’t see them well. There was some jigging and some head shaking until I encouraged her to trot to catch up. She was much happier with the group and became more confident as the ride went on. She marched along at a brisk walk, staying right up front, and didn’t have a single spook or naughty moment. I was a little nervous when the group trotted down a long lane between rows of trees, but Candy trotted eagerly with everyone else and didn’t get too excited. I let her canter a bit, and she came back to a walk very nicely when the exercise was done. She’s got a ways to go until she’s as quiet as Gina, but she’s starting out miles ahead of fruitcake Moe, who absolutely cannot handle anything but walking in a group!

Happier and more confident up front.
Happier and more confident up front.

We rode for about two hours. Candy never tired and seemed to become more and more comfortable as the ride went on. When we got back to the trailer, I rinsed her off while she slurped down half a bucket of water (good girl!) and grazed. She was totally happy to stand tied to the trailer while I ate a late lunch and she got in to go home with minimal fuss.

“Time for eating??”

A hunt horse has to handle a lot of stuff- moving at speed in a group, standing around quietly, tolerating hounds all around, tolerating horses all around, all sorts of things. Outings like this one are a great way to get an idea of how an inexperienced horse will handle a hunt. I think with more time and more miles, Candy will be just fine!

Author: Stephanie

Equestrian, amateur cook, people person.

7 thoughts on “Hacking with Harvard”

  1. I’m so glad that things went well. Sorry that I missed it. I had to laugh at your account of Sundance’s behavior. Having ridden him on trail rides, I have experienced the behavior you described many times. Once he wrenched the reins out of my hands reaching down for grass. He is also quite fond of tearing leaves off of trees on woody trails. I love that guy, and he made me a fan of draft-thoroughbred crosses!

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