Last week felt very busy for reasons I don’t fully understand. I didn’t get to ride at all; I spent Wednesday and Thursday mornings clipping Gina, and after Thursday night’s Oktoberfest revelry, I didn’t make it to the barn Friday morning. My Friday meeting with sales reps lasted far longer than I anticipated, so I got to the barn around 6:30 PM instead of the planned 3:30 PM. I enlisted Johnny’s help to braid Gina; he patiently cut yarn and pulled the braids through while I braided and tied. When we finally finished braiding the horse and packing up the trailer, it was 9:30 PM. Before I climbed into bed at 11 PM, I got a message from my friend whose guest I was going to be on Saturday- she couldn’t come because her husband and son were sick, but had let some mutual friends know I’d be there and promised they’d take good care of me.
I’d been to the location before (it’s the site of the hunter paces I’ve attended), but since I’d never driven myself there, I wasn’t sure how long it would take. I got up at 4:30 AM, drove to the barn, hooked up the trailer, loaded Gina, and was on the road by 6:20 AM. The drive to Flint Creek didn’t take nearly as long as I thought, so I pulled in around 8:15 AM. The hunt secretary was right behind me, so thankfully I wasn’t the only person there so early!
Gina unloaded like a champion and hung out at the trailer while I checked in, found the bathroom, and chatted with the hunt secretary and MFH. Her braids had held up well overnight (even though she was turned out all night!) and she was basically clean. A little tail detangler and Lucky Braids whitener spray on her socks made her look perfect.
My friends arrived around 8:45 AM and quickly found me and invited me back to their trailer for help tying my stock tie (I really, really need a new one) and a glass of champagne. At 8:45 AM. Of course. While I was pinning my tie down, the hostesses of the stirrup cup came by with a tray of little cups of port and tiny mini quiches. I had both, and feeling very relaxed, I headed back to my trailer to tack up Gina.
There were about 50 people hunting on Saturday; I joined them for the blessing of the hounds and another cup of port, and then Gina and I were off with the first flight!
There was far less galloping and jumping than I expected. Flint Creek is very hilly and densely forested. The hounds spent most of the hunt scenting around the brush, while the field walked or waited. It was far from boring, though- the countryside is absolutely stunning, with trees, bluffs, creeks, and beautiful vistas. Plus, every time we were stopped for more than two minutes, someone started passing a flask around. I drank moonshine, a delightful blend of Jameson whisky and port, and some kind of bourbon. (Let me tell you, those steep hills with big ditches at the bottom look far less worrisome after a drink or two.)
When the field turned in, some of the first flight was invited to school over some of the jumps on the property. Gina and I tackled a few big logs, a respectable ditch, and a moderately sized ramp without issue.
Gina was absolutely perfect throughout the day. She was quiet but attentive, standing relaxed in the group while flicking an ear or turning her head to listen to the hounds. She was unfazed by horses close behind her, to her sides, or right in front of her. She stayed in the middle of the group on the few occasions we galloped and jumped and she obediently came to a halt when the horses in front of her stopped. She spooked at nothing and acted like hunting was old hat. I got several compliments on her condition and behavior: more than one person was astounded that she was a) hunting for the first time b) 18 years old and c) barefoot. (I also got a lot of compliments on her clip and braids, which made me feel less ridiculous for doing them.)
Hunt breakfast was more alcohol (though I abstained and stuck to Diet Coke in anticipation of my drive home), barbecue and sides, and several types of cake for dessert. Everyone was very pleasant and welcoming; I was invited to come back and hunt with Harvard any time, as well as to hunt with a group in Arkansas.
Hunting was terrific- I’m so glad I went, and I can’t wait to go back!