Hunt report from Estabrook Road

Saturday, September 17th, was one of those perfect riding days. It was clear and crisp, without a bug in sight. In foxhunting terms, we are “cubbing”. Traditionally in the early fall this is when you take out the hounds, who have been mostly roaded or walked over the summer, and get them fit. It’s a time to introduce young hounds and it’s a great time for new riders or new horses to get introduced to the sport because it’s a bit slower and shorter. The traditional aim of cubbing was to disperse the adolescent fox cubs throughout the territory. Of course, since we are a drag hunt, there are no foxes, cubs or otherwise, so it’s more accurate to call it our informal season.

We hunted in a lovely and historical territory off of Monument Street in Concord. Despite the proximity to Boston, this is a territory that still has some lovely open fields and wooded trails. Conveniently, there are cross country jumps that are built along the trails that are begging to be jumped.

Saturday’s hunt was at a more leisurely pace than we would take later in the season. Some of the hounds are young and they needed some coaxing to stay on scent. We had two casts (the third part of our territory was being used for a historical re-enactment) and they gave good “tongue” on the first cast and a bit less on the second.

Our huntsman brought three and a half couples to hunt: Apple, Diva, Justice, Jeannie, Charger, Cameo, and Concord. Whips that day were Rhonda Hettinger and Lori Baldwin, assisted by Britni Baldwin.

It was a great day to be out riding with friends and listening to the hounds work. Really, it was almost a timeless experience. Being steeped in the history of the hunt and the history of the territory made it a very cool experience.

Somewhat optimistically I carried my tiny Flip video camera with me to try to record the hunt. Unfortunately, Freedom really needs two hands on the reins right now so I got only a few useable snippets which I will piece together. Maybe I need to go the helmet cam route. Or buy a tiny camera that I can hold in my hand without letting go of the reins.

Here’s a brief glimpse of our second cast.

September 13 Hunt Report: Delaney Multi-Sport Complex in Stow

Today was the first hunt of the season and it was a fine day. A bit warm, but beautiful. Thanks to Ginny for starting out the season with such a pleasant hunt and for Rhonda Hettinger, Sue Bater and Lori Baldwin for whipping. The hounds did very well despite the heat. This is a really beautiful territory — the view over the dam was particularly splendid this morning.

Thanks to Carolyn Jazowski’s idea of offering discounted Hilltopping certificates at the Pace event, we had a guest join us for her first hunt ever. Jane and her horse had a great time and she was enthusiastic about hunting with us again.

Rhonda wrote a nice description of today’s hunt that she posted on Foxhunters Online. I hope she doesn’t mind that I reprint it here.

We had a great time, despite its having to be a short hunt (our normal third section of drag had to be left out due to large trees still down on the trail–although two of us venturesome whips, having been separated from others anyway due to a bee-scapade, decided we’d see if it was possible to get round and/or under–and we proved it was possible!) Hounds did a wonderful job in not very favorable scenting conditions, as it warmed rapidly–kept trying the whole way, and seemed to be honest in not giving tongue unless they really were on the line. It was a small week-day field, so everyone could be up close and able to see and hear hounds.

Cute scenario near the beginning, with possibilities for an animated cartoon. Hounds had found the line, and followed it from the “bowl” of the flood control area up to the ridge above, heading towards a wooded trail. A couple of the younger ones apparently spotted me paralleling them, and debated coming towards me… Looked to me as if a vaporish bit of scent (picture a cartoon hand) wafted up, grabbed them by the nose, and tweaked them 45 degrees back onto their correct path!

Second delight of the day was when we realized that we had one more hound than we thought. Another of the younger ones (littermate to the two above) had somehow eluded discovery and gotten onto the hound truck with those drawn for hunting. She’d been left out of our selection since she’d been quite shy of horses last spring. Not only did she stay well with the pack and apparently ignore her previous worries, she even gave tongue several times! So we decided things do happen for the best!

Rhonda

Results from the Hound Show!

The New England Hunts 81st Annual Foxhound Show was held on June 13, 2010, and was hosted by the Myopia Hunt Club in Hamilton, MA. We are very proud of our hounds who received the recognition they deserve.
  • Championship – Best American Dog or Bitch
    ONBH Dandy – Shown by Sue Corey Trophy – Millwood Hunt Challenge Bowl – donated by Mr. & Mrs. Raymond Gordon
  • Championship – Best Couple in Show
    ONBH Charger & Concord – Shown by Samantha Sullivan
  • JR. Showmanship
    1st place Jr. Showmanship 12 – 17 yrs. Richie Riley – ONBH Cloudy
    1st place Jr. Showmanship 11 and under – Cassie Riley – ONBH Dandy
    Also competed Nicole Rassulo & Julip, Britni Crotty & Charger, and Laura Santel & Dandy
  • Retired Foxhound Class:
    1st Place – Dennis Kelley – ONBH Abby Trophy
    4th Place – Lisa Murphy – ONBH Darby

Special thanks to our Masters Hum and Mim Neville, Staff Susan Bater, and Rhonda Watts-Hettinger, members and friends for all their help and support.
The weather was cooperative with just an occasional light drizzle at times. We all enjoyed a great day and we are already looking forward to next year.
Ginny Zukatynski, Huntsman

When you can’t hunt, kayak!

Earlier this spring we all suffered from the heavy rain. But Marjorie and Larry may have experienced the most dramatic flooding.

So, Marjorie likes kayaking, right?
Just not usually in her back yard!
At least she had fun with the flooding!

Is your horse ready to hunt?

FoxhuntingIs my horse ready/suitable for hunting? I get asked this question frequently by my friends who would like to try hunting but are still nervous about the whole hunting environment. Galloping horses, hounds, varied terrain and jumping all combine to make even accomplished equestrians somewhat apprehensive.

The truth is, you won’t know until you try it. And even then, you really don’t know if you have a hunt horse until you’ve been out a few times and your horse starts to figure out what hunting entails. When I first got Freedom I had serious doubts that he would make it as a fox hunter. After all, this was a horse that had a serious meltdown if asked to go behind another horse at any gait other than a walk. However, he has figured it out and is turning into a very nice horse to hunt. He’s sure footed, brave, comfortable and even has brakes.

In training Freedom for the hunt field, I’ve come up with a list of questions you should ask yourself to see if you and your horse are ready to try hunting.

  • Does your horse tolerate dogs? Kicking a hound is probably the absolute worst sin a horse can commit in the hunt field. If your horse is the type to go after a dog if it runs up from behind, passes very close or springs out of the woods, you have some work to do.
  • Will your horse go anywhere in the field? A good hunt horse should be well mannered whether he is in the front of the field, the middle, or the end, first flight or hilltoppers. When you are in the field it is very bad manners to pass the horse in front of you so make sure you can stay in line and keep your distance. There may also be times when you have to leave the field or wait while staff horses canter by.
  • Will your horse kick out if crowded? Hunting can be a bit chaotic. Often the field needs to stop quickly, occasionally a rider might have a refusal at a fence, or someone might ride up close. If your horse misbehaves in a crowd this might not be the right job for him.
  • Do you have brakes? Hunting is full of excitement and galloping. But it’s also chock full of stops. It’s important that you can stop your horse quickly and without having your arms pulled out of your sockets.
  • Can you control your horse in an open field? Even the best behaved horse can get caught up in the moment when galloping across an open field with other horses. Practice this in a more controlled setting before trying it at a hunt.
  • Is your horse sure-footed? Hunt territories are generally a mix of terrain. Your horse should be able to handle rocks, roots, mud and hills as well as those lovely open fields. A well balanced horse that is in self-carriage is ideal. You don’t want to be holding your horse together the whole time you’re hunting and horses that are heavy on the forehand can end up with some heart wrenching trips.
  • Will your horse go through water? Sometimes you have some fairly deep river crossings. There’s nothing worse than being on a horse that doesn’t like to get his feet wet.
  • Is your horse fit? Foxhunters keep up a good pace and while there are “checks” where you can rest, you need a horse that can keep up with the crowd and not get winded or tired. A tired horse will have more difficulty handling the terrain.
  • Will your horse stand quietly in a group of horses? One of the most challenging aspects of hunting is that after galloping off you often need to stop and stand quietly while you wait for the hounds. At times you’ll also need to move off the trail so staff can go by.
  • Will your horse stand to be mounted? There are times when you will need to mount in the field. If you can’t mount from the ground make sure your horse will stand quietly near a rock or fence so you can get back on!

Does this seem like a long list? Maybe, but if you have these essentials in place, hunting will be a pleasure. If you can’t answer yes to all these questions stay tuned for some training tips that will get those skills in place.