We had a beautiful day for our Blessing of the Hounds and we all felt particularly blessed to have the opportunity to hunt these beautiful fields. This day was made possible by the unflagging work of Jon and Anne Kaiser, Janet Marantz, Marjorie Franko, Lori Baldwin and other volunteers who spent the last two weeks clearing the trails.
Thanks also to Noel Estes who arranged the details of the Blessing and to the Kaisers and the Greenbergs for the tasty tea.
The first field was led by Wendy Good and Hilltoppers were led by Debbe Kelley. We had three casts in all, ending with a very picturesque ride up through the apple orchard.
You can click on the large photo below to advance the slideshow or click on any of the smaller photos to enlarge them.
For the first time this fall our trusty Hound Truck Driver, Jenn Fuller got to ride in the field. Luckily she picked a great day to do this because it was another perfect fall day — the weekend heat wave was over and the temperatures were in the low 60s. Seemingly overnight the trees have started to turn and are now entering their full glory of golden yellows and bright reds. Noel Estes led the first field up until the check. At that point, she retired and Marjorie Franko led the second half. Debbe Kelley led the hilltoppers and Rhonda Watts Hettinger and Lori Baldwin whipped.
The hunt started with a long gallop. It settled both horses and hounds and got us all off to a good start.
By the time we slowed to a walk, we had a tremendous view of the hounds working the scent in the woods right off the main trail. During the first run the hounds gave amazing tongue. This was the most “music” that I’ve heard this season and it was delightful to follow.
Freedom felt great and, in a nice change from Saturday’s hunt, his brain was engaged and he was listening to my aids. Instead of bouncing in place and flipping his head he was relaxed and forward, but obedient. The first series of jumps are small and when he isn’t listening to me, he can get too fast. I rode at the back of the first field so that I had the chance to keep him balanced. There are about six jumps in that first run and he took them in stride and went right to the base. It was the best that I’ve felt him jump since he was diagnosed with Lyme.
The second cast was into the woods by Fairhaven Bay. It’s right next to Walden Pond and the trail system takes you over to the lake and to the replica of Thoreau’s cabin. It’s still a very peaceful place where you see only a few people on the trails. I think on Tuesday we had the woods to ourselves.
The second cast of the hunt took us over the larger fences in the territory. Our first field took them with aplomb. Once again the hounds gave great tongue and the pack finished up almost complete. The aptly named Diva was the last to come in but eventually she also turned up.
Happily, there were also no bees.
On Tuesdays our tea is a tailgate but this one was exceptionally well stocked. With several kinds of salad, cheese and crackers and a cake there were no complaints — except that we all had to go back to work!
Jenn Fuller adds, “The trusty hound-truck driver was actually mounted for this hunt. Thanks to Rick Arsenault and Susan Goldfisher for manning the truck for the day! We had nine hounds out today, leaving Cameo beind for a few hunts as she’s been trying to tell us that she just wasn’t all that in to it for the last couple of hunts. We’ll give her a break and then bring her back out again soon. It was a spectacular hunt, as far as I’m concerned! We tried some new trails in an oft-visited territory and they were lovely, and bee-free. The field had some great hound viewing as the pack worked hard to find the scent. And Mary Melloni really outdid herself with her contributions to the tea, which unlike our last Tuesday at Arena, was not rained out.”
Saturday, October 8th we hunted from Red Rail Farm. It was a really beautiful day — up in the mid-70s and sunny — and we had a nice large turn out. The hunt started from one of the most beautiful fields around offering a fabulous view of the hounds as they started to work.
We then moved off into the woods. Although the hounds started off well, they were diverted off the drag by some live scent — most likely deer — and while we could hear them give tongue off in the distance, they were not on the drag. That left the field waiting for staff and the hounds off the side of the trail, hoping not to disturb a nest of ground bees (one of my biggest fears when hunting on warm fall days).
After nearly 10 minutes we moved on but at a controlled pace and continued on until the first check.
Our first check was at a glade in the woods. It’s a very pleasant place to pause as it was a little cooler out of the sun and gave the horses and hounds the chance to catch their breath.
The second cast went very well. The hounds were back on track and we had a good gallop through the woods.
We finished the hunt with an adrenalin charged gallop up the final hill. Freedom must have had some flashbacks to his racing days but we managed not to pass anyone.
Thanks to Noel Estes, who led the jumping field, Debbe Kelley who lead the hilltoppers, and Dennis Kelley who led the third field.
Jenn Fuller adds, “Anything that happened before or during the hunt was likely eclipsed by the LOBSTAH FEST! Thank you to our generous hosts of this annual tradition — Kim Johnson, Pam and Buzz Hawes, Cathy Shortsleeve, and Stephanie Juriansz. It goes above and beyond and sets the bar for the other teas so high, I’m not sure how the rest of us can hope to compete.
But, before the LOBSTAH FEST, there was, of course, a hunt. It was a beautiful day, a bit brisk at the start, but it warmed quickly. It may not have been our most spectacular hunt, hound-wise, but we are dealing with animals who sometimes have a mind of their own and might not do exactly what we hoped they would. In the end, though, we had all but one hound, Ms. Diva, who decided she’d like to get a history lesson at Walden Pond. It pays to know people if you’re the Huntsman, though, and we retrieved her from the pokey free of charge. :-)”
Here’s the hunt report from today’s hunt (September 27th) at the Groton Town Forrest from Jen and Rhonda. Thank you both for keeping us so well informed. If anyone else would like to chime in, please do!
Jen wrote: “The steamy weather just doesn’t want to break so despite somewhat cooler temperatures, it was another hot one for hunting. Especially at Groton Town Forest, where there’s no shade in the parking area. Luckily most of the territory is in the woods which the riders, horses and hounds appreciated, I’m sure! We had 5 couple with us again, the same hounds we had in Westminster, but swapped Apple for Jazz since Apple’s in heat. The hounds were a little slow today and there wasn’t much voice, but they all came in at the check and they all finished together. And THAT is nothing to complain about! We had a good sized field for a Tuesday and it was great to welcome back Larry and Marjorie from their travels in Russia. Wendy led the first flight and Deb led the hilltoppers and the entire field was all smiles at the finish. Another great day with ONBH as far as I’m concerned!”
Rhonda added: “Yes, the hounds kept trying nearly all the way, have to give them credit. I was posted out at the railroad track crossing, and could hear them coming from Bloods’, but after that voice was pretty spotty, with Dandy and Diva being the vocal stars. We hit bees just before the switchback turn in the woods on the first piece (that would be where Noel gave great voice!) and again early on the second piece… (I’ll be interested to see whether Cricket keeps up her performance of today, when she let me know with a swirling tail that they were there both times, well before anyone got zinged! Could be useful!)
Once again, hounds were quite obedient. Although Cameo hung back a bit at the check, spooked by all the horses, she did appear–so we had all 5 couple both there and at the end. There was a minor detour to the river by a few (I think some of us might have felt like joining them!) but all returned quickly. Midway of the second piece, something (we don’t know what) briefly detoured about half the pack, but they were honest enough to quit giving tongue, and came along quickly to join the rest in the last couple of fields.
And I agree: “Another great day with ONBH as far as I’m concerned!”
If you didn’t get the chance to hunt at Westminster on September 25th, here’s an update from Jennifer Fuller, who has been driving the hound truck while Declan recovers from an injury, and Rhonda Hettinger who whipped in. Thanks to both of them for reporting! For all of us who couldn’t be there, it will spur us to get to the next hunt.
Jenn writes, “It was a beautiful day, though a little steamy. We had a small field, but they enjoyed great views of the hounds hunting the fields. Ginny let the hounds out of the truck at the cast to enjoy a taste of yummy Westminster grass before they headed out. We had five couple, the same group as Tuesday that hunted so well together — Justice, Concord, Jeannie, Jiingle, Cameo, Charmer, Apple, Dandy, Diva and Dreamer. All ten hounds came in together at the check and at the finish and as always we enjoyed a great variety of munchies and good company at the tailgate tea that followed.”
Rhonda adds, “the hounds behaved very well in response to some changes to their usual routine–because the wooded trails had been intentionally blocked (thanks to the ATVs!) we could not continue beyond the fields on the first piece. The hounds were honest and stopped when the scent did, then held up for us–where no one would have really blamed them if they had kept on into the woods where they’ve always gone, looking for more! (And the folks doing the model airplanes must have had a great view of the hounds… I’m very grateful to them for not having any take-offs while Cricket and I were alongside the landing strip…)
The steamy weather must have made scenting a little harder on the second piece, but hounds worked well and gave tongue throughout. I had a great–if private–view of them working down in the corner of the second field, as they worked at keeping and/or finding the scent. A slight bobble at the “red gate” (which always seems to pull hounds like a magnet!) was quickly sorted, when hounds almost immediately responded to Ginny’s call, and picked up the line again. And at the end, they again obediently stopped at a different spot than we’ve usually used.
Since they’d worked so well, we really hated to miss out the third piece, back through the long fields, but it was really heating up–and the hounds didn’t have the luxury of a proper swimming-spot to cool off, as they do some other places. Besides, we’d noted that only the upper half of the fields had been mowed, with standing water in some churned-up ruts where something had got deeply stuck. We figured the field would have had to follow by the road, and staff might have sunk right out of sight (the lower side is wet at the best of times!) so rather than risk it, we loaded hounds and hacked back.”
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.
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!
Every time we go out and enjoy a hunt we must all say thanks to the members of the hunt who put in the time and effort to clear the trails. Because they don’t look this good without a lot of hard work.
Here are some photos from some of the Work Days this fall.