Blessing of the Hounds, Pepperell, 11.19

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.

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Joint Hunt with Tanheath 11/6

Yesterday we had a joint meet with Tanheath in Pomfret, Connecticut. It was a beautiful day and it seems a shame to miss out on any opportunity to explore some new territory. It was only 24 degrees when we left the barn but had warmed up to a whopping 27 during the hour and 20 minute drive.

As we drove up to the parking area we were already excited about the ride to come — the countryside was lovely. Very reminiscent of England with its open fields and greenery.

The hunt started with their Blessing of the Hounds. With the hounds and staff silhouetted in the morning sun and the light mist that rose of the fields it was a special moment where we gave thanks to the hounds, our horses and the fox.

We rode off through some exquisite fields peppered with inviting looking natural fences. Sadly, the fields were still very wet from the freak snow storm last week, so we were only able to jump two of them. I must come back and ride here again!

We didn’t get to see much of the hounds on the hunt — they disappeared soon into the hunt; I’m not sure what scent they were following, but only a few of the hounds stuck with us. I know from friends who’ve hunted with Tanheath before that this is a great pack and we were just unlucky that that we missed out on their music.

We did have some nice canters and enjoyed the new views and vistas. For Freedom the most exciting part of the hunt was the llama. We were cantering up a dirt road and there was a fenced in field on our right that held two llamas and a goat. Right when we got next to them, the white llama moved! That caused a huge spook to the left (he didn’t know they were alive until the moved) that torqued my knee something terrible and left Freedom snorting in disbelief.

All in all, it was a very pleasant ride. We met some nice people, enjoyed the territory and even basked in the sun (it was 62 degrees when we got back to the trailers). It was also a pleasure to get the chance to ride with Ginny — usually we see her only from a distance.

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Hunt Report: Arena Terrace, October 11

Marjorie and Larry Franko
Marjorie and Larry Franko

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 turnĀ  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.

Strategizing at the Check
Strategizing at the Check

 

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.

Happy riders after the hunt.
Happy riders after the hunt.

 

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.”

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.