Considering the circumstances, Crossbo’s official first hunt today may have been closer to a hound walk than a hunt. But, officially, we were hunting. Actually, it was nice to continue his preparation with a gentle phase-in, but it may be stretching a little to boast about his excellent behavior.
The main word of the day was HOT, referring to the weather, not his temperament. How hot was it? Hot enough that I left my flask at home. No amount of aging is going to make warm Bourbon tempting on an 85-degree day.
The temperature wasn’t a surprise. It had been predicted in advance, and I had weighed the options. 8 AM on Saturday would have been a lot more comfortable for man and beast than 2 PM Sunday. And I’m really not too old and lazy to do that any more. But, as I mentioned earlier, I thought mid-afternoon would be more calming for his first hunt. And honestly, I’m sure the heat helped eliminate any thoughts of rambunctious behavior.
After last Wednesday’s aborted mission, when I grabbed Arthur at the last minute for a houndwalk because Crossbo flatly refused to get on the trailer and I ran out of time, I was a little nervous about that. For the last three days, I loaded him with no problem and fed him on the trailer. Considering how easily he loaded Thursday after Wednesday’s disaster, I had even speculated that he somehow figured out when we were loading for practice and when we were going somewhere (boots/breeches vs. shorts/sneakers maybe?). Today, he calmly walked on the trailer with no hesitation, both before and after the hunt.
Considering the heat, and continuing with the phase-in philosophy, I opted against jumping today. I don’t think it would have made much difference. First field turned out to be the field master and one other person, who dropped back to our much larger second field (5 people) after a while. I don’t even think they took any jumps either.
Aside from not jumping, we did run through most of the different paces of a hunt, from standing still to galloping, and Crossbo had a perfect mix of go and whoa. He had no problem keeping up with the field when I wanted him to, but he had no objection to easing up and dropping back when I asked him to. I commented that it was a new experience for me to spend the afternoon saying “Goodboy” instead of “frickincrazysumbitch”.
As well as not running away and pulling my arms out of the sockets, Crossbo won compliments for his nonchalance as hounds milled underfoot. I was pleased, but not really surprised. He has tolerated my dogs well, so I didn’t expect him to freak out over hounds, and he didn’t disappoint me.
As the heat took its toll on the hounds as well as the horses and riders, the afternoon was somewhat abbreviated. Again, a nice way to start out. The only downside to the day was as we were hacking back to the trailers, I realized we had lost a front shoe. Before noticing that, I had been planning to hunt him again Wednesday AM; now it’s up to the farrier whether I take Crossbo or Arthur. It may be next week before I get to see if Crossbo’s behavior continues to please me as we dial up the pace a little.