Well, today started out slow, until right after Arthur and I pulled out of the driveway on our way to hunt. I was running a little late, but I could probably make up for that on the road. One time-saving advantage was that I wouldn’t have to stop halfway to pick up my brother and his horse. He stopped by Friday afternoon while the farrier was replacing Arthur’s mangled shoe, and said he didn’t think he could juggle his schedule to hunt this weekend. He left telling me to enjoy hunting, and that he’d call if a miracle occurred.
As expected, today’s hunt was cancelled because of the predicted winter slop. It actually turned out to be a very light snowfall overnight, turning to rain this morning which left us with more mud than snow. As it turns out, I wouldn’t have been able to go anyway. When I fed this morning, I noticed Arthur was a little gimpy on one front foot. A closer look revealed a mangled shoe still loosely clinging to the hoof. You know your farrier is doing a good job when a shoe takes this much abuse and still hangs on. Arthur did some damage to the hoof wall in the process of destroying the shoe, but it doesn’t look serious. I think the lameness was just due to the shoe causing some discomfort; after I pulled the shoe, he walked much more soundly. Assuming I can get my farrier to nail the shoe back on before Sunday, I should be ready to hunt then.
Yesterday’s forecast predicted a high temperature in the low 60s(F) today, around 20 degrees above normal and close to the record of 66. Fortunately, it didn’t get quite that warm. The mercury stopped somewhere in the 50s, still well above normal. That was a little warm for hunting, but not uncomfortable. There was still a lot of moisture in the ground, which made good scenting conditions for a while. Things started somewhat fast and furious, but then the wind picked up, making the hounds’ job more difficult, but keeping the horses cool (and lifting their spirits even more).
Today was dreary, cloudy, and damp, ideal hunting weather. Unfortunately, with recent “wintry mix” followed by rain, and freezing/thawing cycles, riding conditions were far from ideal. It’s hard to find footing much more treacherous than a thin layer of greasy mud over frozen ground. But, with more slop predicted for the weekend, today looked like as good as it’s going to be for a while. So when my brother and I heard that hounds were going out, we knew we had to be there with them. So we knocked a little bit of the mud off the horses and loaded up.
With the thermometer hovering just below freezing, and 10 mph wind, today was on the borderline of what I consider decent hunting weather. But my brother pointed out that today would be better than tomorrow, with its forecast of slightly lower temperatures and snow.
It was hard to argue with that logic, and he’s bigger than I am.
As I get older and crankier, the timespan each year when I’m happy gets shorter. Now it’s down to about September and April.
With a local forecast predicting low temperature in the low twenties Wednesday night, and a high in the 30s on Thanksgiving,
I had just about convinced myself that getting up at 6 AM Thursday for a 9 AM hunt would be a little chilly, but bearable.
And I really needed the attitude adjustment a holiday hunt would provide.
Then the phone call came Wednesday night saying the hunt had been cancelled, presumably because of weather.
Now I’m not ashamed to admit I’m a fair weather hunter, and have wimped out of many hunts. But the ones I’ve wimped out of
have all been in much worse weather, and they went on anyway. And now the weekend forecast doesn’t look much more promising. Saturday could be OK if it was an afternoon hunt, but it’s morning when it will still be cold. And Sunday is going to suck worse than today. Friday actually looks decent, but of course it’s not a hunting day; maybe I’ll just have to get my butt in gear and take my own “hounds” out for a hack around the farm.
This afternoon was another splendid opportunity to forget everything that’s wrong with the world. There’s a saying among foxhunters that some folks ride to hunt, and others hunt to ride. I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m one of the hunt to ride gang, even if that draws scorn from serious hunters. And today was definitely a good day to ride, hunting or not. The weather wasn’t particularly good hunting weather, a little too warm for good scenting. But it was a damn fine day to be outdoors on a horse. And since I’m usually more concerned with how my horse performs than how the hounds perform, I can say he did fairly well. We got off to a bad start when he refused the first jump, but he did fine after that, including a couple of jumps that I was a little worried about. He reminded me again that it’s pointless for humans to try to figure out what’s going on in the equine mind. It’s about as hopeless as trying to figure out women, but since they tend to avoid me I don’t have to worry about that problem. A horse’s brain is allegedly about the size of a large walnut, and somebody once asked how that much stupidity could be packed into something that small. Small brain or not, you gotta love em.
Today was just what I needed. Sleep a little later, and then start all the hunt prep work: hitching up trailer, cleaning horse, filling flask, etc. My attitude has gotten so sour I almost didn’t remember why I go to all this trouble.
After getting mounted, it didn’t take long for me to remember. A beautiful day, on a horse, surrounded by friends, with a pack of hounds and full flasks, far removed from anything that beeps, buzzes, or blinks, it just doesn’t get much better.
First Saturday in November, St. Hubert’s Day, opening of the formal hunting season with the traditional Blessing of the Hounds. The weather is perfect, a crisp sunny fall day with temperatures in the 40’s. And I’m missing it, for the first time in I can’t remember how many years, because Arthur’s booboo from an encounter with a T-post 3 weeks ago is still healing. I guess I just have to hope last year’s St. Hubert’s medal has enough mojo left in it to get me through another season. Maybe if I’d been carrying it 3 weeks ago, I could be riding today. Actually, Arthur’s injury was fortunately just superficial, much less severe than it could have been in that situation. I had it sutured the day it happened, and it looked like it would heal neatly and quickly. But after a couple of weeks, the stitches and flap of skin sloughed off, leaving him with a raw patch that needs to heal instead of a little seam. It really doesn’t seem to be causing him any discomfort; it certainly doesn’t keep him from ripping around the pasture like a maniac. He probably wouldn’t mind being ridden, but it still looks a little gory and it just doesn’t seem appropriate to hunt him with an eyesore like that, especially on a high holy day. Also, if we bumped it on anything, it would probably kock off some of the scab and set the healing back more. I took a picture of it this morning, and decided it would be better to link to it instead of embedding it here and making people look at it every time they loaded this page.
As I pulled out of the driveway to go to work this morning, I noticed my three horses in a section of pasture where they didn’t belong. (I split up the pasture into smaller sections with electric polywire for rotation). There wasn’t really a problem with that, except if they weren’t smart enough to go back where they came from, they had no water supply. It’s a cool day, they’re eating wet grass, they’ll last until tonight … Naaah .. I better go straighten things out. Turn around and drive back in, and wander out to the pasture.