From Endurance to Dressage
Fox Hunting! (part 1)
I may have found Sydney's true calling in life. It is possible that he wants to be a fox hunter, and I might be on board with the career switch. I had that much fun. I don't even know where to begin. Do I share how I laughed out loud with total glee as we galloped balls out up hills and along fence lines? How about I share how Sydney spent most of the morning rocking the lead? Or maybe I should first share how he motored over every type of terrain possible with total confidence?
Okay, Sweaney, slooow down and take a deep breath! Some of you are probably like me and have no idea what fox hunting even is. You can Google it of course, or check out Wikipedia, but the short version is that hounds are released to track game and riders dressed in show clothes gallop after.
Tejon Hounds is a brand new hunt club that is recruiting members. In order to showcase their hunting grounds, they invited members from other clubs and even opened up the hunt to complete newbies like myself (and Louisiana). Normally, a $125 "capping" fee is paid by non-club members, but since this was an "open house" type of event, the fee was waived. An annual membership, which comes with lots of other amenities, is $1,500.
The hunts happen every Wednesday and Saturday through the season which generally runs from September to March, depending on the weather. Apparently, heat and humidity affect the ability of the hounds to catch the scent. Here's a snippet from the Tejon Hounds Facebook page on October 23.
Hey Everyone! Just your weekly update on hunting. The hounds moved off from the trailer at 7:30 this morning. The humidity was slightly higher than it has been in recent weeks which made a world of difference for the hounds. We were drawing along the base of some foothills getting ready to go up a small canyon when Scott viewed a coyote. Quietly, we trotted forward to cast the hounds gently on the line. Hounds hit it off! There was some zig and zag along the line as the wind drifted it slightly here and there. There was some exceptional hound work to been seen. A big thanks to Grand Canyon Hounds for being so generous in helping us start a wonderful pack. Now for some cold weather and snow, our thirty minute snippets might turn into two hour dust eaters. Happy Hunting!
The game of choice at the Tejon Ranch is coyote. I think they are quite numerous on the ranch and serve as a substitute for foxes which are not native to California. The hounds catch the scent of the coyote and track it. Sometimes the coyote simply gives the hounds the slip, and other times the hounds will run it to ground (to a den). Since no one was carrying an obvious weapon, I am nearly certain the coyote is not killed.
During this particular hunt, the riders milled around until the designated start time. Before we left, there was a blessing on the hounds that was accompanied by a shot of port or sherry or some kind of heavy wine. I happily took mine as a substitute for valium.
Riders (we were about 15) were divided into "fields" depending on their comfort level. The first field, or main field, stays right with the hounds, galloping as necessary. The second field hangs back and follows the first field a bit more slowly. Louisiana and I were in the third field which watched the main field gallop off. We spent the next three hours galloping to hill tops trying to catch sight of the hunt. Riders in the third or fourth fields are known as Hill Toppers.
The hunts can last anywhere from two to five hours depending on the hounds and the wishes of the group. The third field rode for three hours in search of the hunt. The main field returned about 45 minutes after we did. After watering horses and untacking, lunch was served for those who were able to stay a while. For most Tejon Hunts, I was told that a potluck is typical.
11/18/2013 10:17:39 pm
i'm in awe! and hoping for something new for speedy, who wasn't so speedy, but now is again :) hey, did you ever see that helmet cam from rockley farm of a hunt? it was one of the most thrilling things i've experienced from the safety of my laptop. so, did you have to jump things? i wouldn't be comfortable with the jumping part. what i find interesting is how laid back those horses are. it seems to me that a typical hunting horse is happy to run along in a very relaxed manner, something that is outside my realm of experience.
11/18/2013 11:04:39 pm
Wow! Could Sydney have been telling you with his anxiety issues that he's not cut out for the "Yoga horse" type discipline? Maybe he's telling you to let him out of the arena, into open fields and let him show you what he was born to do! I'm so happy you all had so much fun. Can't wait to hear more about it!
11/18/2013 11:23:04 pm
So fun! I wish we had a local hunt, but there's nada around here.
11/18/2013 11:31:15 pm
Living in the "beyond" of Rosamond, we are gifted with the opportunity of headlong gallops down long slightly sandy dirt roads....for the locals attempting dressage.....it's AMAZING. You wouldn't think that galloping until the horse chooses to slow would be such a wonderful training tool for the, um, sensitive types. Over reacting to "stimuli" becomes almost non-existent in other arenas. Wendy's Bella, whom, by all accounts was CRAZED at the best of times, gets her gallop once or twice a week....because routine is important to her. She has become the UBER show horse!
When I hunted, it was pretty rare to have a kill. During my two years I only witnessed one kill, and I hid in the back because the fox hunting tradition for your "first kill" is pretty barbaric. At our hunt, only staff members had guns and they were only to protect the dogs in case they got into trouble with other wildlife (one time they cornered a bear). The only way the fox got killed is if the dog's reached it before we denned it. Once you den the fox, you call off the hunt and go eat and drink!
11/19/2013 03:02:45 am
Sounds like so much fun! That would be awesome to have the best of both worlds! Speedy for dressage and Sydney for the hunt!
11/19/2013 10:15:01 am
Wow! So many interesting comments. i wish i had time to reply to everyone, but alas …
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About the Writer and Rider
I am a lifelong rider.
I began endurance riding in 1996 where I ultimately completed five, one-day 100 mile races, the 200-mile Death Valley Encounter, and numerous other 50, 65, and 75 mile races. I began showing dressage in 2010.
Welcome to my dressage journey.
About Speedy G
Speedy went from endurance horse to dressage horse. After helping me earn a USDF Bronze medal in the summer of 2020, he is now semi-retired. Speedy is a 2004, 15'1 hand, purebred Arabian gelding. His Arabian Horse Registry name is G Ima Starr FA.
Izzy was started as a four-year old and then spent the next 18 months in pasture growing up. I bought him as a six-year old, and together, we are showing at the lower levels. He is a 2008, 16'3 hand warmblood gelding. His Rheinland Pfalz-saar International (RPSI) name is Imperioso.
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