Friday, February 5, 2010

My hunt horses

I'm going to divert today slightly. One form of hunting I have done for many years is foxhunting. In Canada that really means more coyote than fox. use foxhounds to hunt them and follow the hounds with horses. We don't catch as many as we might with a gun but the real thrill is watching how a pack of hounds work together to follow the scent and to stay with them on a good horse. Of course the good horse is key and make or break your day. I have a youngster who is getting started and here is a story I wrote about him a little while ago.

Bees! I can hear the gentle hum of their wings as they move from flower to flower amongst the clover. It’s subtle and almost unnoticeable under the steady thrumming of the cicada’s. I would have missed it completely if I hadn’t been laying in the long pasture grass this warm summer day. I wiggle my fingers on both hands. It’s a beautiful day for sure. The warm rays of the sun, high in the sky, buss my skin as the cool grasses press against my back. It sounds like the classic, idyllic scene that can only happen on a horse farm. This farm is perfect for it. Built as a high end broodmare facility it has rolling land and massive pastures full of lush grass. A beautiful pond with ducks and geese round it out. It’s beautiful. Even from this angle. I wiggle my toes to make sure they work as well as my fingers do.
I pause briefly to consider how I came to be here. Two distinct thoughts ran quickly through my head. The first of these thoughts is certainly a “Big picture” sort of moment. One of those, “whose fault is it anyway” thoughts. I start counting the bones in all my major limbs. I suppose I have to blame my mother. The daughter of a dairy farmer, she grew up with horses. Not working horses. My grandfather, having been raised with them, replaced them gladly with modern tractors when he took over from his father. She did, however, have a horse lovingly named Flikka”. It was named by a young girl who thankfully dodged monikers like Thunder and Flash and forgave it it’s sins as so many of us do when we are young. This love of horses she passed on to me. She married a “townie” who was allergic to all things furry so we could never have any at home when I was young.
I don’t remember a lot about the early stages of my life. The farther you get from 3 or 4 the less that remains. I do have one vague memory of my first meeting with a horse. It was massive. Made all the more huge by the fact that I had to be under the age of 5. I thought it was the most amazing thing I had ever seen. Absolutely! Like some shiny beacon rising up out of the field that could be ridden. Like that man is doing. Look mom! You can ride them! They’re great! They’re getting closer! They aren’t moving but still getting closer! Wait a second! Mom! What are you doing? It’s a beacon! Beacon’s are designed for distance! Put me down! DON’T LET IT EAT ME!!!
If the first time a man meets a horse he is going to be intimidated, and therefore emasculated, it is best done as a toddler. It seems to be more survivable. I don’t really remember when I saw my next horse but, unlike many husbands and boyfriends I’ve seen over the years who disappear from the barn not willing to admit they’re scared witless, I seemed to find these large furry money sinks all the more fascinating.
Maybe I would have escaped with my wallet and manure free social life intact had my grandfather stuck to his life long disinterest of all things equine. I’m not sure what possessed him to bid twenty five dollars on a pony at a farm auction. Everyone there knew who he was and that he no longer had a farm. I’m sure they all had a great chuckle as they watched him bedding his garage in the village in preparation for its arrival. My personal opinion was that it was better than any car or lawn tractor I had ever seen him store in there. I was hooked. Like lots of young crazy horse lovers I even forgave him when he bucked me off into the concrete wall. What did I know? I was a town kid. Nobody said you needed to break these things. Can’t you ride them from birth? Aren’t they built that way?
At this moment the second thought ran through my head. It was a little more immediate. I have to admit it wasn’t idyllic or even nostalgic. I picked myself up out of the grass. Looked over at my four year old thoroughbred and considered that I may have found the reason they didn’t train him long enough to even tattoo him. He was standing quietly munching grass a few feet away. The reigns had settle behind his ears in the last place I had seen them as we parted company in, what was clearly, an unscheduled dismount. I made a mental note of the dirt patch I noticed on his bridle path as I passed over it and thought boot camp! I think that might be it. He needs Boot camp. Thankfully there aren’t any concrete walls this time.