Sunday, September 22, 2013

(Pre)Foxhunting Fun

So the mysterious woman who piqued my interest in Midnight's pedigree was none other than Betsy of Hunter's Rest in Virgina--a bed and breakfast and barn in the heart of Virginia foxhunting country (three hunts are within 10 minutes).
His orange rubber reins were GIANT compared to my hand
Last week, just on a whim (like many of my riding exploits), I took off work and went riding with her to get a little intro to the terrain and obstacles one might encounter while foxhunting. I rode Unexplainable, or "X" as he is known around the barn, her horse who is a distant cousin of Midnight's...and who bears no resemblance to him whatsoever in appearance or temperament. Which was a good thing, since I was feeling rather frustrated and down on myself about Midnight's atrocious behavior. Trying something new, and riding different horses for a while was exactly what I needed.

Basically my lesson consisted of learning some position changes for riding long distances. Here's the synopsis:

  • To avoid fatiguing yourself and your horse, it's better to perch and ride more off your thighs and knee. Funnily enough, this is how I learned to ride as a kid, but to an extreme degree--pinching at the knee, flinging my lower legs every which way, and laying on my horse's neck. Now with the dressage I've been doing, I've gone to the opposite extreme, with my leg on more than I realized, which led to 22-year-old X SPRINTING up the first hill we cantered...because I was asking him to, whether I meant to or not! 
  • To stay tight in the tack at speed and over jumps, keep your center of balance by thinking about the hip-to-knee joint ratio. I think instructors have tried to explain this to me before, but it never clicked until just now. When you fold at the hip, your knee needs to straighten a bit to keep your leg under you and at the girth. And vice versa--when you sit up straight, your knee can have more of an angle in it. 
Horsenation's own Lila Gendal was one of the best examples I found
But you see the same idea with steeplechasing
  • Since you are more perched in the saddle for long distances, rating your horse comes more from the seat than the leg. So we did some exercises lengthening and shortening the canter uphill, and X was quite cooperative.

I also jumped my first coop -- yay! I think it was maybe 2 ft, not sure. But it was kind of funny because Betsy gave me a lead and jumped it first, and I just sat there quietly waiting for her to turn around and give me permission to go. She looked back at me and yelled, "Come on, this isn't the riding school!"

She said that if she could just watch me ride once more she'd be comfortable taking me hunting, and it turned out that the only really easy time that worked for both of us was that I drove out again for another lesson on Remus, a nice, forward Percheron (now those aren't words you often hear together). This lesson was a semi-private, with someone who hadn't been riding long, but had hunted a few times. The lesson was mostly shortening and opening the trot, then jump exercises in and out of the ring.

Then we went to the Landowner's Party at the GORGEOUS Marriott Ranch in the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Not the best picture as I was leaving around dusk, but there are better ones on their website
I met about a bajillion hunt members and the only one whose name I'll remember is Melvin Poe because he's 93 years old, still hunts and apparently is a living legend.

Unfortunately I think I did something to my over-flexible ankle since it's still a bit sore. It may sound like a fake problem -- "oh poor you, your heels are ALWAYS down"-- but I've sprained them several times over the years, especially when I'm tired and my weight just goes down in my heels rather than me holding myself up with my legs.

In any's not that big a deal and I am going cubbing with her in October!!! Originally, I intended to just feel out the B&B as a potential mini-vacation to save up for next year during one of her foxhunting clinic weekends. But with my new income from Horsenation, I can do a day of cubbing pretty easily. Who knows...I live very close to 3 hunts in Maryland, so if I like it, foxhunting might just turn out to be my new thing.

By the way, in case you're counting, this will bring the number of disciplines tried this year to a record high of four: reining, dressage, eventing and foxhunting.


  1. Sounds like fun and I am totes jealous!

    1. Who knows, there might be a hunt club that chases coyote near you in CA! Apparently they go a LOT faster than the east coast foxhunters :)

  2. Love fox-hunting, but haven't been in a while. I'm jealous :)

  3. You are living my dream! How cool! I expect a full and lengthy write-up in October.

    That picture of Lila and your point about the hip-to-knee-joint ratio is exactly what I needed to hear. I am struggling with beginning the jump too far forward and ending the jump too far back right now. I'm going to bookmark this post. Thanks!

    1. HorseNation is expecting a writeup too, so you'll definitely get it one way or another!

      And with the hip-to-knee ratio--it's something that's just beginning to click. I'm really going to have to practice on non-green jumpers when I have the chance to ride other horses. I ride much more defensively with Midnight since I'm never sure if he's actually going to jump or not.

    2. You've got it exactly right. While I'm sure Connor is going over the fence, I'm not sure what it will feel like, and he tends to pull me forward when he does his little "nose to the fence" move just before takeoff. My trainer hasn't really gotten after me about it yet, despite me pointing it out after seeing photos of myself, because she says it's being exacerbated by Connor and she's not too worried about it right now. I'm interested to see how it changes for you after riding non-green horses.

  4. Just have to say, I love your latest HN article about what to do when the weather is crap, especially your face in the 'open a bottle of wine and clean tack' photo.... priceless :D

    1. Lol glad you enjoyed it :) Welcome to the weird and wonderful HN family.