Family healthy. Orders shipped. I’m ready to get going again.
Over the past week I’ve been playing with ideas regarding horse racing and foxhunting. Two dog breeds will be forthcoming…. the American Foxhound and the Jack Russell Terrier.
Daddy & Jumbo, Kelly & Top, Kim & Signal, Me & Rookie and Junebug with Alfie
This brings back fond memories for me- I’ve been strolling down memory lane all week. My father was the Huntsman of Whitworth Hunt in MS when I was growing up. It was a family affair. My mother was a Whipper-In and both of my sisters rode in the field as well as Whips. Saturday mornings meant getting up very early, loading the horses onto the trailer and often stopping at the kennel to put the hounds in the truck and then heading to the clubhouse in Pickens, MS.
Family photo, Daddy’s horn, Foxhunting Book, Daddy in his Pinks and Rascally Reynard.
At the little red clubhouse we would arrive to find trucks and trailers parked and people preparing their horses for the day’s ride. I was young. Often I had to stay behind with a babysitter at the clubhouse feeling very dejected. There was one time during Cubbing season (before the official Opening of the hunt season) when there was no sitter for me and I got to ride behind my father holding on tightly to the saddle all day. It was scary and thrilling. We rode Rookie, a legend of a good horse- I’m sure the only one trustworthy enough that day to carry a man and his 7 yr. old child through the fields, streams and ravines as the older hounds taught the newer hounds how to behave.
Daddy, Missy and the hounds, Momma on Beau and Jean Bunge on Assignment.
Opening Hunt was always SO exciting. I remember the night before staying up with my family, cleaning tack, polishing boots and checking the weather. If the stars were out it was a good thing. The newspaper, often the brass section of the Jackson Symphony, land owners, the public and even a priest turned out for Opening Hunt. It was very well to do. Being the industrious girl that I was, I got many last minute jobs putting the finishing touch on the horses’ turnout by braiding tails. A great way to make a few extra dollars.
Fortunately for the adults… not so much for the kids, one of the members of the hunt’s husband was a French chef in New Orleans. Longe’ usually created the menu and cooked the brunch for the Opening Hunt. I believed the first time I experienced poached eggs was at the Opening Hunt breakfast… I think I was hoping for something fried or scrambled. Needless to say in my culinary adventure, it was one of my first challenges. My, how things have changed.
The first time I jumped a horse bareback was over the clubhouse coop. I fell off, got back on, tried it again and continued to jump bareback for years on my trusty Rookie. Riding in the huntfield gives a youngster such a good seat.
In all the years that my father was Huntsman I never heard of a fox being hurt, caught or killed. It wasn’t until I was much older that I heard of how different it can be.
Limestone Creek Hunt in New York.
When I lost my horse, Rookie, in an accident my freshman year in college, I was completely devestated. I stopped riding, hunting, showing… everything. It was 14 years before I got on the back of another horse. Farmboy and I converted and old dairy barn into stalls and we bought my mare Paley a couple of years after we were married. She was green, off the track and a bit of a brat. Today, she is an old friend but there was a day that I took to her hunt with Limestone Creek here in New York. I was a nervous wreak. It was the first time that she had ever left the farm and she was out of her mind… it had been years since I had hunted. Farmboy and Junebug were very excited and supportive. We stayed at the back of the field and survived the experience. There is nothing like riding an experienced hunter. So lovely. An inexperienced one… so scary!
My favorite picture of Paley.
Coming in. I was so relieved to be back but she did great.
Before my father passed away he had the opportunity to hunt in Ireland. I was so happy for him. I loved hearing about him jumping stone walls on an experienced Irish hunter and riding through towns with the huntsman and hounds leading the way. I hope to one day do the same.
Most of my memories of foxhunting were as a child centered around my family and our circle of horses/friends. It’s been fun visiting there this week. I’m jealous of my older sisters getting to experience so much more of it than me even now. Maybe one day I’ll go again. But it won’t be the same. I suppose it never is. Maybe it would be better… but I doubt it. How can you top sharing that experience with your whole family.