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Wednesday, January 30, 2013

A-Hunting I Did Go - Part 1

How many times in your life have you gotten to do something you'd always dreamed of, and/or thought you would never be able to do?

Growing up, foxhunting was something "other" English-riding equestrians did, those with their own horses and money and connections. I was aware of the existence of a hunt in our area of New Jersey (Monmouth County Hunt) but never saw it and didn't know anybody who belonged. Certainly no one in my equestrian circles, at any rate. Even a girl I was acquainted with who had a pretty fancy pony, showed a lot and did Pony Club never rode out with the hunt.

Foxhunting, to me, has always seemed like the epitome of H/J participation. It's the whole POINT, after all, of hunters (or used to be). I like the tradition, the elegance, the clothes, the whole bit. I also adore pictures of the sport and have collected a number of hunting prints that hang around the house, as inspiration and decoration.
Over the fireplace - there are two smaller prints from this series in my bedroom as well.
Dining room. This one was a gift from an old BF, and I've never really liked it, but it IS nicely framed!
Print on top was a gift from MIL. Bottom one I "made:" I cut the sides off a gift bag, found two frames in a junk store and had the mats cut at Michael's. Put it all together and voila, nice hunting prints. The wallpaper was already up in the powder room when we bought the house, and fact that my decorative items matched was a big plus. This room is "all-horsey" and deserves a post of its own!

When I started lessons at my second-to-last barn I became aware that some of the boarders, along with the BO, were members of the Bridlespur Hunt, our local and very venerable institution. Even the gal I befriended first at the barn was a member; she'd joined about a year earlier, but having tragically lost her own mare she was temporarily grounded. As we became friendlier I started hearing more about the Hunt Club. I learned there were different levels of membership, that not everybody who rode was an "expert," and that people sometimes leased horses to go out.
I suddenly found myself invited to something called "Blessing of the Hounds." About all I heard in advance was Friend would be riding a leased horse from the barn, it was fine to show up on foot and observe, I could hang out with her husband while she was off doing the actual hunting, and there would be brunch afterwards. There was a fee for the brunch but Friend was covering it. I set my alarm for very early in the morning and laid out what I fervently hoped would be a suitable outfit. What does one wear to watch a hunt?
Slightly dilapidated print of me, by the hound kennel. It was pretty funny when the barn owner failed to recognize me, cleaned up and in civilian togs!
I still chuckle when I think of this outfit because while yes, I was appropriately dressed, I made the mistake of wearing those nice khakis and brand-new paddock boots. The former were quickly muddy khakis and the latter were broken in emergency-style when I found myself walking about two miles behind Basset Hounds... but I'm getting ahead of the story.

I pulled into the Hunt's home grounds and was immediately blown away by the pageantry. OMG - LOOK - wow, they really do wear red scarlet Pinke coats! There were hounds milling about and talking, horns blowing, horses dancing and prancing in anticipation and in the midst of the melee, a black-garbed cleric of some type ready to recite a suitable lesson. All of the horses were braided and gleaming, and all the riders beautifully turned out (I later learned that BotH is one of the fanciest-dress days of the hunt season and the horses aren't normally braided). There was even a lady with a face-netted top hat. I found my friend, properly attired in black coat, white stock tie, canary vest and polished boots, but she was pretty busy trying to keep our usually staid lesson horse four-on-the-floor.

The blessing was eventually read and the hunt departed, not cross-country but in single file onto a trail leading into the woods. Okay, that part didn't look much like my hunting prints, but whatever - not as much open countryside with convenient hedges and bushes as in Merry Olde England. Next thing I knew Friend's husband and I were invited to go along with the "Basseting" group. Huh? This turned out to be following a pack of the low-slung dogs wrangled by a nice lady, ostensibly trying to hunt down and flush hapless rabbits. Having nothing else to do at the moment, this seemed fine, so off we went. And walked... and walked... and walked. Basseting was a lot of exercise! Let me hasten to add that *NO BUNNIES WERE HARMED* on this excursion, which was also fine with me.

The mounted crew eventually returned after about an hour and a half, horses and riders breathless and steaming. I don't think a fox was ever sighted but everyone seemed to have had a good time looking. My friend also didn't jump at all, which is how I found out about "hilltopping." Ah, there really is a way for beginners to enjoy going out with a hunt! Interesting...
Member of the Bridlespur Hunt, 2011 season. This is typical Missouri hunt country.
After the horses were untacked, cooled down and left to enjoy hay nets, we repaired to the Club House for the brunch, which by then (as you can imagine) I was more than ready to enjoy. I felt a bit out of my element but my friend is very social and wheeled me around introducing me to all and sundry, so I didn't have time to feel out of place. People were almost universally friendly and welcoming so it went just fine. I was particularly impressed with the Grande Dame of the affair, a wonderful lady in her late eighties who was still riding. I also had a good time looking at the decorations in the Club House. These ranged from faded B/W photos of earlier masters (mostly named Busch) and a stuffed fox to gorgeous old trophies. It was NOT a fancy establishment, by any means; just an old house, with wooden floors scarred by years of boots and spurs, tatty chairs well-covered in horse and dog hair and a cozy atmosphere. I liked it a lot.

By the time this was all over, I was exhausted from a combination of nerves, cold air and a lot of hiking. My friend had to stick around but her husband was ready to go, too, so I volunteered to drive him home as we lived very close to each other. Friend's Hubby and I promptly proceeded to take the wrong turn out of the Hunt Club lane and wander around the back roads of greater southern St. Charles County for the next 45 minutes (neither of us had lived in the area very long). That was the most embarrassing part of the day, so really, I got off pretty easy!

Next installment: I Get To RIDE!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

These Boots Were NOT Made For Ridin' - UPDATE!

I have enjoyed my pseudo riding boots so much that when I found a similar pair in brown at Target, while boot shopping for my daughter before Christmas, I had to try them on. They fit in the calf - astoundingly - but that store didn't have my size. I went off and forgot all about them... until yesterday, when I had occasion to visit I wondered if they might still have the boots and lo and behold, a store in the St. Louis area DID. I'm still trying to decide if I want to make the hour and a half round trip to pick them up.
Yes, very similar indeed to my other boots but the brown color is nice (no photo of those I can grab).
In the meantime, I went back to and read the reviews on these boots. I couldn't believe it when I got to this one (copied and pasted, complete with misspellings):

I was looking for something cheap for the few equestrian show I do, and sort of sad that these weren't as great as I thought. Definately going to buy real leather boots for my hunter shows. These are good for simple fall fashion. For me, the calf was a bit too wide, but I like where the zipper stops. Love the almond toe. The top half just it kinda floppy and looks all right for being a cheaper boot. Just need to break them in. Not bad enough I would ever return them becuase they do serve a good purpose. see less

I am dumbfounded, to say the least. Your eyes are not deceiving you - YES, this girl actually thought she could wear them into the show ring! I realize that not everyone will be cantering around the Dixon Oval, but for heaven's sake, even someone attending a local fun show should probably realize that fashion boots from Target are not going to fly. The fact that she specifically mentions attending "hunter shows" is even scarier. I don't think she's been to very many if she thinks that people wear boots with floppy, foldable tops, metal on the heels (I suppose they look a bit like spurs?) and two straps around the ankles when they are actually mounted and not serving as spectators.

This decides it - I'm definitely dragging my relics out of the closet, complete with manure-filled treads, and wearing them to the office. They are real leather, after all, so they must be correct...

(Note: I do plan to wear my real tall(ish) boots to work next October, when I dress up as the Lone Ranger for Halloween. I've done that costume in the past and it was a big hit, although it's more effective when I bring my husband along as a reluctant Tonto. Outside of my lone fellow equestrian, nobody is going to notice the boots are too short.)

Friday, January 4, 2013

"Poor" Little Rich Girls

Happy New Year!

Hope you all had a very blessed and Merry Christmas/Happy Hanukkah! I had a lovely holiday with lots of time off with my family, for the first time in a long time. I didn't quite make my goal of 50 posts for 2012, but I have lots of good things lined up so I'm not going to worry about it.

If I could just get the blasted iPad to work properly with Blogger I'd be more flexible with blogging time, but even when I switch browsers it's not right. Hello, Google? Has it failed to escape your attention that there are a few of us Apple tablet users out here?

Anyway, I am looking forward to a horse adventure-filled, if not riding-filled, 2013. As always, thank you for reading - I appreciate each and every one of you!

The title of this post refers to the young ladies mentioned on this magazine cover:
I've heard hairnets are not necessary in Europe - maybe so, but I think that sticking-out hair is annoying!
I will confess to being fascinated by the likes of the two Jessicas (Springsteen and Gates), Charlotte, Athina and Georgina. Isn't it fun to imagine what you would do with horses if you had a virtually unlimited budget? I'd say about 99.9% of the population has no clue what that would be like, but these young ladies involved in the equestrian world are doing just that (maybe they are given a budget by parents or trustees, but I have feeling they're generous).

Here's what I would do: buy a splendiferous estate in the heart of VA hunt country. If anything needed bringing up to state-of-the-art on the horse side, I'd have it done/built/fixed (barn, arenas, pastures, etc.) While I was at it I'd renovate the house with all modern conveniences, while keeping the old-fashioned charm and (hopefully) Georgian exterior as intact as possible. Furnish with EVERYTHING equestrian-themed right down to the TP. And what livestock... well, of course I'd start with a couple of TBs for me - a show hunter and a fox hunter (I'd consider a WB or draft cross for the latter). A QH for the hubby. A cute pony or two just because. "Something" for the kids, although I actually don't know what horse sport Son would pursue given the chance and Daughter doesn't really want to ride. I would be happy to provide a retirement home for a small herd of TRF (Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation) horses. A Jersey cow, some sheep and some chickens would round out the animals. And oh yeah, let's not forget the staff to take care of all this because if I was that wealthy it would be all riding and horses, all the time and someone else to cook/clean/feed/muck/maintain and do all the hard stuff!
This would do nicely.

The only thing I wouldn't change would be my family - e.g. I wouldn't be trading in Hubby for a younger model - and my dog. She could stay as the One and Only Canine because she is perfect and I adore her. My guinea pig, too, and I'd even keep cleaning his cage myself.

*BUMP* That's me landing back on Earth. Where was I... right, Society Equestrians. We have Charlotte:
Boy, did she inherit some killer genes...
Jessica S:
Jessica G:
Nice sourpuss face on the horse - I'd be embarrassed to have this in print.
And Georgina:
The only one of these young ladies who I have seen in person, and/or of whom I have any real  knowledge is Jessica Springsteen. The others might be wonderful individuals, kind, hard-working and devoted to their sport, or they might be spoiled brats but I really couldn't say. A dear (younger) friend of mine rode Juniors alongside Jessica S. back East, and has also been at shows with her as adult, so I trust her when she says Jess is, in fact, polite, kind, very hard-working and deserves what she has achieved. Glad to hear it!

I don't think she appeared in this issue of T&C, but another young equestrian whose dad's pockets are pretty bottomless is Destry Spielberg. I didn't know her name until today but looking at these other gals caused me to Google "Spielberg equestrian" and that's who came up. Mom Kate Capshaw rides, too, but it's Destry who particularly interests me. Why? I knew Mr. Spielberg purchased Rumba for "his daughter" to ride in Jr. Hunters after the horse won the 2009 $100,000 International Hunter Derby Finals. [Side note: I have entertained myself wondering what happened when the phone rang in the barn and the trainer (John French) was told Steven Spielberg was on the line. You think the price went up just a hair? :-) Of course I'm being silly - I'm sure that people like that use an intermediary when buying almost anything or else they'd be paying double what the rest of us do.]

At any rate, I've been wondering how the kid was doing on this practically priceless push-button hunter. Talk about a little bit of pressure! Well, here they are:
Photo courtesy of The Daily Truffle
Somebody ought to send this in to George - he'd snark on the fleece girth, but I doubt he'd take issue with the horse's form, weight or cleanliness. Ahem. Now, the rider - definitely jumping ahead and lying on the neck. Otherwise, pretty good. Here's some video, too.

I think when I go to sleep tonight I'll imagine myself as the pilot on this boy, just a-lopin' around making 3'3" look like gentle exercise. *sigh* Miss Spielberg does a good job but I see the anticipation and jumping ahead, as well as a bit of reaching for the stirrup. In my very humble opinion they could stand to be a hole shorter. Rumba is round and I get that she wants to keep her leg on, but... In short, Destry looks kind of nervous and I can't say I blame her.

Off to look at more Middleburg properties - this kid likes to daydream!