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.
|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 pulled into the Hunt's home grounds and was immediately blown away by the pageantry. OMG - LOOK - wow, they really do wear
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.|
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!