Deadline for April issue is March 25
Oak Grove Hunt Club Youth Hunt
The Youth Huntsman
By: Evelyn McGee
It all started the week before [the Youth Hunt] when I was hunting with my mom. She told me that I needed to practice blowing the [hunt] horn. I asked her why and she told me that the youth hunt was going to be held the following Saturday and I was going to be the huntsman. Surprised! I began practicing and sure enough, when Saturday came, I had mastered that part of my role.
I picked out the hounds I wanted to hunt and told the staff where I planned to cast the hounds. I decided that I would take one of our hounds that tended to break, Hero, and walked him by long lead from horseback. Two other hounds I walked by lead, as well, and one followed. I was almost to the place where I wanted to cast when Hero tangled me up and I had to let go of the leash or else I would have pulled a muscle and my horse would trip. The hound that was off-leash, Xanadu, thinking that I had given the okay to hunt, ran off with Hero who was dragging his leash behind.
Being a person who does not like to mess up, I began to cry and attempted to blow the horn to call the two delinquent hounds back to me. Through my tears, I told my staff where I wanted them to go so they could comb the woods for the wayward hounds. I soon stopped crying since I couldn't blow the horn through tears. To add to the commotion, I was also riding my mother's hunt horse, Finn, who I had never really ridden before.
After periodically checking the GPS trackers for an hour and continuously blowing the horn, Xanadu returned. Hero instead, was heading towards Hwy 7 and needed to be picked up by our fabulous road whip, Ms. Joyce McKibben. Since Hero had no intention of returning, I decided to cast the other three hounds. The hounds responded well and began hunting after their release.
I began to slowly follow them, but soon found that I had ended up on the vertical slope side of my pond (we were hunting on my family’s property). I think that side of the pond is very similar to that scene from Man from Snowy River. Thank goodness that our horses are Haflingers that originated in the Alps because it was steep! My mom likes to use Finn as a bulldozer in heavy underbrush, and thinking that he should, Finn began to bulldoze his way back up the vertical side to the flat ground. My mom had already gone down the hill and I wasn't very far behind her. But when Finn began bulldozing straight up, he turned around quickly, sending me off the saddle. I did not fall off and was able to hold on with one hand to the reins and keep one foot in the stirrups, which could be envisioned as an 85-lb human flag hanging from a giant horse. While humorous in hind sight, this was horrifying at the time and I began to cry again thinking that I was going to fall to my death. My mom encouraged me and told me to walk Finn the rest of the way up hill by foot, which was only about 15 feet from the flat bottom. After the commotion was over, I was able to gather myself and hunt properly for the rest of the time. By this time the hounds had gotten far enough away that the only one who could catch up to them was Ms. Joyce.
We came back to our house and untacked our horses, finding a delicious “hunt breakfast” provided by Ms. Susan Wilson waiting for us. Looking back, I am very thankful for that opportunity to improve myself as a rider, and I am also thankful for everyone for putting up with my inexperience and tears.
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