Hounds were working a fox in the reedy cover beside the lakefront, and we watched them work from the raised bank. When they broke cover and we headed back toward the meet, Andrew trotted over this innocuous fence. I followed suit, also at a trot to get my horse’s haunches underneath me, but to no avail. All this horse understood was launching himself from two strides out, and my impression of a Victorian foxhunter showed up again. I was in my defensive back seat position, but in the middle of the jump, Gonzalo twisted and popped me out of the tack. By some miracle, I landed in the irons on the other side. The tears came once more, and I headed straight for Darren to tell him I was going in.
He hopped off his horse, Colorado, and grabbed Gonzalo. “Get on my horse,” he said.
I was about to protest but he glared at me. This horse was an ex-show jumper, originally bred for dressage, who got sour in the ring and was relegated to the hunt field. He reared for the first six hunts he did, spooked so bad walking home that Andrew’s wife, Corri, fell off and fractured her spine. He could only be ridden as a staff horse. But for some reason, I felt completely comfortable on him. Darren reminded me not to “bother” him and just hold him to the fences. I did as I was told, and we caught up to the hunt, two fields away and three jumps later. I was as high as a kite. This horse could JUMP, and all my fears disappeared.
Hunting With A Smile
At the second-to-last hunt I got my big wish on this trip: to ride a horse called Remmington. I’d hunted him on a previous trip and fell completely in love. He reminded me of my Irish horse back home that would jump anything, do anything and was an over-sized puppy dog. He was a horse that anyone could ride (and did), and he was getting up in years so he had a lot of miles on him. However, I suspect after all the “issues” I’d had on the previous horses, Andrew decided I needed a break. I was embarrassed that I wasn’t a stronger or braver rider, but that passed as the sheer joy of being on a familiar friend had me grinning like a crazy person the minute my butt hit the saddle.
It was an awesome day, and we jumped some of the biggest fences of the whole trip. I felt very lucky to be on Remmy and probably bruised his neck with all the pats. The hounds worked really well that day, and we ran long and hard. We finally got back to the trailers at 2 p.m., and the last fox of the day ran in a tidy fashion straight back to the meet site and met his demise by a huge stone wall. To top it all off, when we picked Henry up from Kylie’s this time, he thanked us for bringing him to “the lady’s house” to play. I was over the moon.
The last day of hunting was a brilliant day, and I was so comfortable with Danny now that I truly whipped-in and felt helpful. Danny thrived on a job, and we scooted about here and there, sometimes with other whips, pushing hounds back or bringing them on and essentially HUNTING. We even jumped a road double of fences and to top it off, had all the hounds on hacking home, with me in the front and not a smidgen of jigging from Danny.
The journey home was long and arduous. At one point during the longest leg of the flight, I was sure Darren and I were going to throttle each other. Henry was wide open the whole time and could only be placated by a constant stream of movies, activities and our undivided attention. Both of us just wanted to vegetate.
We were all slightly depressed about leaving. It’s home for Darren, but for me, Australia has become a place I know I want to be for various reasons. The sense of family and support was something I’d never known. It’s powerful, and I think it’s important for Henry’s upbringing. The hunting and horse life is also something I find attractive, and every time I’ve hunted there, I feel like I’ve improved as a rider and as a person. It toughens you up and teaches you things about not being afraid. My fears can get the best of me and cause me to over-think everything, ignoring my ability to sense and feel and trust. I want more of that, and I want to apply it to my job as a mother, spouse and friend.
I had two goals prior to this trip. One was potty training Henry and the other was to do the hunters with my new, young horse. I’ve been afraid of both of those things because it’s uncharted territory for me. Now I know I don’t have to be perfect at it. I just have to try and allow things to take their natural line. I feel braver now, and though I may still fear certain tasks, the upside is that I know I can change that fear into an accomplishment if I just stick to it, get in the backseat when it gets shaky and trust myself.