Saturday, 7 November 2009

Good Will Hunting

I am madly jealous as we have been to somewhere called Riddings (couldn't find it on the map, good old SATNAV!) so Mr O could go hunting with the Burne Bloodhounds. We turned Barnaby out this morning while we mucked out, then got him in to give him a bit of a bath. I got Max in to keep him company, but it didn't make any difference, Barnaby still kicked the door continuously. He didn't want to go in the lorry, either, but suddenly reared up and landed halfway up the ramp, and decided to keep going. We put the ramp up, with the speed of light.
We got there really early, as the google map said it would take 40 minutes in the car, so we always add on a bit of extra time for the lorry. We had actually been travelling less than twenty minutes, and suddenly saw Mike at the roadside, and pulled into what turned out to be a very small carpark.
We got Barnaby tacked up, and eventually Mr O got into the saddle. They had to go up the road and into a field, where the hounds were waiting. It doesn't make any difference to Barnaby, he's shaking already. Nick made the speech and explained the day, which was to be shorter than normal, and all jumps were optional (and they actually know what 'optional' means!)
Then he set off. I was busy taking photos, especially as a steam train trundled past, which upset a few of the horses, as you can imagine. Barnaby was totally unphased. Jackie Worby was there as well. She only lives two minutes away, and knew her horse would go mad, when he saw the hunt go past, so thought she'd be better off joining in. Merlin looked beautiful.
The next thing we knew Nick was on the floor. At first I thought it was Mike, but I dashed straight over to grab the horse, who was very good and just stood there eating. The hounds were totally confused as their dad was just laying there, motionless. Someone sent for the medic. It was confusion all over, as the whipper-in swapped horses, Mike said they would move off and I helped grab the hounds and get them back in the lorry. The field set off then, and Boyd Cross had the horn and decided to take half a dozen hounds with him! It was all a bit mad, but they set off and were fine after that. It was quite good from a followers point of view, although there wasn't much to see, as we couldn't cross the scent line, but there were plenty of people to chat with. Soon they were back from the first run. I don't know who was sweating most, Barnaby or Mr O. There was time for a quick sip of port and then they set off again. I don't know what happened this time, but Mr O was absolutely filthy when they came back, and Barnaby was covered in mud. Mr O said the jumps had been small, and Barnaby had been brilliant. He seemed quite pleased with himself, anyway.

I suppose now is as good a time as any to explain why I didn't take Max...

Last time we went, Barnaby was shaking as soon as we got out of the lorry. Adrenaline is a funny thing. Max was perfectly calm. We'd parked in a field and rode down to the farm together. Max was still calm. Then they released the hounds and that was it, Max's adrenaline kicked in. He is fascinated by them, and knows what it means when they appear. The hounds scatter in all directions, but we go down a field, through a gate and then out onto the ploughed field. We trot merrily down the hill. Max has a fixation about Barnaby, and won't leave him. So imagine my surprise when Max overtakes him and goes streaming down the hill. I am behind Mike, but I've been here before so I'm not too bothered. Then I know what is going to happen next as plain as day. Max whizzes down to the corner of the field and uses the turn to sit back on his hocks and go straight into canter. We overtake Mike in about three strides. I can hear him calling me but I am powerless to stop Max. He is like a train, because he has locked onto the whipper-in's horse in front.
Now, it's true that Max likes to be near the front, and I have learned to cope with this. He doesn't want to be out in front on his own, he hasn't got the nerve, so we are usually just behind the Field Master and jump whatever comes, and this is fine. Towards the end of the last season we did with the Readyfield Bloodhounds, I could feel Max noticing the horses that work the hounds ahead of the field, and thinking, "But I should be up there with them, Mum!" and that's what he was trying to do now. In the end, in desperation, I shouted to the whipper-in and asked her to stop. She was lovely, and did so, as really her job is to work the hounds, not be concerned with the field. I had decided to pull up, get off and take Max back to the lorry. He wasn't listening to me in the slightest. But fortunately as soon as she stopped, he stopped and I got off. I knew he would have a bit of a paddy when the others went past, but I would just have to risk it.
So the horses went past, not all going mad, and I had Max to myself for about eight seconds, and was walking along, when suddenly, out of the corner of my eye, I could see his hooves above my head. He'd reared almost vertically, crashed to the ground and shot off after the other horses. I set off in pursuit.
A woman in a farm on the hill had seen a riderless horse speeding up the field, and as Max approached she stepped out of her gate, stuck her arm out and grabbed him as he went past. She must have spun him, from the speed he was doing, because she didn't let go. It's a wonder he didn't take her arm off, but she said there was a main road ahead, and she was determined to hang on. Needless to say, she has horses of her own. I just want to offer her my heartfelt thanks.
So, painful as it has been, I have made the decision not to take Max again. I have felt absolutely fine about this until today, when the jumps were small, but at the end of the day, it's not the size of the jumps that counts, is it? It's whether Max injures himself, me, or even worse, somebody else, and I just can't risk it, though it pains me to admit it.
So I am the unpaid groom, and actually I did have quite a good time. Anyone who knows me, knows I love bloodhounds, and they were beautiful today. It's just a shame that they were out for such a short time, as they so look forward to doing their job.
And the good news is that Nick was absolutely fine, and came back at the end, thank goodness.
When I got home, Tessa sniffed me non-stop for ten minutes. She knows the scent of a bloodhound when she sniffs it!

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