When I brought Pangea into my life, I didn't have a lot of expectations for her, given her shaky state of soundness at the time. I was hoping to do trail riding, breed her at some point, and hopefully do a little bit of light dressage work and possibly some foxhunting as well - but that was almost a pipe dream at the time. With a lot of hard work (along with lots and lots of supplements and joint therapy), she has come an eternally long way from where she once was soundness wise. She still sometimes has her on and off days, but her arthritis is well under control. She has done so well that last Saturday, one of my few goals for her became a reality - she is now an official newly minted hunt horse!
In terms of foxhunting in our area, there isn't an awful lot here. Foxes aren't exactly plentiful in this area, so instead we hunt coyote. We are lucky to have a fair amount of private land here to hunt on, which is great for the game we hunt - foxes tend to run in lots of little circles, and coyotes run in straight lines for very long distances. The hunt I went out with doesn't lay a drag, but follows preexisting scent trails (of which there are many!). As with nearly all modern hunts, they hunt only for sport and not for the kill, but I don't know of many other hunts that don't lay a drag. Cubbing has just begun in this area, which is also unusual to me, seeing as I am used to New England hunts that are already winding down for the season! This hunt is also extremely small - we only had 9 hounds and a handful of members out - so they do things a little differently, quite unlike anything I've ever seen. They operate in sort of a wheel formation, with the huntsman and hounds in the middle (along with a few staff members), and the rest of the members and staff out at great distance in a revolving circle around hounds. They often end up in completely different fields or on different paths, but their main job is to direct the errant hound back to the huntsman, and swing back and forth around if need be. It is quite unlike any other operation I have ever seen, but works for them. They are so small that all members take up an unofficial staff roll in most cases, and can speak to and direct the hounds if need be.
I was up very bright and early last Saturday morning in order to get ready. The pool has been down at work due to a hose rupture, so P did not get her customary Friday swim, and instead I spent the evening tidying up all her wild hair (she was starting to resemble the Bearded Lady), cleaning tack, and organizing all my clothes. It was a bit sad going through all of my old show stuff, seeing as the last time any of it was worn was during the 2009 AECs when Gogo blew her legs out... I still had my Gold Medal pin on my jacket and everything. That picture was used for a LONG time on the USEA's website for the Medal program! As always, Gogo was the quintessential poster child for all things awesome.) I scraped together an acceptable outfit (note to self: need new britches desperately), and polished my boots. Come 5am, we were up and ready to roll! She was not amused with her early morning bath, but she certainly makes plaid look good!:
The Renegades failed me horribly in the week preceding the hunt - we were doing some conditioning work, and I took her through some water at a walk before continuing on. The boots, which had been staying so perfectly through some tough workouts, suddenly were turning every which way over and over again once we picked up the pace following the water. I could NOT get them to stay on straight when they were wet! Unfortunately for me, the Renegades are better suited for horses with already decent feet, and P's warped tootsies are not optimally shaped for proper fitting. With that in mind, I went ahead and casted her:
You can see in that picture how thin her soles are at the toe, and how her lateral heel bulb is larger and corresponds to the asymmetry showing up as right flare. All four of her feet have some sort of rightwards facing flare and asymmetry to them, as does her entire body. Everything about her sways in a right hand curve. Try as I might, I don't know how to counter a horse that stands camped under all the time - her sole at the toe will not grow thicker than this given the fact that her corium is constantly being crushed from the way she stands. I've discussed this before, and given the fact that I have pictures of her taken nearly a decade ago that show her standing camped under, I think she is unfortunately built that way (or possibly permanently molded that way) for life. Her hinds have perfectly acceptable thickness and shape (via radiographs)... but not her fronts. It is very hard to change a being that has been crooked and warped for probably the better part of her entire life. I have some more ideas in store for her that I think will help, but we're not quite there yet.
The hunt itself was fantastic. Everyone was super friendly and helpful, and I tagged along with the master and another longtime member who showed me the ropes. P was almost on her best behavior, save for a few minor issues where she was impatient to follow the other horses the moment they moved off. She also had one huge issue when the hounds picked up a trail in a big open field and we all moved off after them - she thought this would be an opportune time to turn into a freight train, gape her mouth, and totally ignore me. When I gave her a stern half halt, she did her most calculate buck-move, perfectly designed to pitch riders over her right shoulder (and I'm sure was her old owner's downfall!). At speed, she suddenly roots downwards on the bit, pulling the rider forward out of the tack, and simultaneously hits the brakes and props on her front end as hard as she can. She also turns sharply to the left when doing this. She does it exactly the same way every time she gets cranky about being told off for being too fresh, and I'm sure it was well-rehearsed long before I ever came upon the scene. It has never gotten me off, but it almost has a few times... it's a very good rider-slinger! (In her sale contract, there is even a clause about her being a "known bucker"... yep, I have that horse.) A quick boot in the ribs and she was off again, the moment forgotten in a cloud of dust. Thankfully, nobody else saw it... how embarrassing!
The weather was hot and beautiful, the sun was shining, the hounds were tired and hot but totally game, and the company was very enjoyable. We didn't do anything too outrageous for an old mare, and I think that it is perfectly reasonable to think that she'll be capable of this throughout the season.
And I only managed to get one picture during the entire ride... oh well!:
She has had most of this week off, but will get back to it tomorrow. Onward and upward!