When the season opened in mid-September, there was a long time of “rather normal” as the weather was good, the hounds were on more than not --and everything (for me) was going well with now two wonderful sound hunt horses --with two hunters under saddle I was able to meet the occasional guest for double the enjoyment.
The weather turned cold, and then colder. As COVID prevents our club from opening or using the newly remodeled club house at all, after the hunts, or providing meals, members were putting out lawn chairs and balancing coolers and self-made meals on knees and tail gates for a social time after --as the weather became frozen, this was moved from under the ancient oaks at the club, into the hunt stable --dirt floors, 10’ aisles, 30 horses in stalls, riders trying to find spots socially distanced where Dobbin couldn’t share the salad on the lap over the door.
Since December, I’ve hunted 1/2 the hunts --made my 3 hour round trip to partake. I will not attend this week, nor did I last. My difficulty is the cold after the hunt. I’m an old, skinny bird. No matter how I dress, I am shivering in the dark barn. I find it difficult to carry lawn chair, food, and self into the stable (a bit of a walk), balance cold food/drink (due to my drive, hot does not stay hot), and maintain any kind of conversation --to chat, one needs to pull closer (hard to do with a lawn chair and social distancing) or squat in the dirt beside a friend (not on these old gams), or speak so loudly that others are interrupted. As my tolerance for the cold is limited, I only say hello to a few before I am too numb to continue.
At that point, I have to load my horse and drive 1. 5 hours home, in the gloom. Once home, I have feeding to attend, unhook my trailer, then stagger exhausted to the house --a hunting day for me is 5:30 AM - 5:30 PM. Well worth the effort on a brisk fall day or a glorious spring --not so much munching salad in 20 degrees in a dusty barn saying, “What?” every few minutes.
And again, this is more for me who comes from afar --the local hunt folks are doing better, I think --For me personally, with deer season over, my neighbors allow me to ride in their 3000 acres of woods and fields as much as I want —until they plant in the spring. If it is a beautiful day to ride, I can take myself and my horses (usually ride one pony one) and have a forever ride on the other side of our shared gate. No hounds, but no drive and a warm house in proximity!
I suspect I will become a “sometimes” hunter until we are back in the club house --after 56 years of regular hunting, this is a hard decision --but it is feeling more correct for me.
One bright note in my life is soon ahead --a two-day mule ride down the Grand Canyon with another fox hunter at the end of January —on the bucket list for years!