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Norm Fine's Blog

NormanMost of us didn’t wake up one morning and say to ourselves, “I think I’ll go foxhunting today.” It just doesn’t happen that way. Some come to the hunting field through long-time family experience. Others are encouraged by a friend. For others—you  romantics—it’s the fulfillment of a dream.

Surely there are other reasons which only you can tell, so here’s your chance. This is the first in a series of upcoming blogs that were suggested by Steve Price, a member of FHL’s Panel of Experts. The series will be rooted in one of the most enchanting sentences in the English language: “Tell me a story.”

I’ll tell you mine. Then you can tell us yours.

I was a young adult taking riding lessons at Elm Brook Farm in Concord, Massachusetts. The owner and chief instructor was Nick Rodday, a Pied Piper sort of fellow that attracted—besides horse crazy children—a following of adults as well to his stable. With his handsome face and beautiful tenor singing voice, he should have been Irish, but he wasn’t.

For any adult that wanted to learn to ride and jump, improve his or her skills, or just have a great time on a horse, Elm Brook Farm was the place to be every Tuesday and Thursday evening. The group lesson started at seven, the school horses were capable, and a late snack at Howard Johnson’s completed the evening’s ritual.

For me, simply riding a horse was the fulfillment of a dream. As a child, I knew no one who rode or owned a horse, yet I was entranced by horses. Before I could write my name I was drawing pictures of horses. Where did it come from? I often wondered. I’m now convinced that it’s genetic. At any rate, the acquisition and improvement of my riding skills were the limits of my horizons at Elm Brook Farm.

During the summer, Nick put on one or two schooling shows in which most of his pupils were encouraged to participate. After I had ridden in a couple of classes at my very first show (on one of the nicer school horses, I should add), a man came up to me and introduced himself.

“I’m the Master of a new hunt, the Nashoba Valley Hunt,” he said.

I had no idea where this might be leading.

“You have a nice seat,” he continued.

Suddenly I was getting suspicious of where this might be leading. I was wrong...fortunately.

“You should come and hunt with us this fall,” he said.

And that’s how it started.

Incidentally and parenthetically, I know many Masters who are constantly looking for ways to increase membership in their hunts. Well, that’s just what this Master was trying to do at the time, and I’m here to guarantee that his method worked!

How did you come to go hunting for the first time? Tell us a story.

Posted June 14, 2011

Comments   

+1 # Cheryl Microutsicos 2011-06-14 13:43
A friend kept telling me to come hunting. I was doing some eventing and would always say, "I have an event to get ready for...must do some trot sets...or I have a jumping lesson." Then she invited me to the hunt club's annual picnic. I said, "What the heck, chat with horse people all night? That's a no-brainer."

There I found out that the hunt club hosted summer trail rides. For only $10 I could ride cleared trails with jumps! I figured it was another no-brainer, so I started going to the trail rides. I remember saying, "I'll never join the hunt but I'd love to go on your trail rides." (HA!)

I really grew to like and respect the other members and realized they were not all the crazed lunatics I had in my mind when I pictured foxhunters. So they invited me to come cubbing and again I said, "What the heck." After that day I was hooked and have barely missed a hunt in the 4 years or so since then.

Oh, and the side benefit? No more trot sets!! Hunting keeps my horses plenty fit for low-level eventing, and eventing keeps them fit and jumping in the "off" season. For me and my horses, it has been a win-win situation and more fun than I ever imagined!
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+3 # Steven Price 2011-06-16 02:10
My debut was the ultimate in baptism under fire: with Ireland’s Scarteen Black and Tan.

It happened nearly 40 years ago. I was half of a two-person equestrian journalist junket to Ireland. Over lunch at his home, MFH Thady Ryan invited us to join him the following day. My companion happily agreed, but I demurred. My jumping skills were limited to egg-rolls and twice-arounds, and I had seen the formidable banks and ditches that separate Tipparary’s fields. “Aw, I’ll give you my best hunting horse,” Thady assured me, “you’ll be safe as houses.” In for a penny… I shrugged, and went along.

A cattle truck-cum-horse van was waiting at the meet. Out came almost a dozen fully tacked horses. I waited while other people claimed their mounts until Thady indicated mine, a substantial Irish draft crossbred mare. “What’s her name?” I inquired. Thady thought for a while, and with a charming twinkle of his eyes replied, “Whatever you choose to call her.”

I found a place in the back of the field of some 50 riders. Nelly (as in “Whoa Nellie!”) proved to be an agreeable mode of transportation. When nothing much happened during the first two hours, I started to feel cocky. This Irish hunting isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

A few minutes later I was biting my tongue and praying to whatever deity that looks after drunks, old folks, and Americans who were in way over their heads. Hounds had found, and I was doing everything I had been told never to do. You’re not supposed to gallop down steep hills – we were galloping down a steep hill. You’re not supposed to gallop on pavement – we were clattering along and skidding on a paved road. Then it was into a field and off to the races.

Everything thereafter happened very quickly. Galloping at speed was the easy part. Scrambling up onto banks and then being launched into space over ditches where, with any luck, there was more Ireland waiting – not so much.

At one point what had to be the largest bank in the world loomed ahead. My life stopped flashing before my eyes long enough to spot another rider veering off. I’ll follow that man to hell and beyond, I decided. So had apparently several other riders, and we headed off to parts unknown. As my good fortune would have it, our leader became lost, which allowed Nelly to slow down and me to breathe again.

We finally rejoined the rest of the field, to the relief of my traveling companion. “We were worried about you,” she said. “I had visions of your being lost forever in the bottom of one of the ditches.”

“Thank you for your concern,” I replied.

“Concern, my foot,” was the reply, “you have the car keys.”
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+1 # Denya Massey 2011-06-25 07:57
Trust Steve to have the wittiest story of all! Denya
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+2 # floridafoxhunter 2011-06-21 15:43
I grew up in a golfing family...and no one knew a thing about horses! However, my father arranged to get me an OTTB as an eight year old to fulfill a promise he'd made me as I always begged for a horse.!..thus began my uneducated (at that time) love of horses.....I rode bareback, barrell raced, and jumped (all on the same horse in those days)....
Later in life, I had gotten into showing in Central Florida.....wit h no hunts (that I knew of) around., yet foxhunting prints were on the walls of my house!
When my husband was elected LT. Gov. of FL, we moved to Tallahassee, in this new life it was hard to go to shows...prepare and be gone an entire weekend. A friend invited me to ride with Live Oak Hounds....a private pack that wasn't well known in the community at that time.
One visit, and I was hooked!. I came home, looked at that photo over my sofa, and exclaimed "I'm authentic!".... .It's been a major part of my life and passion ever sense!
I guess I could, and should, relate some of the many stories...but after 25 years as an active member of LOH, plus visits to 29 other hunts, including England....it's hard to pick just one!

I'll just let it go to say that hunting is a passion....I love the hounds, the "oneness" one feels with their horse out on a
coyote run, the nature, the game, and the wonderful, fun, passionate people you meet out foxhunting. It wil be a part of my life until they "pry those reins out of my cold dead fingers"....to mimic the NRA ads.....
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+1 # Cheryl Microutsicos 2011-06-21 15:50
"pry those reins out of my cold dead fingers"

Hahaha! I'm with you there!
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+1 # Marianne Sobchak 2011-06-22 10:59
My dream to hunt started with of all things Walt Disney. There was a short program on the Disney's TV show back in the 1960's that had the tale of a riding school with Annette Fuccinillo ( I know I spelled her name wrong). At the end of the program was a fox hunting scene in either England or Ireland. I told my father that I was going to one day go fox hunting. My father looked at me and said "That's a sport for rich people". Well a move from New Jersey to Virginia, a riding stable five miles from the house and bribery to get my high school grades up and I got a horse. I was introduced to the sport of fox hunting via a beagle pack (Pohick Valley Hunt) and I was hooked. So this season, with a new horse, I hope to be back in the hunt field again. As for my father - he and my mother (non-horsey parents) were there at my first fox hunt. My father was so proud that I got to ride with "the rich folks". For the record, I am not rich - just a working woman who works at 9 to 5 to pay the horse bills. Good hunting everyone!!!! Marianne Sobchak, Bull Run Hunt
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+1 # Norman Fine 2011-06-23 17:34
I remember Anette F. My younger brother had a big crush on her at the age of 12.
Good story! Congratulations on making your dream come true. I don't know as I could have been so confident in my childhood predictions as you were!
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+1 # Denya Massey 2011-06-25 07:53
How I came to go hunting….

My horse life is divided into two distinct parts. Part One included a passionate horsewoman as a mother and an Olympic 3 Day Event veteran and foxhunter as a father. So the love of horses and riding was both inherited, expected, and obvious. We did everything – Pony Club, shows, hunting, eventing, trail rides, with saddles and without saddles. My mother had been an honourary whipper-in, my father loved foxhunting, and my future step-father was Alexander Mackay-Smith (say no more). But along came my non-horsey husband, a child, and a house, so my last horse was sold, and I stopped riding at age 30.

That would have been the end of the story, had it not been for two seemingly separate events. One – I decided to take my niece on a Rocky Mountain trail ride one year, then decided we had such fun we would do it again…. So I found a local horse, an old foxhunter, to keep fit for his owner while getting me fit for the second trail ride. Two – Norman Fine encouraged me to write some house articles for Covertside, renewing my interest in sport and people to do with foxhunting. The two events merged into buying a horse of my own, after nearly 30 years of not riding, and landing in a wonderful stable that had Taddy Cork, ex-MFH of Toronto & North York Hunt, as my stable mate. One day, in her quiet no-nonsense manner, Taddy suggested I take my horse cubbing… “he’d like it” she said, “you can ride with me and Nick.”

Like it? My horse is a natural, loves foxhunting as much as I do, although he probably thinks I go more for him than for me! Of course, he doesn’t get to go to the parties, tailgates, balls, and hunt breakfasts, but – heck – what he doesn’t know won’t hurt him!
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+1 # Norman Fine 2011-06-25 08:02
I'm happy to have played a small part in returning one of the best horsewomen I know to the hunting field! It's just where she belongs.
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