The grass was just turning green and leaves on the maple trees in the forest were unfurling on a fine spring day in southern Ontario. The Eglinton Caledon Hounds were riding in Mono that morning, twenty or more riders enjoying the sunshine and the beautiful Niagara Escarpment scenery.
I was riding Russian Hand, my new ‘Off the Track’ thoroughbred warrior racehorse. He had raced till the end of his 10th year and was looking for a home the next day. He arrived at my farm for a $75 delivery fee. The only information I was given when he arrived was that he would eat anything; even a roast beef sandwich. I had ridden him hacking, on trails, in the ring, and had taken him hunting a few times. We were getting to know each other a bit better every time we went out. He had behaved beautifully on every occasion. Nothing spooked him and he was very careful to keep his distance from other horses.
On that fine morning we were riding in the second field. I was content to be in the second group, bypassing all the jumps and travelling at a more manageable speed. The hounds and the huntsman were up front when the hounds suddenly hit on the scent of a coyote. Off they went, streaming along as fast as they could go with their voices rising up in the air and the huntsman’s horn sounding as well, urging them on even faster. The first field took off galloping quickly behind the huntsman, crossing a hayfield, galloping down a laneway, and then pulling up on the road at the forest edge. They waited there to see in which direction the hounds would be travelling.
The second field cantered on as well, my horse and I at the tail end of this group. Suddenly, between one stride and the next, we went from a controlled canter to a racing gallop, my horse intent on passing the entire second field. ‘Look out, I’m coming past and I can’t stop’ I yelled. Everyone turned their heads to watch the spectacle of me galloping on past them, just like we were in a race. As we passed the field master I thought ‘Well, I survived that’, thinking my horse would then pull up. But no, we kept galloping towards the first field. I hauled back heavily on the reins, yelling ‘Whoa!’ but he just tucked his head right to his chest and galloped on.
The first field riders were now watching us with interest at the edge of the road, just past the stone entrance gates to the driveway. Russian Hand galloped out of the hayfield and down the driveway as if he was running in the Queen’s Plate. As soon as he crossed the entrance gates he stopped; between one stride and the next. Suddenly the race was over. Unfortunately, I did not stop at the same time as my horse, but sailed through the air like Superman, landing flat on my back at the end of the driveway. I was looking up at the faces of the first field riders, who looked a little surprised to see me suddenly lying on the ground right in front of them.
As I struggled up from the ground, brushing myself off and contemplating how sore I would be tomorrow, I heard someone say ‘Honey, you’ve GOT to get more brakes for that horse!’ I decided that my horse would now be known as Rush, and that I indeed needed far more ‘brakes’ for that horse. I later learned out my thoroughbred was well known as a ‘come from behind’ racehorse, who was in the money 27 out of 30 consecutive starts. That would have been far more important information for me to have, rather than the info about the roast beef sandwiches!
My daughter eventually took over the ride on him and whipped in with him. He remained a well-mannered, fire-breathing dragon of a hunt horse till the end of his days!