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Autumn march 2013Wow. The last couple months have been absolutely nuts. Due to 4 weeks of showing for the school equestrian team and an upper respiratory and sinus infection that knocked me out of school for 3 days, I actually had to go an entire 5 weeks and 3 days without even seeing the hunt field (not that I was counting). Consider this a warning to all: don’t try it. It’s not fun.

Every morning, I would wake up and the first thing I’d see as I climbed out of bed is my collage of hunting photos on my wall, which led me to wonder if they’re actually making being away from the hunt field better or just throwing salt in the wound…I opted for the first option, so I’d just add yet another photo to the collection, throw a quick mental fit about the withdrawal, and get ready for school.

The team kept me plenty busy as we wrapped up the regular season of competition and moved on to post-season showing, starting with a win at our region finals, but a step up in practice with more lessons, tougher coaching, and more no-stirrups work meant fewer trail rides. It was like Coach was in on “Operation-Remove-Autumn-From-Hunt-Field,” but I just reminded myself that I only had to survive a few more weeks (UGH), dropped my stirrups, and trotted on.

Spring break could NOT have come at a more opportune time. I kept my focus on school and the team all the way until the end, only once making a group trip to Panera for a mass stress relief meal. With the region finals falling at the end of midterm week, I vowed to not let even a fleeting image of horse or hound pass through my mind. I was completely focused on school and the team, and nothing else.

Okay, I might have talked about fox hunting for a little bit in British Literature class, but that’s because they mention it in “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight,” and my professor confessed to not knowing a lot of details on the sport. That’s not my fault at all.

And I may have composed a very poorly written sonnet for extra credit about fox hunting. And I sort of wrote a speech about the history of hunting with hounds for my public address class.

Dang it. I never knew that 5 weeks could feel like a lifetime.

Needless to say, when the region finals wrapped up and we were set free for spring break, I could hardly wait to get to the hunt field, but just the pure release of school was enough relief to hold me over for a couple days before Shakerag Hounds hunted again. I ended up road whipping twice during the week since timing with Mr. Wayne’s schedule simply didn’t work out, but I really didn’t care. Personally, I enjoy the alternate perspective of the sport road-whipping allows me see. I’ll often times get to see things I wouldn’t normally get to view in the field, and I never leave a meet without learning a ton whenever I road whip. Besides, at the end of the day, fox hunting in any way, shape, or form is better than continuing that 5 week and 3 day torture.

I’m pretty sure my parents cry inside knowing that I have more focus for hunting than I do for school, and the fact that I take better mental notes of things I see and hear in the field than I do on paper in my lectures doesn’t help. If anyone can explain why it is that I can rattle off the names of a bunch of hounds, get pretty darn close to knowing the majority, and remember hounds from previous years but I struggled to remember the basics of reading Middle English for my Literature exam, please be my guest. My excuse is that the hunting is just one thousand times more interesting than Middle English (because it is), but that answer doesn’t seem to fly with the non-hunting folk.

So now I’m back at school, half unpacked, and procrastinating on the homework I have to finish (unless my parents see this, in which case, I definitely finished all my homework and got ahead on my schoolwork for the week before writing this). A number of my friends are wishing they could return to [insert warm, tropical vacation here] while I’m just wishing I could get back to the hunt field, but I’m anxiously looking forward to hunting again next weekend. Of course, Shakerag’s Hunt Week falls the week right after Berry College’s spring break, which I’m convinced Berry did on purpose, just to tease me, but oh well.

It’s funny. I have yet to meet up with my friends and get updates on everyone’s travels, but I already know a bunch of them will be talking about this beach or that cruise. Not that I’m opposed to the beach at all, but I’m pretty sure the only time I’ve ever gone anywhere for spring break was my senior year in high school. My dad and I stayed at a bed and breakfast in Virginia to meet my distant but fellow fox hunting cousin. Until that year, I had no idea that she even existed! So while my friends had been soaking up the sun their senior year, I retreated to a drizzly, 40 degree Virginia countryside for a week of riding and point-to-point races, and I could not have been happier. Oh, and did I mention the bed and breakfast we were at was literally a mile down the road from Melvin Poe’s farm? Yeah, I might have screamed when we drove past it the first time. A lot. My dad thought something was wrong. But seeing as how it’s 5:20 pm now and I have a mountain of homework to finish before morning, I’ll save that story for another day!

My spring breaks in recent years have always been a sort of short burst of celebratory hunting before the close of the season. Very, very few of my friends seem to understand why I’d rather be away from my house from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. in order to follow a group of hounds and return exhausted and with my lovely minivan coated in mud and red dirt inside and out (I just spent $5 in change at the gas station vacuum…it sort of got the dirt out!), but I honestly can’t imagine spending it anywhere else. Riding along with Master Washburn, bumping and bouncing along in the old red truck as we climbed “roads” that seemed much more suitable for an ATV than a truck, hearing the chilling echo of Shakerag’s professional whipper-in, Kelly Eaton, holler to put hounds on a line, seeing the hounds anxiously poke their noses out of the trailer sides on the way into the meet site…that’s just it.

You don’t forget these things; they stick with you. I love the beach, don’t get me wrong, but I rather enjoy my version of spring break. After my 5 week and 3 day separation from the hunt field, it was just what I needed. I’m still on such a high from finally getting out there once again, the end of the season drawing near can’t even get me down, because now the worst is behind me. I won’t have to go another 5 weeks and 3 days without hounds for a long time now, and I can’t wait to keep seeing, learning and experiencing this sport in full force.

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