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June 14Autumn Clarke photoI did everything in my power to find a job close to home this summer. After 12 weeks away from home and hounds last summer while working at a large sale barn in Virginia, I was thinking I would be best off staying home to try to make a little more money, and as an added bonus, I would get to spend a bit more time at the kennels like I’m used to doing during the summer. I asked everyone I could think of, horse-related and not horse-related. I sent my resume to multiple locations, made countless phone calls, attended a couple of, what I thought to be good, interviews, and sent an obscene number of emails that I can’t even begin to estimate. And I kid you not, I received either a rejection or no answer at all from every. Single. Person. However, life threw a curveball, as it tends to do, and I was ultimately offered an opportunity I simply could not turn down to work under a top rider and trainer in Virginia once again. So as I sit typing this, I’m spending my first night in my new home for this summer, and am preparing to hit the ground running in the morning.

The weeks leading up to my departure, I went through the same routine I did last summer. I went for one last ride and lunch date with my good friend Quinn. At the end, we threw our arms around each other and she begged me not to go, but I explained, once again, that I would feel dumb if I passed this opportunity up. I most likely won’t be able to do this after I graduate, so now is the time to travel and try things like this. Of course Quinn understood.

I went for one last hack in the fields with my friend Alyssa. She complained that I was abandoning her for yet another summer, but I also explained to her that I would kick myself if I let this opportunity go so easily. Of course Alyssa understood.

I wrapped up one last week of barn care. Mr. Wayne teased me that he will, in fact, miss me for more than just my stall cleaning abilities, but I explained that if I didn’t take advantage of this opportunity, I would spend the entire summer wondering, “What if…?” Of course Mr. Wayne understood.

Finally, the day before I left, I went up to the kennels to make sure I still knew all the hounds. The end of the school year and various housesitting jobs had prevented me from seeing hounds for two months since closing hunt, and it’s become customary for me to make a trip to the kennels right before and right after a big move to ensure I’m on top of who’s who in the kennel.

I watched the sunrise as I made the drive that I know so well after completing it so frequently over the past years. I felt the sun’s rays beat on my back as we followed the romping hounds through Child’s field. The hounds dashed and dove through the waist-high canola fields, glowing in the morning light. I held fistfuls of hound cookies before throwing them as far and wide as I could when Shakerag’s huntsman, John Eaton, stopped to let everyone relax in the hay fields by Shakerag’s clubhouse. I took careful note of the new hounds, reviewed the hounds who’ll be entered in the fall, and learned the names of this year’s puppies (those who’ll be entered in 2015).

This is my routine every time I make a big move of sorts that I know will prevent me from making it to the kennels for an extended amount of time. I did this right before I left for my freshman year of college, and have continued to do so every year, going as much as I can right up until move in day. Last year I made the trip to the kennels just a few days before moving to Virginia for the summer. This year I did it 24 hours before moving back to Virginia to work at another training stable. And no word of a lie, every time I do this, without fail, I drive away rethinking my decisions to leave.  

As I said before, I’m currently sitting in Virginia, so obviously I didn’t change my plans. But I’d be lying if I said that leaving the kennels knowing I won’t be back for ten weeks is easy. So, unfortunately, I most likely won’t be spending much time around the kennels this summer, but I simply could not find a good reason to turn this down (not that hounds aren’t a good reason, but then there’s the whole “what if” question again). So I’m off for 10 weeks to work and learn as much as I possibly can. Until I return, I have an updated hound list and a couple photos of the newer hounds, which I’ll be reviewing regularly to stay on top of things. And with every coop I pass in a fence line, and each fleeting view of a red fox dashing across the countryside, I’ll be thinking of the Shakerag Hounds and everyone associated with them.

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