Two new foxhunters joined our ranks on Opening Day 2013 with the New Market - Middletown Valley Hounds. Henry Nylen, 10, and Brian Childs, four decades his senior, formally opened their hunting careers with this meet. Seeing the day through their eyes brings a fresh perspective to hunting veterans.
Brian has had a lifelong fascination with hunting, culture, and rode a bit as a child. As a Washington insider, he grew to know many foxhunting enthusiasts, but never took the time to ride or to engage in the sport. After following hounds during opening meet a year ago in the back of a pickup truck, he decided to pursue this dream.
He recounts, " At the age of 51, I had no idea what it was going to take to get to my first hunt, but I set a goal and went for it. After a great deal of muscle aches and coaching from my trainer, the day was here for my first hunt." Brian worked diligently on his riding throughout the year. A shopping trip to the Tack Exchange in Middleburg perfected his appearance. His experiences beagling as a child with his father's hounds gave him a fair idea of what to expect. Trainer placed a limit on the stirrup cups prior to the meet, though a small tipple was permitted to soothe the nerves.
Brian continued, "Again it was a perfect day for the opening hunt, but my nerves were on edge so I said a prayer, had a shot of port and mounted Shadow. We had the blessing of the hounds and after that the game was on. I rode second field and took up the last spot in the line up. I felt good in this spot because I was able to watch the more experienced riders and see how they approached the terrain. The sound of the air rushing past my ears and the horns and hounds was everything that I thought it would be and then some. The camaraderie and friendship that I encountered was truly genuine, from the oldest and most experienced riders, to ones like me who were experiencing this for the first time."
Sharing hunting through the eyes of a child is always a treat. Henry is a lively, articulate boy, who this year has mastered his fears, and embraced the thrill of the chase. He shared some of his reflections with me in "magazine words" and when he got really excited, he told me he had to digress into "regular words" to express what he really meant. Most memorable for Henry? "Seeing Olive barking the fox up the tree. It took a while, waiting for the fox to come fox out, but it wouldn't, so after ten or twenty minutes we moved on." His favorite part about the sport? "When you get on a fox and you go fast, you don't just say that fox is too fast. You go as fast as the horse can go and keep chasing that fox. The speed of hunting is the thing I like the best." Perhaps a pony racer in the making?