On a sleeting windy November morning the cast and crew of St. James Pony Club saddled up in ratcatcher attire at Richardson Farms in Wayne, Illinois to learn how to fox hunt. Atop their steeds 17 Pony Clubbers enthusiastically gathered at the stone wall fence near the windmill pasture waiting to learn about the sport of foxhunting -- new to most of them. Art Richardson, having grown up foxhunting from a young age, shared his knowledge with the young riders; how to be safe, the terminology, what to look for when riding on various terrain and on how to be courteous to both horse and fellow riders.
A visible scent was laid on the ground so the hounds (riders with stuffed foxhounds attached to their arms) could follow where clever ‘Fox’ had made his mark. Based on the new foxhunter’s varying ages and riding experience the day began walking, trotting, and cantering successfully as a group through Warf Hollow, Piney Woods and Granny Trace. Only a foxhunter knows that the first line is possibly the most confidence-wracking. However, upon completion, jitters are released to the clouds and breathing freely begins both by horse and rider. As the young riders became more comfortable with the rhythm of the morning, the horses settled to their new found cadence. Temperature permitted steam to rise off the sweaty rumps of the horses and soft chatter began to be heard among the riders. Nervousness was unleashed and personal permission of fun ensued.
The Pony Clubbers enjoyed a great morning of sport and completed it by providing expert grooming to their horses, wiping their tack and of course enjoying their hostess Judy Richardson’s Hunt Breakfast. Sparkling cider was poured for a toast to the successful morning, hot chocolate, soufflés, and homemade pastries were consumed while the up and coming foxhunters passed on newly acquired hunt stories of their own! Tally HO!
The day was reminiscent of my first hunt, where, at the age of nine, I rode with my dad, my brother, and caring folks of all ages atop my Morgan gelding Stormy. Stormy taught many children the Pony Club Way and how to race and chase in the hunt field! Through early morning hunts on brightly colored autumn days into inclement winter weather we would ride -- rain or shine, through snow and even more snow spending time certainly learning the art of foxhunting but also about ourselves, horses, people and nature.
Those days are dear to me, the folks that rode along side us, the dark early mornings colored only by the flickering lights of trailers as horses were unloaded and the sweet sound of the hounds’ voices as we readied ourselves for another brilliant day of hunting. If you have not experienced an opportunity to make a positive memory for another person lately I encourage you to share. Pass on a little part of history that will live long in the heart of a child or even an adult who may never have enjoyed the same thrill or excitement. Joy extends itself both to the receiver and the giver!