First of all, I'd like to announce that today is National Do Something Totally Random With Your Best Friend Day! This was a picture of Nicole, erm, dumping me into Niagara Falls. Sweet.
Also, the Eventing-A-Gogo blog has reached a new milestone - our 100th official follower! We're not even a year old yet, and this offical following doesn't count all the people who follow anonymously, or just read on their own. I never had any intention to ever create something like this - I had no idea in the slightest that it would ever take off in the way that it did. People have really responded to this wild ride Gogo and I have been on, and it's been awesome to get to meet and talk to so many interesting people over the course of this past year. I get a lot of e-mails filled with encouragement, stories, and thanks for writing about all the things that we do from day to day. So really, thanks to all of you, because you're all a part of my life now. I have so much fun with this, and I'm glad you're all a part of it, from those of you there with me in the very beginning to those of you just reading now.
And now for something completely different.
Two weeks ago, I headed up to the Great North (Connecticut is pretty much the Deep South of New England, at least longitudinally) to go foxhunting with Daun. However, due to Mother Nature's bipolarity, we had to settle for other fun things instead. I must have been a decent enough houseguest because Daun insisted I come back up again in two weeks for the meet at Tamworth, this time on a guest horse so we all could ride. I had one hell of a whirlwind weekend, and after this first hunting experience, all I can say is I hope Gogo's legs are good enough to give it a go next fall - it was serious fun.
My Friday started out on a happy note - Thursday was my last day of work at this job ever, and it had been my 9th day in a row of working, so I got to sleep in that next day. Let me tell you, not worrying about an alarm is THE BEST FEELING EVER. I woke up feeling refreshed and happy, and spent a large chunk of my day happily packing away. That evening, Shan and I were invited to go over to Judy's house, who is one our fabulous boarders, for a delicious homemade dinner and a haunted hayride. The company was excellent, the spiked cider even better, the hayride totally enjoyable (and freezing), and the ice cream that followed THE BEST. But needless to say, I still had to depart for Daun's that evening, and after Judy insisted I shove even MORE food into my mouth (she gave me a bag of cookies for the road too), I finally headed out at around 10pm. Now, my ETA at this point was midnight. Very late, but I had warned Daun that my arrival was going to be either very early or very late. Not ideal, of course, but I was assured that it was all right, and since Judy has been staving off my starvation and attending almost all my horseshows this year, I certainly was not about to turn down her dinner invitation. Anyway, so I'm on the road. I'm cruising steadily up I-84 when suddenly there are a million brake lights. Oh, for REAL? What is going ON? Apparently some sort of accident had happened, so then we sat. And sat. And sat. FOR TWO HOURS. Finally, after what seemed like a very long eternity, we started to move, and eventually crawled up to the scene of the crash. As it turns out, the crash was on the OTHER side of the highway... and that side of the highway was moving along JUST fine. It was just our side who weren't being shooed away by police that all wanted to stop and gawk at the carnage. WHY.
So now, it's past midnight and I still have at least 2.5 hours to go. I'm utterly exhausted, so I take a break and doze. I don't feel better after this, so another hour down the road I have to take another break and doze. Caffeine isn't helping either. Even though I was in contact with Daun during all this, I'm sure she was probably peeing her pants wondering if I had crashed and died by this point. 3am rolls around and I am STILL not there. By this time, I just couldn't physically drive anymore without slipping into unconsciousness behind the wheel and crashing and dying, so I just gave up and pulled over, snuggled into my coat, and PASSED OUT. I managed to very woozily rouse myself a couple of hours later, continuing on to Daun's farm and arriving a little after 6. As I stumbled out of the car, I was met by a totally incredulous Daun - "You're CRAZY! You have to hang onto a galloping horse today!" - and of course, with a little breakfast in my system, once we were on the road with the horses I was OUT again. We pulled up to Red Horse Farm in Tamworth a little early, and I opened my eyes to a full-fledged New England autumn morning glittering before me with the remnants of frost, our breath steaming as we shivered our way down to the main farm, our bellies filled with hot cider and rum once we got down to the main farmhouse. After dressing (in many, many layers... it was DAMN COLD!), we located Dana, the woman whose huband's horse Media Luna was to be my mount for the day, and I helped finish tacking and hopped up. Media Luna was once upon a time an Argentinian polo pony, and came complete with some seriously ragged hair, an ill-fitting and horribly slippery saddle (one of those generic ones that you get out of a Western catalogue with the label "English saddle"), and a totally sweet disposition. After a brief speech by our fieldmaster, we hacked down the road to the field where we would be releasing the hounds, and I had a chance to socialize a little bit with the other members of the hunt in the first field with us. What a hack - we traversed backcountry roads beneath great overhangs of golden leaves, flirted with the flanks of a crumbling stone wall, blinked and smiled as the dazzling morning sunlight flashed through the swaying leaves overhead. And suddenly, we were in the field, and the hounds were bounding about the feet of the staff horses, leaping straight up into the air to catch cookies tossed to them by Sue. She rallied them about her, calling each by name, and then we made to sort into our fields and move on.
Now at this point I had a moment of, wait a second now. You're on a horse you know nothing about and have never even seen before, are about to participate in a sport you've never done before, and are going in the first field - i.e. keep up with the hounds at whatever speed they're going, no matter what the terrain. Am I nuts? Well, yes, by mere mortal standards I guess I am; then again, I've done things like this before. For instance, when I drove across the country for three weeks with a friend in 2006, he insisted we go white water rafting on the Arkensas river in Colorado. Sure, why not, I thought. I don't like to get wet but we'll be fine in the raft, it's just like the Lazy River at Cedar Point right? Wait a minute... these are Category 5 rapids? As in, kill you rapids? Well.... okay, sure, why not! And we neither died nor captized the raft, so I am here to tell the tale today. Such was the case with Media Luna... I neither died nor fell off. Quite the contrary - I had some SERIOUS fun. Off we loped, the sparkling green of the fields a sharp contrast against the red and gold on the mountain overhead. We swung round the edges of the fields, trotted single-file through the woods, and followed the occasional direction from a voice behind us ("ware hound left!" as one of the hounds would come bounding up behind us). It felt like a step back in time, watching the huntsmen ahead of us working, and whenever we stopped (and hit the flask, which Daun and I merrily polished off), we were treated incredible views of what every perfect northern New England fall morning should look like. It was gorgeous. At the stirrup cup, we watched the hounds play in the water (and some of the horses too), chatted merrily with old and new friends, and looked out over the pond at the great view of the mountain behind us. And then, it was off again, re-negotiating some risky terrain (which, on the way to the stirrup cup, was the only thing Media Luna had a problem with - a very scary, yawning ditch, and I had to give her some big pony kicks to get her ungracefully over) and doubling back once in the woods when we lost the path. Media Luna was a charm - she trotted when the horse in front of me trotted, cantered when the horse in front of me cantered, and stopped on a dime when the horse in front of me did the same. The second half of the journey, I managed to squeeze my way back behind Brego (got stuck behind some morons capping in from Myopia.. they talked the WHOLE TIME and had a pony that wouldn't stop jigging and rearing), and we crossed some increasingly rough terrain, including a very rocky river and some shoe-sucking mud. When the hounds finally gave cry near the end of the hunt (only the second time they had done this during the whole hunt, lol), we had just unbogged ourselves from a particularly thick section of muddy trail. The staff, hounds, Daun, her SO, and myself were OFF! Unbeknownst to us at the time, however, the horse and rider behind me were mired in mud up to the horse's hocks, and the rest of the fields all piled up behind them. But the chase WE had was WILD! Ducking under treebranches at speed, negotiating all sort of wild terrain, exploding out from the forest, tearing up a grassy hill into the big field, and watching Brego boink around in front of me for a few moments, clearly enjoying the thrill of the chase. (He was on his best behavior for this hunt - only one little dolphin-buck going up the hill, and a brief moment when the war-horse in him prompted him to bounce forward on his hind legs when the staff took off in front of him. That's drive baby!) The hunt ended on his note, once we had rounded up all the muddy stragglers. It happens!
It was OUTSTANDING. I really, really hope Gogo's legs heal well enough to consider maybe going out in the second field next fall. Given the kind of terrain we negotiated, I doubt I'd want her to go in the first field unless it was at an exceptional venue, but still. If you're a good jock with some guts and you ever have the chance to give it a try, DO IT. You'll love it just like I did.
Awesome. Just... awesome. AND I got to see my baby sister that night for the first time in almost a year (baby = 21). Couldn't have been a better weekend.
Zac's 3 week update
18 hours ago