See You At Second Horses by Barclay Rives

See You at Second Horses By Barclay Rives

This story first appeared on the Foxhunting Life website Oct. 2014.

This hunt report—a short but informative excerpt from Chapter 3 of Barclay Rive’s new book, See You at Second Horses—harks back fifteen years to when Barclay accompanied Rosie and Grosvenor Merle-Smith to England. The book recounts their hunting adventures during that trip and is available from Horse Country Saddlery, Warrenton, Virginia.

At the time, Grosvenor was Master and huntsman of the Bull Run Hunt (VA), and Barclay whipped-in to him. Barclay also whipped-in to the Keswick Hunt (VA)—sometimes to both hunts on the same day when Keswick met in the morning and Bull Run in the afternoon!

barclay rives.fernie meet.rosie merle-smithThe author on Bruno at the Fernie meet at Billesdon / Rosie Merle-Smith photo

Julie and Colin brought our horses down the ramp out of the box. We had our first experience of what became a familiar routine: stepping up the ramp and using it as a mounting block for the horse led up beside it. I usually had to shorten my stirrups. Colin had to hold on to the horse’s head until I was done, because they were ready to go as soon as they felt weight in the saddle. Julie gave me instructions as I mounted a big bay.

“This is Bruno. He prefers a longer rein to a shorter one. He hunts with the Fernie every Saturday, so he knows his job.” This was her diplomatic way of telling me to stay off of the horse’s mouth and let him take care of me. I thought Bruno looked like he should be pulling a cart, but I was ignorant. He was a brilliant field hunter. An excellent teacher, Bruno was what American horse dealers call a packer, meaning he could pack me around as if I were a sack of grain. He was calm at checks, but ready to run and jump when the need arose. Sporting author Michael Clayton in Endangered Species reports that English foxhunters say the ideal hunting horse should have “the head of a duchess and the arse of a cook.” Bruno had plenty of muscle behind, and while his head was hardly elegant, he possessed beautiful brains.

Grosvenor, Rosie and I headed down the road where hounds had gone. Julie called to us, “See you at Second Horses.”

When English hunts had two-horse days, the fixture card gave the location of the meet and the location of Second Horses, where riders exchanged their tired mounts for fresh ones. This took place after a few hours. Having a specified Second Horses location became common practice after the Second World War, when horse boxes became ubiquitous. Previously, Second Horsemen would ride together along roads and lanes, trying to stay close to the hunt, but also trying to spare the horses so they would be fresh whenever and wherever the exchange took place. Evidently, if a fox took everyone directly away from Second Horses, the location could be changed. This did not happen any of the days I hunted. I asked if anyone ever skipped the meet and first part of the day and started at Second Horses. My question prompted an icy response, “It isn’t correct.”

We moved on to a famous Fernie covert named Shangton Holt and waited in a field beside a stand of old trees. A ruddy-faced man told me that if hounds went a certain way, we would all be able to spread out and take our own line.

He got his wish. We heard hounds go away, and we went galloping after them. At the first rail fence, riders spread out and jumped ten or twelve abreast. I followed the Field Master and his green armband. Everyone spread out as we galloped on. We took the next fence in wide array. The next obstacle was a wide hedge, with occasional gaps fortified with boards. I had never ridden so furiously in such a large group. A lady swerved in front of me at the next board fence, but I was able to steer clear of her. She called, “Sorry,” as we landed. I assured her, “All right,” as I galloped past.

We checked as hounds missed along a hedge at the edge of a paved road. The Field Master called to some people who were drifting past him toward where hounds were working. “Steady on the left.” The word “steady” is stern warning from an English Field Master, and I always saw it heeded. I did not hear the command, “Hold hard,” nearly as often as I do in America. As we checked, I looked around for my companions. Julie Hyslop placed distinctive blue saddle pads with a red JH on her horses. This helped identify them if they lost their riders, but it also helped me spot my friends in a crowded field. Grosvenor and Rosie were nearby, and looked exhilarated by our spin.

See You At Second Horses by Barclay Rives

See You at Second Horses By Barclay Rives

This story first appeared on the Foxhunting Life website Oct. 2014.

This hunt report—a short but informative excerpt from Chapter 3 of Barclay Rive’s new book, See You at Second Horses—harks back fifteen years to when Barclay accompanied Rosie and Grosvenor Merle-Smith to England. The book recounts their hunting adventures during that trip and is available from Horse Country Saddlery, Warrenton, Virginia.

At the time, Grosvenor was Master and huntsman of the Bull Run Hunt (VA), and Barclay whipped-in to him. Barclay also whipped-in to the Keswick Hunt (VA)—sometimes to both hunts on the same day when Keswick met in the morning and Bull Run in the afternoon!

barclay rives.fernie meet.rosie merle-smithThe author on Bruno at the Fernie meet at Billesdon / Rosie Merle-Smith photo

Julie and Colin brought our horses down the ramp out of the box. We had our first experience of what became a familiar routine: stepping up the ramp and using it as a mounting block for the horse led up beside it. I usually had to shorten my stirrups. Colin had to hold on to the horse’s head until I was done, because they were ready to go as soon as they felt weight in the saddle. Julie gave me instructions as I mounted a big bay.

“This is Bruno. He prefers a longer rein to a shorter one. He hunts with the Fernie every Saturday, so he knows his job.” This was her diplomatic way of telling me to stay off of the horse’s mouth and let him take care of me. I thought Bruno looked like he should be pulling a cart, but I was ignorant. He was a brilliant field hunter. An excellent teacher, Bruno was what American horse dealers call a packer, meaning he could pack me around as if I were a sack of grain. He was calm at checks, but ready to run and jump when the need arose. Sporting author Michael Clayton in Endangered Species reports that English foxhunters say the ideal hunting horse should have “the head of a duchess and the arse of a cook.” Bruno had plenty of muscle behind, and while his head was hardly elegant, he possessed beautiful brains.

Grosvenor, Rosie and I headed down the road where hounds had gone. Julie called to us, “See you at Second Horses.”

When English hunts had two-horse days, the fixture card gave the location of the meet and the location of Second Horses, where riders exchanged their tired mounts for fresh ones. This took place after a few hours. Having a specified Second Horses location became common practice after the Second World War, when horse boxes became ubiquitous. Previously, Second Horsemen would ride together along roads and lanes, trying to stay close to the hunt, but also trying to spare the horses so they would be fresh whenever and wherever the exchange took place. Evidently, if a fox took everyone directly away from Second Horses, the location could be changed. This did not happen any of the days I hunted. I asked if anyone ever skipped the meet and first part of the day and started at Second Horses. My question prompted an icy response, “It isn’t correct.”

We moved on to a famous Fernie covert named Shangton Holt and waited in a field beside a stand of old trees. A ruddy-faced man told me that if hounds went a certain way, we would all be able to spread out and take our own line.

He got his wish. We heard hounds go away, and we went galloping after them. At the first rail fence, riders spread out and jumped ten or twelve abreast. I followed the Field Master and his green armband. Everyone spread out as we galloped on. We took the next fence in wide array. The next obstacle was a wide hedge, with occasional gaps fortified with boards. I had never ridden so furiously in such a large group. A lady swerved in front of me at the next board fence, but I was able to steer clear of her. She called, “Sorry,” as we landed. I assured her, “All right,” as I galloped past.

We checked as hounds missed along a hedge at the edge of a paved road. The Field Master called to some people who were drifting past him toward where hounds were working. “Steady on the left.” The word “steady” is stern warning from an English Field Master, and I always saw it heeded. I did not hear the command, “Hold hard,” nearly as often as I do in America. As we checked, I looked around for my companions. Julie Hyslop placed distinctive blue saddle pads with a red JH on her horses. This helped identify them if they lost their riders, but it also helped me spot my friends in a crowded field. Grosvenor and Rosie were nearby, and looked exhilarated by our spin.

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