Besides making new friends, having many laughs, and feeling more relaxed than I have in a long time, these wonderful people let me experience some new (to me) parts of the horse world: a team chase (think cross country leg of a 3-day event) and a hunt.
The team chase consists of a team of 5 riders racing through a cross country course to snag the best time. Time starts from when the first rider of your team crosses the starting line to when the tail-end of the team crosses the finish line. Of course there are many TALL obstacles in the way (see pictures above...and notice the people standing next to these jumps!). And besides all the calculations involved in running and jumping, you definitely don't want to tire your beloved steed. It's 5 minutes of pure excitement for riders and spectators alike.
The hunt, on the other hand, is filled with beautiful tradition before, during, and after the 3-hour ride. From hip flasks to port wine, hounds to horses, red coats to velvet hats, every bit made me smile. Before the dozens of horses left the stables, a runner set out to leave his scent along the course. That's right, no foxes were used in the making of this blog...just the scent of a man's trainers. There are options to jump or walk around all hedges and fences and the emphasis is on the joy of riding. Quite a beautiful sight to see.
I consider myself extremely lucky to be able to witness these events, even from the ground through the lens of the team's camera. I've always heard that the horse traditions in this country are outstanding. But the cherry on top? They let me take one of their horses out for a walk around the countryside and a jump in the yard. Bronson is the most spectacular horse I've had the privilege to ride (don't tell Toby!), listening to every nudge I gave him, and made an excellent tour guide through the country lanes, next to the hedges, and past all the cottages with name plaques on the front. Bronson gracefully took me over some puny logs outside the house, which gave me the biggest smile the whole train-ride home...and perhaps even a few days afterwards.
A HUGE thank you to everyone involved in my countryside experience. It was certainly an adventure I'll always remember, and nothing makes a girl happier than coming back to the city with muddy boots.