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Jordan Heron - The Vanity Card Series

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Riding to Hounds is the politically correct way to say Fox Hunting nowadays.

Ok, it's not just about political correctness. Given the varied types of "fox hunting" that go on today, many of them never see a fox.

There is the "paperchase". This is done by groups that can't have hounds, for one reason or another. Like the Bermuda Hunt. I believe that off-leash dogs are not legal. And even if they were legal, there are too many feral chickens for the hounds to go very far before finding something to distract them from a fox. Assuming Bermuda even has foxes, which I doubt. Not to mention that, at 20 miles long by 2 miles wide, there's not a lot of room to race the hounds. However, a paperchase, a race with checkpoints along the way, is a great passtime. So, that's what they do, and call it a hunt. As well as, of course, the proper dress and drinks to start.

Then there is the "drag" hunt. Like the Wellington Waterloo Hunt, the hounds chase a scent that is laid down by a rider ahead of the pack. It feels almost like a hunt, when the hounds catch the trail, and you ride behind in hot pursuit. The benefits of a drag are threefold, really: you don't kill anything (well, at least not on purpose) which keeps the animal rights people a little happier; you always find a scent, if the hounds are even half-way competent; and the trail follows the trail - you don't end up in thicket and dead end, being lured by a fox craftier than yourself. It's a great passtime. As well as, of course, the proper dress and drinks to start.

Then there's the "live" hunt. This is a close as you get to the "real thing", since it is the real thing. That said, foxes are relatively rare in southern Ontario, and are not a threat. They are, in fact, quite lovely to look at. Which is why most live "fox" hunts take after coyote, a much more plentiful prey, and much more threatening to the local landowners. Just ask the sheep farmer down the road from where I live. It's a great passtime. As well as, of course, the proper dress and drinks to start.

Riding to Hounds has taught me a lot, about myself, about my abilities on the horse, and about my abilities with people. It has also taught me a lot about others.

Riding to Hounds is not a poor man's sport. Many of the people that I ride with are much like me - middle class workers who have decided to sink all their money into horses as a hobby, instead of cars, or golf, or whatever. But many of the people that I ride with are also of another class. It would be crass to just call them rich. Many of them are noble.

Some are probably actual British nobility. But most of them just comport themselves that way. There is something subtle, just beneath the surface, which separates them from me. And what's really fascinating is that they seem to know it, and they ignore it, because they are genuinely good and friendly people. I like them. They seem to like me.

It has me questioning my democratic roots. Maybe some people really were meant to rule.

12 May 2010

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