A different kind of summer walk

The hounds at Boone Valley on Aug. 13. We hope to see them again later this week! Photo by Dave Traxler.

IT’S cooled off lately here in the Bluegrass. It will probably get hot and humid again, but at least for now there’s a slight crispness to the air that makes you think, “So there really is such a thing as autumn, and it just might come again.”

The houndbloggers have crested the hill of summer–the Saratoga yearling sales–and now are gathering speed on the downward slope of our least favorite season, heading into our favorite one. By now, we’re usually back on hound walks, but this year has been different, due to my horse’s Uncooperative Tendon. This is not the veterinary term, but it sums things up pretty well.

Sassoon, he of the famous jig, is recovering from some torn scar tissue around an old tendon injury–and, honestly, I can’t hold it against the Uncooperative Tendon too much, because it’s held together remarkably well since that original injury back in 2005. But Sassoon’s current regimen, what with its bandaging, unbandaging, massaging, and handwalking, has prevented me from spending as much time as I’d like with the hounds on their morning walks.

Sassoon last July, doing the hound walk jig.

Instead of watching the hounds in training, Sassoon and I have been keeping an eye on kids’ riding lessons at Champagne Run, where Sassoon is recuperating. Sassoon’s treatment while he’s at Champagne Run calls for a daily “constitutional,” as the Victorians would have called it, that takes us up the driveway, twice around the upper barn, and back down the driveway, right past the outdoor lesson ring. As we walk along, we can see improbably tiny children posting up and down, their legs so short that their feet don’t yet reach below the saddle flaps. These they kick in the hope–futile, as both lesson horses and experienced observers of lesson horses know–that old Blackberry will jog a little faster.

The beginning riders aren’t always children. Sometimes we see an adult, new to the saddle, straining to accustom his or her muscles to the new rhythm of horses. Remember when posting was so HARD?

Sassoon takes a walk, this time with Mr. Houndblogger.

My little black horse and I watch these budding careers in horsemanship with great interest as we walk by the ring. Some of these new riders will be in the sport for the rest of their lives; some will drop out after a while because of finances or flagging interest or a newer fad. Like boyfriends. Some of them, having found out a few things about boyfriends (or, for that matter, girlfriends), will return to horses and never give them up again, even when more significant Significant Others come along. Some eventually will decide horses make better friends than people. Others will come to the conclusion that horses are a great way to make good human friends. A number will meet their spouses this way–and be relieved they’ve found someone to share (or at least tolerate) their horsey passion. And some will still be at Champagne Run 30 years from now, leaning over the rail to watch their own children take lessons.

More experienced riders during a lesson at Champagne Run. What wonderful places will their horses take them?

A few will uncover a competitive streak that will take them to three-day events, horse shows, or dressage tests, while some will lose their nerve for riding altogether and find other ways to be around horses. A lot of them will discover they are much tougher and more game than they would ever have suspected, and they always will be grateful to horses for showing them that. Some will get so eaten up by the bug, they’ll plot ways to make their living in the horse business–and, after doing so, will still regret that they don’t get enough time riding their horses because they’re always writing about horses, for example!

Thinking about these riders’ future life lines with horses turns my thoughts back to the hounds. Because this is what’s great about this time of year, just before summer turns to fall. The young hounds, especially puppies like the HA litter, are still developing, and their personalities are revealing themselves on summer walks. The pack itself must surely alter slightly as new hounds join it, older hounds retire, and the hounds in between gain experience and learn new things.

Sassoon at Champagne Run on Tuesday. Might be time to do some mane-pulling ...

In short, I’ve been missing my time on summer walk when I can watch the hounds’ education up close. For now, Sassoon and I are on a different kind of summer walk, and it remains to be seen whether he’ll ever come out with the hounds again. But I hope to get back to hounds myself as soon as time allows. In the meantime, fortunately, we will have hound news and pictures–as well as some video from the Peterborough dog hound championship, which I didn’t include in the earlier video feature a couple of weeks ago.

And if you’re in the lesson barn at Champagne Run during the next few weeks, stop by and say hi to Sassoon.

6 thoughts on “A different kind of summer walk

  1. Pingback: A specialized sniffer, in the nation’s service | Full Cry: A Hound Blog

  2. Sassoon is a beautiful horse.

    I sat here reading, thinking how interesting it would be to take a walk with a horse instead of four unruly canines. It must be peaceful.

    That first picture of the hounds is awesome!

    • Hi, Jen! It is interesting to walk a horse every afternoon. Like our dogs, he would like to stop every so often–not to sniff, but to visit with horses in nearby paddocks or to eat the clover along the driveway–but it’s important that he exercise that tendon, so I try to be pretty disciplined about making him walk on. Even so, he seems to enjoy our little walks together. It’s peaceful unless he gets excited and spooky about something!

      As for the picture of the hounds, isn’t it great? We’re so grateful to Dave Traxler (who caught that one), Peggy Maness, Gene Baker, and anyone else who allows us to use their wonderful photos of the hounds!

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