2 Samuel 22:30
For by thee I have run through by a troop: by my God have I leaped over a wall.
Beau stood his ground despite Shay's challenge. Both hounds growled at each other, hackles raised, while gobbling down their pre-dawn ration at the kennel. Nobody was bitten, but their blood-lust was in the air. It was the usual cacophony of snarls and barks during feeding time.
With the faintest hint of sunrise, we saddled up. Working as a whipper-in, years ago, with a hunt in CT, it was my job to assist the master (Master of Foxhounds or "MFH") with the horses and hounds. I was as keen to be off in the fields as the hounds that begged and whined at the kennel fence.
Most of the summer was spent in kennel and stable maintenance, exercising the hounds in the fields, and working with the young pups. In August the cubbing season started with riders leaving the barn early in the morning to beat the heat and humidity. In October the formal season started with the splendor of autumn drawing the eager field of riders to the hunt.
The protocol and tradition of the formal hunt was engaging, but the real joy was witnessing the hounds in full cry in pursuit of Monsieur Reynard (the fox). Having owned hunting hounds and familiar with their behavior, I could recognize, simply by their voices, when they had located the fox. To a trained person, the hounds' voices "spoke" - at times questioning, " Where is he?". At times joyful - "I found him!"
Some of the members of the hunt club were not committed riders but simply showed up for the hunt to partake of the formal comeraderie. As a whip, I had to multi-task and mind the hounds, observe the master's cues, and guard the safety of the field of riders. It was a loaded agenda, but one that I thoroughly enjoyed.
When everything came together to commence the formal hunt season, I felt that the hours spent during the summer had paid off. Our tack was bright, the horses fit, and the hounds ready. To hear the master's horn call and the hounds bayed voices was like music. To feel the thunder of a heavy gallop while in full chase, arching cleanly over walls and fences, was heaven. The hounds knew their job and did not disappoint us.
As sometimes happened, near the end of the hunt, the scent of the fox was lost or the master gave the holed fox reprieve. The tired hounds returned to the kennel and were rewarded for their bold effort in the field. Being good sportsmen, we yielded up the hunt, and claimed Reynard the victor for the day.
Thought for the day: Have you been willing to turn the other cheek and walk away? Have you been merciful today?