In any sport, there are many terms that might be unfamiliar to anyone outside your circle. Just like in rodeo not everyone might know the term bufford, dog fall, or union animal. It was the same for me stepping out of my comfort zone to learn new terms in the foxhunting community. Bear with me as I navigate through new terminology of an awesome equine sport. I rightfully earned the title of “cropper” within the first five minutes of the hunt. This is how it went!
If you have been following along with my blogs throughout the year, you might recall my first experience with foxhunting. In September, I was attending a rodeo close by a hunt club. Through my host home connections, I was invited to attend a foxhunt in Georgia with the Belle Meade Hunt Club. I had an absolute blast and was informed there was a hunt club in Kansas. I was intrigued to have another go at this new and exciting sport. Naturally upon returning to Kansas I made contact with the Fort Leavenworth Hunt club and set a date to join them.
For those of you who don’t know anything about foxhunting let me give you a brief overview. The group is divided into different sections based on skill level. First, you have a handful of riders who are in charge of the hounds and led by the master of the hounds. Then, you move to first field where I was stationed. First field stay close to the hounds but trail slightly behind. This is the fastest paced group after the hounds. Following first field is second field. This group typically does all the jumps and lopes but doesn’t go quite as fast as first field and stays back from the hounds even more. The final field is typically new comers to the sport whether that is a new rider or new horse. This group will typically walk and trot the hunt field for the duration of the hunt. Throughout the hunt, the hounds will be cast into areas to pick up a scent. The hounds will then try to follow that scent while the riders follow in the most direct route as possible. Even though I was a new comer I was invited to join the first field! Lucky me!
I arrived to Easton, KS to embark on a new journey that has been made possible because of my title as Miss Rodeo USA. I was kindly greeted by Steve Smith who introduced me to the hunt group. Shortly after introductions I met my mount, Cadbury. Now this wasn’t just any horse, Cadbury was an 18 hand cross between a Thoroughbred, Draft, and Holsteiner. Talk about a big horse! Not only was he big but he was also a beautiful dapple grey! I have had my fair share of riding big horses but nothing quite like this. Steve went on to explain some of Cadbury’s quirks. He said he needs a good squeeze over the coupes, which are the area we jump over the fence. He tends to throw his head a bit when he gets impatient and he typically likes to kick up his heels at the beginning of the hunt. I had been warned and was ready to mount and head to the hunt field.
In my defense, the last club I went with did a good amount of long trotting right at the beginning as a warm up. Naturally I was just going with what I knew and what I knew was not the case here. We started walking up the drive following the hounds and all of the sudden we turn the corner and take off toward a coup! I just followed right in suit but in my mind I said, “ready or not here we come.” After making the jump we then galloped off into an field and well let me say this four year old mammoth of a horse was feeling a bit frisky with the cold wind whipping across the open field. This is where the term cropper comes into play. A “cropper” is one who does an unscheduled dismount from their horse to inspect the crops. I’m sure you can read through the lines here without me explaining any further. The hardest part of it all wasn’t coming off the horse, it was getting back on! I was lucky enough to get a leg up on the initial mount but this time it was all on me to swing my leg high enough to put my boot in the stirrup iron.
Some may try to blame the fact that I wasn’t used to an english saddle but it is actually quite the contrary. I have been riding in an english saddle since my teenage years. I would like to have an excuse but I don’t. I couldn’t react quickly enough to Cadbury’s energetic and frisky antics. You all know how much I like to make a grand entrance! After some good chuckles with the riders behind me I remounted and it was smooth sailing from then on. We rode in and out of wooded areas; up and down creek beds all at a swift pace may I add. This was not the typical trail ride some of you may be picturing. It was a fast paced, adrenaline rushing, whirl wind of a ride. We would go full tilt boogie then stop, wait and listen then hustle back to it. Being from the rodeo industry I’m used to what many refer to as “cowboy up” but this had its own whole new definition of that. At one point as we were galloping along a narrow trail, all of the sudden a doe leaps out ahead of us across the path. I know for sure at that point my horses back home would have screeched to a halt but Cadbury wasn’t a bit fazed. This group of horses that were accompanied but their riders were extraordinary athletes. The stamina and sure footing floored me as we traveling up rocky terrain or down slick hills. Out of everything I was definitely most impressed by that. You had to trust your mount and not second guess anything.
I have heard before that this is one of those addictive sports. Multiple folks have mentioned this to me when we talk about foxhunting. I am partially biased because to me anything on a horse is an addictive vice but I now truly know what they mean. I can’t thank Steve and the entire Fort Leavenworth Hunt club enough for an amazing time and the full experience of a Kansas foxhunt. It is a day I will not forget and definitely plan to be back for more!
Miss Rodeo USA 2020
Brooke’s Bloopers: In other news besides earning the title of “cropper”, I still have a blooper up my sleeve. On the narrow and winding paths through wooded terrain there was a lot of ducking and dodging of low branches, tree trunks and deer leaping out of basically nowhere. Well as we were following each other quite close a branch got stuck on the rider in front of me and snapped back to whack me! It woke me up to say the least! We were moving along quick enough that I didn’t have a chance to use my cat like reflexes.
Queens Corner: I really try to give my best advice to all the rodeo queens out there who are reading this! My hope is that it helps you find the confidence to continue to represent yourself and your rodeo association to the best of your ability. This week I will be doing something a little different. If you send me a message I will put you into my final Dream Bigger drawing for the year! All you have to do is send me a simple message stating you read my blog and you will be entered! How easy is that?
Follow Miss Rodeo USA 2020, Brooke Wallace as she travels 100,000+ miles across the U.S. and Canada promoting professional rodeo!