Foxhunting in New Zealand (Part 1)
In an effort to extend our foxhunting season, we decided to try hunting in the Southern Hemisphere. New Zealand is purported to have the wildest foxhunting in the world, so to New Zealand we went. The hardest part about making the trip to New Zealand was getting our riding boots ready to pass New Zealand's strict customs inspection. If you've never had to clean every speck of mud and manure off of the soles of your riding boots with a toothbrush then you haven't really lived.
We arranged our hunting vacation through Hunt New Zealand. The night before the first hunt our hosts, John and Anne, took us to a local pub where all of the patrons were wearing jeans tucked into rubber work boots. Megan always dresses this way at home and we always make fun of her for it. Over dinner our hosts described what foxhunting in New Zealand is like. There are no foxes in New Zealand, so they hunt hare. All of the fixtures we would be hunting at would have wire fences, both barbed wire and high tensile wire. Many of the jumps we encountered would be sparred -- the part of the wire fence line that we were to jump would have a little plank of wood or a plastic roller attached for visibility. We also got a run down of the do's and don'ts of jumping wire fences. The most important was "if you can't see it, don't jump it." The corollary to this is "don't jump bare wire into the sun." Later in the evening our hosts regaled us with tales of hunting in New Zealand, most of which ended with them having to have barbed wire removed from their bums.
We arrived at the pasture where the first hunt met and anxiously climbed onto our horses and headed out with the hunt. Anne asked us if we were enjoying the scenery and we realized that we had been so intent on our new horses that we hadn't even looked up yet. So we looked up for the first time since arriving and noticed the scenery was indeed beautiful. We took a moment to enjoy the scenery, but then it was time to get hunting. We had been in the saddle for about a minute when the first obstacle of our New Zealand hunting adventure presented itself. This was a sparred barbed wire fence which actually looked quite inviting (as inviting as a barbed wire fence can look to Americans who have been taught to fear barbed wire). We would have liked to have some more time to get to know our horses (even a couple of trot steps would have been nice), but we didn't travel half way around the world to ride through gates, so we decided to have a go at it. We pointed our horses to the fence and they cantered up to it and easily cleared it. We left any nervousness behind at that first fence and settled in to enjoy the hunt.
With the first fence behind us, we got another piece of advice from our hosts. They told us that our horses know how to jump bare barbed wire, so if we got our horses wrong to the fence and missed the sparred part of the fence, to go ahead and let the horse jump. This piece of advice was well timed because two fences later we jumped into a pasture, turned hard left, and then jumped immediately out again. This unexpected turn caught Amy off guard and she was a bit late in turning her horse. When she finally got the horse turned to the fence line they were two fence sections to the right of the spar and one stride away from jumping bare wire. As instructed she let the horse jump and the horse, of course, cleared it easily. Many people are apprehensive about jumping bare wire for the first time, but apparently Amy just couldn't wait.