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Monday, 3 March 2014

Ooty Hunt


Ladies of OHC 1992-93
 
After a month of routine riding we were asked to volunteer for the Hunt which happened once a month in Ooty. None of us had any idea what this event was all about and I entered my name with some trepidation.
On doing a little bit of homework I found out that it would be the 147th year of the OHC (Ootacamund Hunt Club) with the kennels and hounds being looked after by Admiral and Mrs EC Kuruvila. I have always been disapproving of traditional fox hunting but was reassured by Col Rathore, the Veterinary Officer, that to actually even see a jackal ( which was what the hounds sniffed out) was  a rare occurrence and there was never any blood shed allowed.
Strict instructions in the etiquette and uniform demanded in the field were issued and dire warnings were given not to take things lightly as this was serious business steeped in traditions of the past.
We left Wellington at the crack of dawn and were on the Home Downs in Ooty by five o'clock. The horses were already there and in the distance we could see the the committee members in their distinctive bright red jackets, mounted and ready to go, surrounded by a large pack of excited tail wagging hounds.

Minali, Beenu, Sandip and Kilkol

We saddled up and at a signal from a bugle took off after the red coats ( as we called them). I gasped with excitement since I had never actually felt the strength and speed of these amazingly beautiful animals when in an open and unconstrained space. The powerful all out gallop was completely exhilarating and a pure adrenalin rush.
We rode hard for an hour or so with the hounds baying in the distance but never saw a jackal or any other four legged creature. In all the excitement we had to keep in mind to yell "Hound Right" or "Hound Left" to avoid a careless mishap in case one of the energised beasts mistakenly strayed too close to the horses hooves.
 Once we returned to the starting point we had to dismount, doff our hats at the Master of the Hunt and say " Good Night Master and thank you for the hunt". I could never get to the bottom of this strange custom and why we had to bid the Master 'Good Night' since it was six thirty in the morning!
We would then make our way to the Ooty Club for beer and breakfast - in that order. The uninitiated equestrians who had goofed up in the hunt, taken a tumble or had the temerity to call one of the hounds a 'dog' were made to pay their penalties in bottles of beer!
Still high on adrenaline and the early morning draught we would weave our way home, excitedly discussing the electrifying thrill of this awesome experience.
I did not miss a single Hunt in our eleven month stay in Wellington. The basic routine was the same every time though we started and ended from different locations with quaint names such as Sheep Farm, West Brier, Glenmorgan and Windy Gap. Each ride was undertaken with an impassioned sense of adventure though some were more full of mishaps than others! I found myself in a few hair raisingly  dangerous situations which I managed to survive, but the memories of those once in a life time sensations are still with me today and always will be.


Ready to Ride with Samrat
 

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