Foxhounds pushed against me with their lean bodies, hard muscles quivering. Anticipation made them high, eager. I tapped sides with my whip to move them away, breathed in the wet earth-like smell of their coats and the energy vibrating in the air. Youngsters were coupled to seniors with collars linked by brass clips and leather. The huntsman, other whipper-in and I moved to the kennel door, hounds hot breath at our heels. We walked out into the fresh air of May, made the pack wait, settle and focus. A note from the huntsman's brass horn produced a cacophony of voices and we were off.
The trail through the woods tunneled in green foliage offered scents to keen noses.
"Pack to him" I said as a few hounds began to stray. They trotted back into formation. We moved at a brisk pace, covered over two miles down dirt and gravel roads, snaking amongst old forest and young briers. At the pond, we took a break, a special reward for good behavior. The hounds held their place until the huntsman signaled with a soft chirp, then they exploded into the water. Paws against clay, a thousand bird wings beating. The unified splash, a wave crashing to shore.
A horn toot and all left the pond, packed up and followed their leader for the final trek back to the kennel. At the door, the huntsman stood aside. The hounds filed into the main room tongues lulling out one side of their mouths, lips stretched in grins. Content with their outing, happy to be home.
Run by run, the huntsman's eyes bade them to enter. Each hound knew when it was his turn. The last door shut and the room grew quiet. Before I left, I leaned against the wall, muscles quivering, gaze moving from hound to hound, eager to communicate to the pack how much I enjoyed our morning.