Step 1: Attend best friend’s wedding. Become instant pals with fellow bridesmaid/avid horse person/avid eye-roller. Agree to hypothetical future faux-foxhunting weekend in Middleburg with her.
Step 3: Upon arrival in Middleburg, exit car and realize you’ve somehow traveled to the April page of a horse calendar. View farm pigs. Pet farm dogs. Learn what guinea fowl look like. Admire rolling hills. Swoon over blooming trees. Note lack of civilization. Decide you’re staying forever.
Step 4: Change into breeches for first ride of the weekend on adorable assigned bay, change his name to “Lil’ Brownie” so quickly you forget he has a real name (Iron Devotion). Be delighted by flat hunt bridles, half-pads with no square pads, fly whisks, and other things seen only in books and hallucinations. Walk, trot, and canter around the countryside. Feel your heart swell with horsey joy. Marvel at how unfazed even the youngest horses are by vehicles, dogs, and hysterical 29-year-olds gleefully shrieking at every pony that comes to meet them at the fences lining the trail.
Step 5: Snuggle with Brownie. Bond with fellow horse people over dinner and adult beverages on porch of B&B. Watch horses graze in field. Generally accept your real life is a pathetic shadow of an existence.
Step 6: Follow up Day 1 by mounting up in majestic, still-half-misty field for early ride with new horsey besties through meadows, woods, backyards of nauseating equine estates, and branch-covered roads lined with stone walls where horses have the right of way. Ford small streams and wide rivers. Practice opening gates. Jump little coops and thick logs in said fields, and exclaim loud enough for GoPro to hear: “All of my childhood fantasies just came true right there.”
Step 7: Attend Middleburg Spring Races with picnic. Try to pick winning horses. Try on numerous hats. Pet Yorkie with small hat of her own. Decide you are definitely giving up your day job to become professional cheese eater and horse photographer.
Step 8: Try on All Of The Things at Middleburg tack stores, including red hunt coats. Realize you will never legitimately own a red hunt coat, cry internally. Consider purchasing fantastic rubber racing reins you’ve been using all weekend, pause to imagine trainer’s reaction, reluctantly put them down. Ponder buying sale-priced slightly-too-big brown tall boots, decline, regret decision for life. Scratch snoring Labrador in tack store #1. Cuddle St. Bernard puppy in tack store #2. Start seriously perusing local real estate listings and horse-inspired home furnishings. Consume Middleburg radishes and lavender ice cream for dinner, overindulge, get way too giggly, nearly pee pants. Drive back to house while sun slips behind stone walls and trees turn black, roll down windows to let in the smell of sod and hay and evening. Late night crash course on foxhunting etiquette, stirrup cups, how B&B owner met her boyfriend, and what happens if the field decides to jump Something Extremely Scary (“You jump it.”), interrupted by inability to keep eyes open from Best Day Ever.
Step 9: Tack up, set off on Day 3 faux foxhunt—led by popcorn trail and human hounds—to show off new skills. Shout, “Tally ho!” Register shock when field opens up and suddenly horses are actually galloping. Try to remember last time you galloped a four-beat gallop; fail. Try not to think about what happens if Brownie steps in a hole; also fail. Try not to think about what happens if horse ahead of Brownie steps in a hole; fail again. Call yourself a wimp. Let go of reins and let Brownie gallop. YOLO.
Step 10: Spy B&B owner on hill with stuffed fox. Witness all hell break loose as riders thunder across field and up hill to reach fox, again try not to imagine what happens if someone falls in a hole. Reach fox first. Pats on pats on pats and treats on treats on treats for Brownie.
Step 11: Have lunch on porch. Think seriously about slipping quietly into blooming spring foliage and sending for fiancée and dog via anonymous telegram. Pack bags. Stare wistfully out back window of car like teenager separated from summer love. Gingerly place fingers on window for effect. Whimper. Avoid eyes of people who smell you on the plane home.
Step 12: Die happy.
Emily Bogenschutz lives in Texas and is a freelance writer,
recent hunter-turned-jumper, and professional sneaker of saddle pads
into the washing machine. Follow her on Twitter: @EJBog.