“It’s a hard thing to put into words,” Kalle Fjeld says of foxhunting. “It’s life affirming or something. The thing that is really intoxicating about hunting, for the human and the horse, is the sounds that the hounds make. We call it the cry.”
Fjeld’s own horse, a 14-year-old gelding named “Mr.,” is very tuned into the hounds.
“It’s the hounds; it’s how excited your horse is about being the other horses and with the hounds, the more they hunt,” she said.
Fjeld is a 27-year-old former professional pastry chef and saxophone player turned medical student and avid foxhunter. Despite her rigorous med school schedule at the Robert Larner College of Medicine at the University of Vermont, she manages to fit in time for her horse and the glorious mornings galloping and jumping with the Green Mountain Hounds (Vt.).
“It’s this joyous experience,” Fjeld said. “You literally can’t run faster; you are watching the hounds working, you are running alongside them, seeing then ducking in and out of the cover, working finding the scent. The cry is musical and will echo off the mountains.”
Fjeld grew up in Vermont where she now lives in a small town called Brandon with three siblings and her parents. She started riding when she was about 7 and rode through the age of 15, when she left riding for music. “My parents would buy me a saxophone, but wouldn’t buy me a horse is how I tell it,” she said with a laugh.
Fjeld went to the University of Vermont for college, majoring in global studies with a French minor, thinking she’d go on to a career teaching English as a second language. She moved to France and taught English for a year before coming back to the U.S. to become a pastry chef.
At the age of 21 she found herself back in her hometown of Brandon and began trail riding. A friend introduced her to the Green Mountain Hounds, and she was hooked.
She leased Mr., a gray PMU gelding of unknown breeding beyond being a draft cross of some sort—and now owns him, calling him a “foxhunting machine.”
The fixtures where Green Mountain hunts range from 1,000 acres to others that are smaller and twisty in the hills.
How do you school a horse to run across hills and fields with other horses and canines?
“I school by being confident in the ring knowing my horse is adjustable, but it’s tough to recreate the adrenaline of galloping with a pack of 20 horses,” she said.
At her home barn she’s spent time over the years making jumps. And at the end of a trail ride, “we spend some time galloping jumps in a group. Then you go out there and wing it. That’s the joy of foxhunt. You don’t have to be a perfect rider. We accept all types.”
After the hunt, Fjeld still uses her baking and pastry skills for the hunt breakfast. Music hasn’t entirely left her life either. Though not currently pursuing the sax, Fjeld says the University of Vermont has a women’s choir she is looking into joining.
When it comes to her horse, Mr. has proven himself an avid jumper. “He’s a real chill guy,” Fjeld said. Last year he won Green Mountain’s “Lotus Cup,” an award for field hunter of the year. But he also can—and will—jump out of the pasture if he feels the need to “escort himself” to the nicer pasture if he’s the last horse to be moved. Fjeld’s current barn has five-foot fences.
Kjeld herself recently won an award, too. On July 17, she received the 2017 John Seeley Estabrook Memorial Trust Award. The annual award, named for a physician, has been presented since 1986 to an outstanding resident of the Fjeld’s hometown of Brandon who pursues activities in medicine and/or sports. Fjeld, as a foxhunter in medical school, does both.
Jt. MFH Terry Hook told foxhunting magazine Covertside, which reported on her award, that “Kalle is a passionate member of GMH and almost never misses a hunt. She’s a lovely rider with a lovely horse. Even better than that, she’s a lovely cake-making artist. Oh yes, and then there’s medical school also—I think that she’s arranged her class schedule to be able to hunt, but that is confidential!”
How does Fjeld balance her fox hunting and riding life with the intense demands of medical school?
Currently Mr. is half leased to a friend to keep fit while Fjeld’s at school all week. “He can poke around with an advanced beginner all week and then on Sundays, my day off, I get to have blast and fox hunt,” she said.
To keep herself fit now that she’s not riding as much or doing barn chores, Fjeld jogs in the mornings and manages to get back to Brandon, about 50 or so miles from school in Burlington, to ride with the hunt on Sundays. After a semester she plans to see how she’s doing and re-assess.
But for now she’s enjoying her time in the hunt field, whenever she can get it. “It’s the funnest thing you can do on a horse. It think that in terms of balancing your life, horses are a huge commitment,” she said. “But the joy it brings to my life, it’s worth taking the time out.”