Over the sand and through the sage the thundering hoof beats sound—no posse, but fox chasers with horse and hound. These pink-coated riders of the purple sage, hearkening to "gone away," are members of the West Hills Hunt. Vanning horses and hounds from Los Angeles to Palm Springs, they have, for the last seven years, happily fractured tradition by staging an English fox hunt (minus fox) on the western desert. The stirrup cup, offered in colder climates to ward off morning chill, is waived as the riders set off some 90 strong to follow a scent previously laid across the sands. Several hours later they gather at a welcome water hole of their own devising: a bowl brimming with champagne punch.

Astride gray horse, Hunt Master John Bowles takes gate as chase moves into the open desert

At hunt's end rider John Blackburn accepts punch as horse gets own refreshment by licking ice