Hunting Diary: Hounds Please

Hunting diary is BACK with a whole new cast list and a new series of locations to get involved in! Truth is I did make it out two weeks ago, but Bluey had a loose shoe so we didn’t see much.

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To my old readers… Welcome back! To anyone clicking through for the first time here are the rules of the game:

I hunt with two packs; the Croome and West Warwickshire who received all the coverage last year when I lived in the Midlands (this year I am possibly their most distant subscriber and will be visiting as often as I can) and the Carmarthenshire, my home pack in Wales. Hunting anoraks amongst you will now be getting very excited as you realise that both packs are actually linked, having both been under the control of the Coventry family.

Locations are omitted from all round ups bar those that are in large public places and as such are common knowledge (I’m talking about Boxing Day and New Year’s Day meets). Although these posts are written after the fact I don’t want to be responsible for any landowners receiving letter bombs or pubs having bad reviews on trip advisor.

Names are also left out. Even MFHs (anyone who desperately wants to know can of course find these in Bailey’s) are given a courtesy title for the purposes of these write ups. I will make them up as I go along. If anyone has any special requests for nicknames or objects to anything then let me know on askauntannie6@gmail.com

I hunt straight and wonky (that is, astride and aside) on my thirteen year old chestnut ex-racehorse, Silver Blue. I bought him off the track seven years ago and retrained him initially for endurance riding but then for hunting and for side saddle. He is the most beloved, wonderful hunter in existence and I turn a blind eye to his many, many quirks. He is the central character in these write ups so I will let him introduce himself through his actions.

Happy hunting!

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The big news of the week is of course that I passed the trailer test! For those of you who are acquainted with my past form in regards to tests and driving this is a miracle indeed! The test itself was hideous and I had to eat two Magnum ice creams to recover.

The Miracle means that I will be driving myself to meets this year, and so this morning was my first solo jaunt bar collecting Bluey from his autumnal pastures last night.

Bluey was of course keen to go as always and put himself on the trailer. He is getting a bit hairy and dusty and needs to be clipped as soon as I can muster the enthusiasm for an hour of dodging kicks and a night of wheezing (I’m allergic to horses (adds: like Kate Middleton)).

The meet was at 8am and Google Maps assured me that it would take twenty minutes by car. I disputed that as it would involve quite a lot of meandering country lanes, and so I just hoped that there would be no early morning revellers coming in the opposite direction.

I arrived with plenty of time, but was a bit confused by how far into the forestry I was to drive- ending up at a dead end would not have been a good start, and there were a few gates that needed opening and closing on the way down.

I got to a clearing and was just trying to turn the trailer around when two lorries and MFH Number One arrived. MFH Number One is new to the joint masterhood this year and is a non- rider. For those who hunt in glossier parts of the world this concept will be novel so it is worth pointing out. He is a “countryman”, what used to be referred to as a “terrier man” and follows by quad bike. In honour of his tradition I shall refer to him from now on as Earth Master and his wife shall earn the moniker Earth Mistress.

Seeing that I was having a little bit of trouble with the trailer and probably mindful of the problems that could ensue Earth Master very kindly took the truck and found a clearing to turn around in for me. Meanwhile the other two lorries filed in and the rest of the field seemed to appear en masse. Near the last to arrive was the new Huntsman with hounds, one of which had travelled all the way from kennels with its nose sticking out above the ramp.

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Parked in front of me was a long- standing member of the field who breeds Brown Swiss cattle and owns the most delightful skewbald mare with the adorable name of Porridge. Porridge is now on maternity leave and so her mistress had brought along her new ride, a beautiful brown ex- racehorse named Tom. Tom is six years old and it was his first time riding to hounds.

It may surprise those who have borne witness to some of Bluey’s more unpleasant behaviour, but he is actually rather good when asked to escort nervous horses. I think that he might at some point have nannied younger racehorses when he was in training. Anyway, when confronted with terrifying logs and white plastic bags in the company of a more fractious horse he will find a degree of bravery hitherto unseen and will act like a proper little gentleman. Seeing that Tom had eyes on stalks Bluey took him under his wing and walked him up and down some of the forestry tracks. Tom was still a little skittish and he went home after having a good look at hounds and having an experience of the day. I can’t wait to see him out soon as he is a cracking little horse. Blue’s first ever day with hounds- VWH, November 2011- ended in a similar early departure so Tom is in good company.

Following some quiet work along forestry tracks the field broke for the first bit of grass. This being Wales the mud was thick, the incline steep, the wire on the ground, and Bluey a bit frisky. I’m so immune to his behaviour that it was only when someone commented on his “liveliness” that I realised that his terribly bouncy canter was actually more like jumping on the spot.

We continued for some time, following MFH Number Two, Master Top Jock (MTJ), who was acting as Field Master on a big chestnut. There were a fair few new horses in the field, getting used to hounds before opening meet, and so the atmosphere was rather lively.

There were a few very wet, boggy patches which caused Bluey a great deal of distress as he hates thick mud. One of the teenagers out on a neat coloured asked me to do a shoe check after our second crossing. They were all there and once out in the field again she got off to take away some barbed wire that was lying around.

We had our first wash in a tumbling stream and one of the new horses- a very smart black gelding- had a good paw and gave me a good soaking. It was well needed as we were all looking a bit muddy.

Coming out of the stream Huntsman and MTJ broke away at a gallop back up the hill. Bluey needed a good blow out and so I tucked him behind MTJ and was glad to see one of the teenaged riders, an art student with the most amazing curly dark hair, galloping upsides me. I hadn’t had a good gallop in an age and the heavy going and incline took away some of Bluey’s excess energy. He was breathing hard when we pulled up and we walked as we awaited the rest of the field.

Next up were some steep zig zagging paths through a felled area, trying not to look too hard at the drop below. Amazingly we saw as we walked back down the Earth Master making his way down behind us on his quad bike. Personally I think it sometimes takes more courage to be a country man when it comes to the rougher Welsh country!

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There were two tumbles for the day (at least that I saw). Earth Master and Mistress’s young son hit the deck hard jumping a raised log on his pony. He is a smart little rider and got back on and jumped again- he even acted as a lead for Bluey. Later on MTJ’s youngest daughter fell off jumping, the first we knew of this was her grey horse returning without her.

Bluey hadn’t jumped since last season and so I took him gently, knowing that he would act up! Indeed he put in a stop at his first attempt but was encourage with a “get on you little f****r” and popped it from a stand still. There is a photo below of his second jump (from canter). He really doesn’t want to touch anything, however small!

We spent some time chatting in a clearing and sweets and my sloe gin were passed around. The gnats were a nuisance and there were calls for the Smoking Whip to be present with a cigarette to ward them off. Talk was all about next week’s opening meet and last week’s opening meet for our neighbouring pack, the Vale of Clettwr.

I can’t say that name without imagining seeing it in a Jilly Cooper novel and having one of her characters make a pun about “visiting the Vale of Clit- wr.”

ENOUGH INNUENDO FOR TODAY.

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Photo by Michelle

We had one more gallop up some more steep tracks before I decided to call it a night. Bluey had had a good work out and a jump- my two objectives for the day. Hacking him home I listened to the rest of the field cantering in the ravine below, and heard the hounds singing.

Until next week, good night!

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