Hunting Diary: You Smell Like A Man

I was fully intending to take a trip back to the C&WW this weekend, so big apologies to my Midlands adoptive hunting family for not being there to see some well- deserved hunt buttons awarded. You are still my favourites, and I will be out soon. I even booked my space for breakfast, and then realised that my ferry back from Ireland was coming in to Pembroke Dock at 1am, and so I would not really be in any state to make the eight- hour round trip. Even more so after I got a bit, er, merry at the conference dinner, made the mistake of pennying a client’s drink, had the same done to me (twice) and re- tested the old hypothesis that not much food + lots of white wine = involuntary oral expulsion of stomach contents.

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I wasn’t expecting to be back out with the Tivyside this season, but after my Irish realisation side saddle H put up a pile of photographs of the jumps she had prepared for the meet, and so I asked her if I could still come, even though my side saddle needs re- fitting and I would be astride. I volunteered to do gates for the side saddle ladies in exchange for priority parking and she agreed.

As well as the side saddle riders the Tivyside were also hosting the South Pembrokeshire for a joint meet. A huge effort had gone in to putting out jumps, and also building some permanent hunt jumps. You all know how much Bluey and I enjoy a good rail.

I arrived early (this is now surprising nobody) with a few faux pas already made; I couldn’t find my stock pin and so was wearing a shirt and tie, and I had put in Bluey’s side saddle girth, which is longer than his astride girth (but otherwise identical). H’s mare was excited at the prospect of a home meet, so we took both horses for a walk around some of the fields to settle. H was also astride, and with T at home (the Llandeilo Farmers were crossing her land) and everyone else eschewing side saddle, my services as chaperone were restricted to this. Visitors from the South Pembs were starting to arrive, and there was an excellent turnout from both packs.

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Bluey and Summer waiting for hounds

With Summer still fairly lively we took both horses into the school for a walk around before hounds and riders moved in. A fair few had hacked to the meet, and others had parked on the road and ridden down. The South Pembs hounds moved in, and we kept Bluey and Summer out of their way at one end of the school.

The meet was excellently hosted, and we made the most of the ample mulled wine. Bluey even licked some spilt wine off the tray, showing that he really is as classy as his rider. He also tried to eat the raffle tickets when their seller made a fuss of him, which thankfully is not something that I have done (yet).

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The first trail was laid through a field of fodder beet, and hounds moved off swiftly in that direction. Two horses slipped on the drive, and there was a lot of excitement- one horse ridden by South Pembs hunt staff could be seen practising some “airs above the ground”. The Tivyside MFH was back riding after a back injury, and field mastering on a lovely Connemara. With a big field and many horses bigger and faster than her own, MFH gave the field permission to overtake her. We went for a gallop around the margin and Bluey took advantage of his pass, flying to the front and enjoying the good going. Some of the visitors who were behind jumped a bank, and we had the first faller of the day.

H had laid out a variety of jumps around several stubble fields, and so while hounds worked we all went for a tremendous jolly. Bluey was a bit silly about jumping a few of them, but otherwise everything went to plan with no more fallers.

I had decided to wear my cut- away coat, which forms the top half of my habit. As it has very narrow pockets I put my hip flask in a little saddle bag. It was only when we had moved off the stubble fields (E#1 suggesting to her horse that it was better off not racing an ex- racehorse) and lined up on the road that I noticed that my hip flask was missing.

Hip flasks are hunting currency, and I hate not having one to offer around, especially when being a visitor to a really friendly and hospitable pack. A few drinks were passed around, someone asked where my stock was (on my dressing table, missing its pin), and I got off to re- arrange Bluey’s numnah, which had slipped.

As I am horrendously scruffy and incapable of keeping myself clean, I had bought new breeches to replace my marked ones. Unfortunately they were a bit tight, and I had previously expressed concern that they would, er, fail over a fence. So I had to find a big bank to get back on. Luckily my breeches held, and while the Tivyside were given a rare glimpse of my legs, they were saved the sight of anything less decent.

NB If you would like to see the members of the Tivyside Hunt with little or no clothes on, they have a calendar for sale for £10, with all proceeds going to the local Air Ambulance. It can be bought through messaging their page which is here

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One of the chaps out had realised through the wonders of social media that he knew my mother, and so we had a brief chat, finding out that he drove further than me to visit, although without the added burden of a trailer and horse.

By now I had done a fair bit of whining about my missing hip flask, and had almost got over the end of our long- term partnership. And then, miracle of miracles, two of the Tivyside’s younger members, T and J, brothers, hacked up waving a certain world map patterned hip flask. They had seen it lying in the stubble, recognised it as mine, and then had tasted it. Upon doing so they stated confidently that it was my sloe gin.

After Boxing Day, when the terrier men rescued my side saddle numnah from the side of the Preselis, I’m not sure whether to comment on my ability lose things, or the Tivyside’s incredible ability to retrieve them.

We then moved on towards a local quarry, riding through a narrow bridleway. Earlier on I referred to E#1 and her excitable horse, so named (for the purposes of this post) because the South Pembs have six accounted riders with the same name. E#1 was out on a borrowed horse, Harry, who was pretty sharp, and through the track he decided to bolt, so she jumped off to lead him.

Once out one of the whips offered to swap horses with her so that Harry could get away from the field, and she could ride his quiet horse. She agreed, and we were standing together and swapping hip flasks when she suddenly said “I can smell aftershave.”

“Aftershave?”

“Yes, can you smell it? He must have been wearing it.”

We both leant forwards, smelling the horse’s neck.

“Is the horse wearing aftershave?”

By now one of the other followers had heard our conversation, and quipped that it must be “cheap and nasty” given the rider concerned.

We carried on sniffing, I couldn’t smell anything… And then I realised. It was me.

Last year I picked up a perfume sample in Harrods, and at one point my mother accused me of smelling like men’s cologne, which I realised was the perfume. Today I had forgotten both that story, and that I was wearing any sort of artificial scent.

Due to the stock error I was wearing a tie, and due to the tie having last been worn to the very wet Pembs side saddle meet, I was a bit worried that it would smell musty. So I had put on a tiny squirt of the first perfume I could find….

“That’s not aftershave. That’s me.”

“HAHAHAHAHAHA YOU SMELL LIKE A MAN.”

And I’d like to point out that there was nothing cheap or nasty about said perfume, although I may now stop wearing it.

We had a run around some cow tracks and field margins, where I received a massive face full of cow s**t.

We then moved on into a large woodland, which had recently had a number of tracks cleared, very convenient for hunting. Although the day was moving on very few had gone home, and so the whole field, including a very young girl on a little Shetland, made a steep descent down a bank. We had a bit of a canter around some tracks, and then met hounds and hunt officials standing at the edge of the wood. The Tivyside huntsman passed his horse back to T and J, who did an excellent job of looking after her, opening gates, and also standing on saddles to send snapchats. T also had a radio and kept the field updated with hound movements; in the woods, with sounds echoing and the trees dense, it was difficult to keep track from the field.

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The woodland was large, and we moved into a more open area, planted with some birch trees that used to be harvested for point to point fences. We waited there a while, and it was nice to speak to some of the South Pembs followers. Some of the field took the opportunity to hack home.

Hounds were gathered up and we headed for another track, and the much anticipated rail. The rail was narrow, and the gate had been opened by a whip who was on foot. Keen readers will remember that last month I did indeed take Bluey over a tiger trap, side saddle, while the gate next to it was open, but I was blatantly showing off. However, seeing two riders in front of me going through the gate, and really missing those Croome rails, Bluey jumped it out of a walk with a little encouragement. A few other riders followed over (see the photograph above, showing one of the Tivyside whips), and we had another faller from the South Pembs gang.

These are the first permanent hunt jumps that I have come across in Wales, and they were only put up this week, so as a visitor I have to thank those involved again for their efforts.

Although we still had a good turnout, the day was getting late, and it was getting cold. Hounds had a final trail in some rougher ground. One of the Tivyside whips found a bog (a regular occurrence it appears) and we watched him flounder. Having little experience with such ground I wondered if maybe someone should help, but the lack of concern from the Tivyside subscribers and regulars said it all.

With the agreement of the visiting MFH hounds were gathered and we hacked home. I rode upsides the boggy whip for a bit and he said that he had read my most recent list update and was concerned that he was the Dreadful Amateur Whip. I reassured him that he wasn’t (at least in my opinion, the committee and huntsman may of course think differently) and he thoughtfully considered that he used to be the Point to Point rider.

Here I’d like to thank people for their continued eagerness for said post, made even more amusing by the messages I get from people claiming to “be” or to “know” some of the characters. 35 of the 36 are created wholly from hunt anecdotes, and there is only one on the list (the selfie stick user) who is actually modelled on a real person. Please do keep sending me suggestions for the next update; it is one of my favourite posts, and reader contributions are very welcome, and have already been used.

Back at the meet H and her family had made some really excellent soup. Their very warm kitchen was hugely appreciated after a cold day (my fault for the stock pin error and subsequent lack of thermal shirt), and after warming up Bluey and I headed home.

I didn’t expect to find another pack that shares so many of the best traits of the C&WW, but I think I have found it with the Tivyside. An excellent pack in the most beautiful country, and another hugely enjoyable day with some wonderful people. Unfortunately most of my photos came out badly, so credits for these ones go mostly to ¬†members of the hunt.

Good night x