Hang up your spurs, dry clean your hunt coat, turn your hunter to grass, put up your feet, and pour that last sweet glass of port…. The hunting season is over…
I was planning on attending the Llandeilo Farmers’s meet this Saturday, and doing a short day with the South Pembs for their closing meet. However Bluey is currently off games, and even if we do make next weekend, I will be hopping from the saddle to Bristol airport, and am unlikely to give you more than a few lines of hasty narrative.
Therefore, as my final offering for the season, here is a round up, “best of”, post. I’m giving you the vital stats, the best days, the best runs, the best field masters, the best one liners, and the best photos. It has really been a season to remember, and I hope that you enjoy reminiscing as much as I enjoyed putting it together!
When I left Worcestershire last spring (still mourning the loss of my Audi) and sat down to write my first post of the new season I thought that I had a firm idea of what you would be reading; monthly trips back to my beloved Croome and West Warwickshire, lots of days with the Carmarthenshire, a visit to the old huntsman at the Ross Harriers, and a handful of side saddle meets. It was all planned out and ….
First of all- I PASSED MY TRAILER TEST!!!!! This was somewhat unexpected given my track record with motor vehicles, and I am sure that you have all enjoyed reading about my improving reversing skills.
And then I ended up hunting with the Tivyside in Wales, and visiting a few other packs (I think the phrase “hunting slag” can be used here).
Now, had you asked me about the Tivyside at the beginning of the season I would have had little to say. They had barely crossed my radar, and I would probably have said, if asked, that I imagined them to be a pack of sheep farmers on hairy horses, chasing hairy hounds up and down steep hills, straining to see anything through the wire and the fog.
How wrong. How wrong.
I’ll open this post up really by saying that they are my new favourite pack in Wales, and remind me very much of the C&WW, for which there can be no higher praise; smart without being rude, small without being too small, traditional without being stuffy, crossing some of the most beautiful country in the world behind a pack of handsome hounds. The hunt is expertly run, the followers are uniformly lovely, hip flasks are full, and hounds are hunted so well that they have given me some of the best runs of my life. They claim to be one of- if not the- oldest pack in Britain, founded 281 years ago, which truly is a massive accomplishment and testament to centuries of good management and relations with subscribers and landowners. Sycophancy has no place in these write ups, so I’ll stop now before any of you lift your phones away to vomit.
Bluey on the first day’s cubbing of the season, with the Carmarthenshire. He hates the beach.
Here we go…
Days Hunting: 14 (plus two cubbing)
Packs Followed: Tivyside (6), Croome & West Warwickshire (3), Carmarthenshire (3), Llandeilo Farmers (1), Pembrokeshire (1). Also Bicester with Whaddon Chase hounds, and South Pembrokeshire hounds, on Tivyside country
Pack Promiscuity Rating: High
“He’s not a huntsman, he’s a hound”
Days Astride: 5 (three on Bluey, one of Fynn, one on Steve)
Days Aside: 9 (all on Bluey)
A classic Ciren scene, necking someone’s hip flask out with the Carmarthenshire
Tumble Club Entries: Zero- a new record. Eye roll to anyone who points out that this is probably due to riding side saddle
Horses Ridden: Three (Bluey, Fynn, Steve)
Photo credit Sally Robinson. C&WW opening meet, photo bombed by one of the paps, just after I spilt port all over myself and the Computer Whizz had to pull some dirt off my hat
Shoes Lost: Three from Bluey (three separate occasions). Three from Fynn (all on the same day..)
Photo credit Sally Robinson. When having matching names isn’t enough, so you have to have identical expressions too!
Other Items Lost: Numnah, hipflask, CHC members’ badge, hairnet, dignity
Best Hipflask: M from the Tivyside’s “adult Ribena” and G from the C&WW’s raspberry vodka
“Are you that mad girl who rides side saddle I keep hearing about?”
Best Run: Can’t decide between two days; second meet of the season with the C&WW, where we were lead on a merry chase through some of the hunt’s best country (and Bluey jumped rails multiple times to give a lead), or the fantastic Boxing Day run across the Preselis with the Tivyside
Photo credit Lyndon Harris. Blue and Fynn surveying the Tivyside hounds at a check on a busy hill day
Dangerous Field Master Award: AM at the C&WW who is as dare devil an MFH as she was secretary!
“When you said that the Croome had paparazzi, I didn’t realise that you meant it.”
Hunt Hero: Two summers ago I got a job in fresh produce (I was completely unsuited to it from about Day 4) and relocated to the Worcs/Warks borders. Consulting Bailey’s I worked out that I was in Croome and West Warwickshire country, and would need to find a yard in the area with links- and transport- to that pack. The incredibly helpful secretary (now MFH) put me in touch with the MFH that covered my part of the country, and she in turn gave me the number of the yard that turned out the hunt horses. And so, before I even found a room for myself, I turned up at L’s yard in the heart of C&WW country. By the time I left I was impressed, and terrified, having been told that I wouldn’t be let off the yard unless I met her incredibly high turnout standards. Through the yard I came to know the regular followers and officials in the hunt, and learnt a hell of a lot about hunting, turnout, and how to clean twelve muddy saddles at the end of a day! Through the season L helped me immensely, and that has carried on now that I am no longer a livery, with accommodation, horse loans, and the infamous Hunt Ball Party Lorry.
“Oh, we get to see your legs today.”
Photo credit Steve Key. Possibly my favourite ever hunting photo. L-R, me, J, L and G hacking home at the end of an amazing day. I’m not sure what the joke was, but it was probably rude
Horse Hero: “Bluey,” I hear you think “Because he’s amazing and you love him and blah blah boring.” Okay, Bluey is the finest lady’s hunter of the 21st century but…. Nah, I think the heroic deed of the season was poor little Fynn galloping after hounds with one shoe still attached. At that point Bluey would have had a lie down, and then kicked me for good measure.
Photo credit Angie Lock, print purchased. My most horrendous facial expression, apparently the other shots in the sequence were so hideous Angie had to delete them
Bones Broken: one (toe- not hunting related)
“Is that X’s bit of posh posh?”
Most Drunken Meet: BIG HOUSE, SMALL DRINK went the cry and so I drank as much port as I could get my hands on.
“Big house, small drink, so drink up!”
Most Daredevil Moment: Riding side saddle down the most precipitous woodland slope in Carmarthenshire country
Best Scenery: Tivyside hill days just about pip the Llandeilo Farmers in the Brecon Beacons
Side Saddle H and the lovely Summer in a field of sodden fodder beet on the wettest day of the year, following the Pembrokeshire
Most WTF Moment: Crossing bogs side saddle after the Bicester hounds. They had never seen such a scruffy side saddle rider.
“She suffers from chronic scarlet fever”
Beautiful scenes visiting the Llandeilo Farmers
Idiot Award: Deciding that the Christmas Eve meet was the ideal time to work out whether or not I could ride with a broken toe. I could.
“That’s their Dreadful Amateur Whip”
Photo credit Carys Jones. Bluey and Summer.
Smartest Pack: Not in the conventional sense- I was really impressed by the Pembrokeshire. Asides from pretty much everyone having been awarded their collar and buttons, they were all prepared for the wet weather with very practical and also quite smart white waterproof over- trousers
“Can you blow a hunting horn?”
Awkward Moment: Probably that time when a local sheep farmer caught me with my breeches down in the back of the trailer
” Can you try to not be the scruffiest person there?”
Hunt Balls Attended: South Pembs, Pembs, Tivyside, Croome & WW
The strangest day of the season, a midweek foot meet with the Tivyside
Hunt Balls To Attend: Llandeilo Farmers, Cotswold,anywhere else that I am invited
“The Cotswold are hunting with a pack in Wales on Tuesday, do you know of any horses to hire?” (on the Sunday)
Signature Hunt Ball Dance Move: I tell people that I do ballet for my posture, and because Mila Kunis in Black Swan is (apart from Kate Middleton obviously) the only woman I would turn for, but actually it’s to hone my hunt ball dance skillz. Hence why I could be found at the C&WW ball, demonstrating the splits on the dance floor.
“Did he dump her for something with bigger tits?”
Photo credit Charlene Smith. So lucky to have been able to borrow Steve, and to ride with J and the hunt celebrity horse- Bouncer
Predictions for next season: If I’ve learnt anything this season, it is to not make any predictions! Bluey is currently lame, and so I am even wary of saying “we will be hunting” lest it tempt some sort of fate, meaning that his next and final trip is to the Tivyside hunt kennels. All being well we will subscribe to the C&WW, and aim to drive up once a month or so. I will be in Australia for the beginning of the season, but should fit in the Ross Harriers opening meet, and probably one of the Welsh packs too. I will probably be subscribing to the Tivyside, but its a long summer ahead and that may change. Otherwise lots of visiting for side saddle meets and general nosiness…
“Its so unbecoming to sleep with hunt staff”
The obvious one- to the landowners and farmers who let us cross their fields and woods. To the hunt staff who have provided so many days of absolute enjoyment. To the hunt officials and committees who arrange it all. For trailer test nerve fighting advice- the ladies of the Shotgun and Chelsea Bun Club. For horse loans- L and Tivyside. For overnight stabling and accommodation- L, Tivyside and Side Saddle H. For companionship in the field- all of you. For hunting dissection- Alcock and G. For helping me reverse- Earth Master, Top Jock MFH. For getting me into the car park on Boxing Day- that random dog walker. For finding my hip flask- the Owen brothers (and for not emptying it). For finding my numnah, and for the coffee and chocolate- the Tivyside terrier men. For capturing every moment- the Croome papparazzi. For hunt ball dancing madness- the Croome firefighter and Lord John. For trusting me with the trailer- my parents. For emergency habit repairs- Side Saddle T. For side saddle creation- Rob Jenkins. For side saddle maintenance- Helen Reader. For shoeing- Robin, and also Papa G for doing my borrowed horse. For dealing with my slightly weird letters, and overly formal tones- the secretaries of a myriad of packs. For getting us through the rail- Croome foot followers.
And finally, to you, my readers- every “like” and comment inflates my already swollen ego. Thank you for reading.
Good night xxx