* Well not this time, although hunting and Jesus’s birthday have a keen relationship, even a bloodhound pack won’t hunt on his second birthday. Although, Sabbath- hunting heathens that they are, it might be more to do with other packs ceasing their Saturday trade
` Yah okay, more burgundy, but “burgundy” wouldn’t allow me the Mean Girls misquote, so let’s roll with it
When I said in my last post that hunting was over, I may have been telling a little white lie. I had an, interesting, day on a hound- less day with the Llandeilo Farmers, riding a 13.2hh pony named Bullseye who’s main desire in life was to drop me on the ground. He did not succeed, but it was with great joy that I accepted the ride of the incoming MFH’s big chestnut gelding at second horses. Bullseye’s antics ensured that, at the hunt ball that evening, it was less “Are you that bonkers girl who rides side saddle?” and more “Ha ha, did you manage to stay on Bullseye?” which was a refreshing change.
The following week there was a bit of a Tivyside jolly to the South Pembs closing meet. I had been wanting to get out with them all season, and it was a very pleasant day out with a pack that I’ve long considered the smartest (by reputation) in West Wales. Bluey and I had a really good day out, and it will be same again next season if they will have us back. Sadly I went straight from hosing Bluey down to Bristol to catch a flight, so no write up.
And so we get to today, and my first experience of bloodhounds, out with the Three Counties Bloodhounds, hosts to Brian May, and a pack that seems to have been spoken about quite widely this season. Their joint- MBH is a former MFH of the Carmarthenshire, and it was under his command that I had my first hunting experience, over a decade ago.
With the promise of lots of jumps, a local meet, and a distinct lack of hunting in my life, I saw the Facebook event for the closing meet, and thought that it was high time that I paid the Three Counties a visit. A message to the MBH later and I was booked in, and E from the Tivyside was also keen for the experience.
For those who do not know, bloodhounds hunt “the clean boot” i.e. a human runner. At today’s meet the usual runner was working, and so the hounds hunted a trail of Olbas oil. Rather useful I would think when hip flask- sharing has spread the cold virus through the mounted field.
The meet was at a pub, and it was rather odd not to see the waving white sterns of foxhounds, or hear the roar of the terrier men’s quad bikes and a fleeting glimpse of their tiny charges. Bloodhounds, I discovered, look rather like brown and black bassets, a comment that I’m sure will not go down well with experts. During the day we were filled in on bloodhound breeding and the origins of the pack (the Vale of Lune) and had some of the different “types” pointed out, including some harrier/bloodhound crosses.
There were fifteen riders out, a suitable field for the ground we were covering, and almost as soon as we moved off we came to the first jump- a rail with a photographer squatting ready. Prince and Bluey both cleared it, and the next jump of some tyres. A huge effort had been made to build and move jumps, and the first line was full of a variety of fences. Bluey had some naughty run outs, but overall wasn’t too bad.
The first check was a time for lots of hip flasks to emerge, and the MBH made a point of offering me his, aware that to not do so might have resulted in an unfavourable review! I had a hip flask of ginger mead and also a water bottle of squash; hunting in a full habit in April is not the coolest of affairs.
The mounted field had travelled from right across South Wales, a lovely chestnut Arab had come from Cardiff, and a very smartly turned out couple bore the buttons of the Golden Valley.
Over the past week photographs had been uploaded to social media of the fences that were being prepared, and one was of a sizeable gate, designed as a rider frightener. The GV chap, cigarette dangling from his mouth, made light work of flying it, before the pack’s Hunstman came through and knocked it down, breaking the bottom rail. A few more had a crack at it, including E and me, although we both bowed out after a few refusals. Never the less there were plenty of other jumps to clear, and we had a great whizz around. At some tyres Bluey made to run out, I dug my heel in, and found that my safety stirrup does indeed work as it released and flew to the ground. I had to dismount to retrieve and replace it, and the photographer managed to leg me back up. After a run around there was another hip flask break, and the MBH posed for the camera with my very natty glittery hip flask, an impulse buy the last time I was in London which I intend to use to embarrass a variety of “macho” hunting men.
Part of the day was spent hacking down a disused railway line that still had many of its original features in place (luckily no trains heaped with coal). Walking down steps was certainly an interesting experience.
This part of Wales is the western edge of the old coal mining villages, and so we moved on to a disused colliery, and the ground turned to black dust. Here there were lots of jumps laid out, rails and bullfinches and heaps of branches. Prince and Bluey were both keen and had a great ride around.
One of the younger members of the field had some difficulty taking her pony away from the field and borrowed E’s whip for some encouragement. There were also a couple of fallers by this point, which always adds excitement to the day.
Prince also broke a tiger trap, sadly before Bluey got to it, a dark cloud of shame which hung over our visiting heads for the rest of the day.
One of the young whips headed away with the “runner” while we drank gin and recovered after some more jumping. Our next sight was of his horse, standing on the horizon silhouetted against the sky….
His horse, which had recently been purchased from a foxhound pack, had spooked at a sprinting fox, and had him off…..
At this point we had jumped countless fences, but the pace of the day had been relatively sedate due to the nature of the country. Now we moved out to some fields, and let the horses open up and gallop after hounds. There were some gorse bushes in the field, and they were nice jumps. Both the MBH’s son and daughter had decided at this point in the day that it would be a good idea to practice riding side saddle on their cross saddles. This is not something that I recommend, and the youngest whip found it to his cost as he attempted to clear a gorse bush “side saddle” and instead fell off. I then showed him the leaping and hunting heads on my saddle, and explained that they essentially trap the rider in place.
I fear that there may be a demand for a pony- sized side saddle.
Although it was near the end of the day certain ex- racehorses were still keen, and E had to circle Prince around the field when he got a bit keen. A few jumps later we were out on the road, and hacking for home.
To add to the Mean Girls quote above, I had a moment of my own back at the car park. Over the course of the day my plait had lost its pins and had uncoiled; not really an issue I thought at the end of the day, especially when many of the women hunting had long loose ponytails. However, a lady in the car park took issue at mine and snarked “Have you thought about putting your hair in a bun?” Ouch.
All in all it was a tremendously fun day out with the bloodhounds, and E and I had a really warm welcome from the Three Counties regulars. I will definitely be back for some jumping fun after the foxhound packs close for the season, and it was a great experience to finally hunt with a different type of hound, and a novel approach to “hunting”. A big thank you to everyone involved for being so kind, and especially to those who built the fences- Bluey and I are well and truly warmed up for the South Pembrokeshire hunter trials.
Next weekend is the Horn and Hound Ball, and it should be a good one. If anyone reading is going, I’ll be the one in a cream dress who looks like a malnourished teenage boy in a wig.
So, unless anyone knows of any rebel packs still going (I jest, I jest) it really is good night….. Seven packs this season and its been a cracker. Here’s to 2017/18…
Until then stay safe and good night xxx