Autumn Hunting

And so on the last day of September (a month later than promised) here is the very first hunting write up of the 2017/18 season. To those who read before, welcome back, for anyone new thanks for clicking. Will follow usual policy of not naming anyone by their given names (already had one “request” this season for the code name of “DevilDick” which has been granted), not naming any meets etc because nobody wants a visit from our friends in balaclavas, or the sort of Facebook message I received after being interviewed by VICE this summer, which stated that my name had been passed to the police (bet they LOVED that).

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So I left last season’s write ups on the (thrilling) cliffhanger of not knowing where I would spend my (Welsh) subs, if the photo above doesn’t quite give it away I sent them to the Tivyside after being told that I oughtn’t go elsewhere, and besides, the South Pembrokeshire have enough money already…

Autumn hunting started back in August with unmounted exercise. Necessitating 4am alarms, I can’t say that this was the most enjoyable alarm, but we had some really good days and some fantastic scenes. Hounds have been flying and days on foot are a rare chance to get to know the terrier men and foot followers who generally don’t come into contact with the mounted field on normal days.

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Bluey’s had a few issues this summer with a sinus infection and various other boring maladies. Therefore for our first mounted day (last Saturday) I was very grateful to be able to ride Molly, Lord John’s lovely grey mare.

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There was some excitement at the start of the day when she decided she didn’t want to load, but once at the meet she couldn’t contain her keenness to get going- a trot down the road and past the terrier men (“bit frisky this morning?!”) was required. Although more people turn up once horses are involved the field was still small and ideal for getting through the first narrow woodland paths. Molly had a jump over a few logs left over from last season and kept up all day with a couple of ex racehorses. I left early as I needed to get back for Moving In Day, and Lord John’s father needed to dash to work in Heathrow airport. There was however time for tea and toast with the Doctor, and some encouragement to adopt a Sealyham puppy. As I was finishing tea the Doctor asked if I wanted to see her otters, which I initially thought were some sort of eccentric and unusual pet choice. They were actually taxidermied (somewhat of a disappointment) but still very pretty.

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And so to today… Bluey threw a shoe on Tuesday which resulted in a mad dash to get it back on for this morning. With his shoe back on he loaded himself in the dark, and before the clock had hit 6am we were on our way. The rain was already lashing down and once again I questioned why exactly I was going when I could have been in bed. The huntsman had given me a rough idea of where the meet was and promised “lots of space” to park. After finding the farm on a map I knew where I was going, but started to question my judgement when I got to the drive and could see nothing resembling a car park. Moving on across the mountain I started to worry, knowing from the map that the road off the hill looked narrow and likely to be dangerous in my unskilled hands. I found some flat grass, checked how wet it was, and reversed around and parked up. It was only when the fog had lifted a little, and I had got on Bluey and started to hack back to the farm, that the rest of the trucks and lorries turned up and I looked around and saw the car park, a 100m away from where I had stopped….

E#1 has recently purchased a new horse, and lost the loan of Prince, who has returned to his (no longer pregnant) owner. As such she was mounted on Arnie, one of the hunt horses. Huntsman’s fiancee D had forgotten her hairnet, which is a terrible offence here at the Tivyside (or maybe keeping Bluey at L’s hairnet- free yard deflected any judgement from me at the Croome). She was however allowed to mount up, hip flasks were passed around, and the terrier men were the last to arrive.

Our huntsman got on his horse, turned down my hip flask, and pointing at Bluey asked “Wasn’t that having its head cut off?” subtlety and compassion being high on his list of commendable virtues.

With little fanfare but some muttered remarks about the rain, the weather warning for tomorrow, and the necessity of cancelling the fun ride that was due to replace the already cancelled hunter trials (living in West Wales is all sorts of fun) we headed off, Tivyside (now MFH) as field master and hounds heading for rough cover on the side of the hill.

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Hounds flew through the cover working well on the pre- laid scent. The rain came in as we watched and both Bluey and Arnie turned their backs to hounds and water. Lord John’s father had wandered off with D for a better view, leaving us to count sheep and again question the sanity of being out on the hill in the Welsh rain.

We were then joined by Tivyside who took his new horse over a stone wall.

“That,” said E#1 “is just showing off.”

Not to be outdone Bluey joined him over the wall, his first astride leap for a while and a bit annoying when he had been stopping at hunt relays all summer. Shows what hunting does to a horse! Obviously I nearly fell off jumping back over the wall (“sit up Anna! Sit up!”) but fortunately E#1’s phone thought it best to not record that little sequence, but to take some take off photos instead (not shown here as not yet uploaded to social media).

We caught up with foot followers, including our other new MFH, Master Death (so known because of his profession) on the road, and followed it to our huntsman’s favourite cover to lay a trail.

I left the field when they got to a farm (electrician’s appointment, this adulting business really does cut into fun time) and turned to hack for home. When I got off to do a gate I could feel the rain trickling down my breeches, and it was with some effort that I got back on. I do think that very tight breeches (especially those that were once tight and no longer are after a summer of soil sampling) are maybe channeling the wrong vibe, and so last week I found on eBay some vintage Land Army breeches which I’m hoping my fat thighs will fit into.

Back at the box Bluey gratefully got in, and I considered stripping down like I did for the Pembs side saddle meet when I was similarly wet, but decided that actually it wasn’t worth the risk of frightening an end-of-season tourist off the road.

Bluey and I got home and I left him in capable hands (shoe having fallen off on the joinery back!) before driving back here to have some new lights installed. And that really is it for now, as I really need to get out of my wet and muddy breeches and start preparing for a couple of drinks.

Will be out for a quickie on Tuesday if Bluey has shoes (and maybe on foot if he doesn’t), otherwise its one Saturday to go until opening meet!!!

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