I’m sure you’ve all missed us; here’s the first hunting write up in a month, and I was back riding Bluey! Much as I enjoyed Molly’s diva-ish Latina ways (I SHALL NOT stand still at the meet, I SHALL knock you over while waiting for the lorry), there’s nothing quite like seeing hounds between Bluey’s ginger ears.
Bluey neatly coincided his recovery from a small bone flake with my three week study tour of Australian dairy farms. He is now sound, and I think we have just about sorted out his trailer issues (by travelling him on the left hand side) and so today we ventured out for a short day with the Tivyside. The day ended early for everyone (the weather when I turned for home was horrendous), which is always appreciated from a FOMO perspective.
I parked up early and found a suitable mounting block- the nice stone sign for a small industrial park. Unfortunately Bluey lacks spacial awareness, and he caught his head on the corner of it, leaving a lovely souvenir of orange hair, and a mark above his eye. Once he got over that drama I jumped on, and made my way to the meet, making educated guesses about which street to ride up. We were the first to get there bar our chairman Ianto and a couple of foot followers.
Although Bluey has hunted side saddle with the Tivyside a few times last season, on both occasions they were relatively big meets with lots going on, and so neither of the men could remember that Bluey had been out, and were a little surprised that my plan was to stay out longer than five minutes. One of them asked if I could go out of walk, and both were shocked when I replied that we could actually do anything we wanted (apart from gates and jousting, but let’s not get in to that..). I didn’t point out that to do that “side saddle at the meet and then swap saddles” nonesense you have to have both help on the ground and a face that looks pretty. Having neither I’m not going to be doing any saddle swapping. Besides, you’d need to clean both saddles, and who has the time for that?
At the meet, photo cred Lyndon Harris
A lady arrived soon after with a newcomer horse and a man with a camera. They were beautifully turned out and the horse was unfazed by the small group of foot followers and the handing out of mulled wine. Mulled wine is always a welcome change from port, and infinitely better than the pure evil that is a surprise glass of whiskey. Bluey was being rather well behaved (“what a horse, look at him standing there, such manners.” “And to think he’s raced, look at him keeping an eye on everything that’s going on”) and a lady approached and told me that she had recently unearthed a riding habit in her house. After a quick appraisal of my waist (“You’re a size six, you’d need to be to get in this habit”) she offered to swap it for a “few crates of wine”. We didn’t strike a deal, but I am tempted…
Hounds arrived accompanied by some regulars and a handful of visitors from the South Pembrokeshire. Our wonderful southern neighbours have a rather muddy country, and so I didn’t blame them for opting for higher ground when confronted with a day of drizzle.
Last to arrive were E#1 and M, mounted on Arnie the kennels rescue horse and Prince respectively. There had been a car breakdown earlier that morning, and as I turn my data off I had not seen the messages crying for rescue. Mulled wine was gratefully accepted, and I gave in to the temptation of another one, insisting on “just a half”. Master Death praised my will power- anything to avoid having to partake of his Percy Special!
Our lady master thanked the hosts and called for hounds and we were off! Bluey was feeling sprightly so I stuck him in the front upsides her and he bowled along, keen to be as close to hounds as he could get without being told off. We headed up a grassy track to the mountain (Prince stopping for a snack while climbing over a rock..) and were then out on the open hill.
At this point it was dry and we had spectacular views across to the sea. North Pembrokeshire really is the most beautiful place in the world, and I feel so lucky to be able to hunt there as well as spend a fair amount of my working life walking the fields. Butttttt there was no time to stop and look too much as we were cantering off over the hill, following hounds while Tivyside and the elder of the Owen brothers laid a trail.
It was a difficult day’s hunting once the rain came in in horizontal sheets, and the mist descended on the mountain. Visibility was very poor and several members of the field called it a day rather early. Prince at this point had already lost a shoe (stepping out of it on the road) but M was happy for him to carry on on the soft ground.
Before the first riders left we had a small jump over a little log, and a hip flask stop. I have so many different flavoured gins that I’m keen to empty my hip flask and get another one in, everyone was pretty keen to have a drink, and the Percy Special did not (thankfully) make an appearance.
Photo cred Carolyn Morgan
Despite the rain Bluey was loving life (well, apart from when M tried to stroke him) and I was keen to stay out. Once you get wet there’s not much you might as well stay wet, and driving an hour home in soggy clothes has never been my idea of fun. However, I had to remind myself that Bluey is not very fit, and so when E#1, M, and a handful of other riders decided to call it a day I too said goodnight and hacked for home. Turns out that hounds went back about half an hour later, so we didn’t miss too much of the day.
Long term readers will remember the meet last year (Pembs side saddle meet) where I stripped out of my wet clothes and was almost caught in my underwear by a passing sheep farmer. The road this year was a little busy for me to take that risk, so once Bluey was loaded I hopped in and took the road for home, passing E#1 and M having a sneaky bacon roll in the town’s burger van.
Although it wasn’t the most exciting day, and the rain did (literally) put a dampener on things, it was so so wonderful to be back out hunting. Seeing Bluey’s ears prick at the sight of hounds, and his eagerness to get going once he sees his side saddle, make all the driving and the plaiting worth while. Very lucky to have two such fantastic packs to follow!
We won’t be out on Saturday as I have a hunt ball (not the Beaufort, but I was invited to that one as well- major first world problems) to attend that evening and an awkwardly timed hair appointment (it takes a long time to look acceptable when you look like me). BUT we will be out the following Tuesday to chaperone E#1’s new horse on his first sight of hounds! I also ran in to L and our C&WW huntsman at Cheltenham yesterday, which redoubled my keenness to fit in a Tuesday over there as soon as possible… And the countdown has officially begun for the Big Joint Meet!
Good night x