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What a difference a year makes, to misquote Dinah Washington, in this topsy-turvy world, where a swivel-eyed ex-city trader and crass billionaire can convince a majority that they speak for “the people”.

Closer to our sporting concerns, whoever could have thought that the wallowing in mud and floods out hunting of a year ago could be replaced by nervously cantering on rock-hard ground that jars and twists horses and hounds alike? For hounds hunting in arable countries it must have been like running barefoot on sandpaper; not to say that sport has been at all bad. Settled conditions, even if dry, are preferable to volatile, wet conditions that constantly swing the barometer.

Our farmers have been so supportive throughout the recent wet seasons and we have kept going despite the challenges. However, thus far this season, farmers are genuinely happy to see the hounds and their mounted followers, which makes clearing country easier. Our marsh farmers have even welcomed the recent rain, as it has helped to replenish the marsh ditches that divide their fields, still full of stock.

Hunting award needed

As a perk of these scribblings, Mrs Sallis and I attended the Horse & Hound Awards. I once had the privilege of riding a push-button grand prix dressage horse, which made me look as if I could actually ride classically. So I can appreciate, albeit from a layman’s stance, Valegro’s remarkable achievement. However, after he and his connections won their third award, notwithstanding Carl Hester’s deserved future knighthood, those of us who like to leap once in a while were thrilled (and a bit emotional) to cheer on Ben Hobday and Nick Skelton collecting their awards.

The evening was brilliantly produced and it was such fun to brush shoulders with the stars of the horse world. One former MFH was anxious at being in such close proximity to so many terrifying horsey ladies. I concurred and we headed for the bar.

Moving forward, it may be fitting to find a place for hunting in the Horse & Hound Awards. As a spoof, I posted a photo on social media of my wife posing in front of the stage, with the comment that she was about to win the award for Master’s Spouse of the Year. Aside from her obvious winning status, were there to have been such a category, I soon realised that my humour was almost as flat as my reputation. “That’s the least she deserves for putting up with you day in, day out,” posted my sister. Countless wrote: “Fantastic, so deserved.” Well, they have a point.

More appropriate, however, may be the Hunt of the Year or Hunt Supporter of the Year for someone who dedicates their all to raising funds or keeping the show on the road. Each hunt would have plenty of nominations.

Would your hunt consider its own Awards Night? Best Hipflask of the Year; Most Helpful Pony Club Member; Best Burger Flipper at Hunt Events; Most Impressive Recovery over a Hedge; Farmer of the Year; Hound of the Year; Thruster of the Year; Recipient of the Most Stinging Rollocking; Most Inventive Fundraiser; Arbitrator of the Most Unnecessary Hunt Row; Best Car Follower’s Picnic. The list could be endless.

The opening meet has passed, that annual rite of passage eagerly awaited and our hounds put in a tremendous performance that kept everyone entertained until dusk. With the temperature now dropping and scent improving daily, do hunt as often as possible before Christmas.

Ref Horse & Hound; 24 November 2016