Opinion

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There has been much debate about the centralisation of point-to-point subscriptions through Weatherbys, which, in my opinion, is a bad idea.

The Master of Foxhounds Association (MFHA) announced that for 2018/2019 there would be a centralised process for obtaining and registering hunter certificates, Weatherbys managing the whole process. The current hunter certificate arrangements were reviewed when concerns were raised about the fair implementation of mandatory regional subscription rates.

Currently, subscriptions are collected by the individual hunts, with differing prices for each hunt. However, the concern was that the mandatory rates were not being implemented properly.

No system can keep everyone happy. However, I feel that centralisation is likely to reduce the number of horses who run in point-to-points, because many members of hunts give or subscribe in different ways.

Centralising hunter certificates would mean that everyone pays the same amount of money for each horse — although everyone supports hunting to a different extent, in their own way, and hunting has never expected everyone to pay the same.

The hunting countries in the more rural parts, such as Wales, Cornwall and Scotland, often have much lower subscription rates than other parts. It would be a huge shock for them to pay £160 per horse when they usually pay £70, and so they are likely to reduce the number of pointers they run.

Another example is an owner with a string of five-plus horses, maybe 15, who usually pays a full subscription — that might vary between £65 to £1,500 for all the horses depending on their hunting country. Now, every owner will have to pay for each horse, which will surely make them consider whether they should have that many horses in training. Even a 10% drop in horse numbers could jeopardise pointing further.

Not forgetting the farmers, who may have a pointer or two, and allow hunts across their land — this is the goodwill that hunting could not go on without — and in exchange, he may be able to register his pointers for a discount or even free.

Weakening the link

Most importantly, it is far more likely to damage the bond between hunting and point-to-pointing — not strengthen it.

The majority of people who my father, Robin Gundry, and I have spoken to are concerned that people who are not so interested in hunting don’t appreciate that a point-to-point is supported by volunteers — who only do so because of their connection to the hunt.

Therefore, point-to-points would cost an enormous amount to put on if these volunteers had to be paid.

 Simplify the rules

Something else I feel strongly about is keeping point-to-point rules simple, so that “amateur organisers” (those who organise but aren’t paid) can keep up, which is difficult when the rules are changed so often. Horses have frequently carried the wrong weight because the organisers were not aware of the weight changes — which changed for five-year-olds on 1 March and again on the 1 May.

It makes a mockery of the sport when organisers and participants do not understand it, let alone spectators.

Ref Horse & Hound; 10 May 2018