Always wondered what running a hunt kennels involves? Tessa Waugh spends the day with West Percy huntsman Giles Bennett to get a taste of his hard graft

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For most people who hunt, contact with hounds is limited to hunting days, puppy shows, a rare visit to the kennels and maybe some puppy walking. The feeding, washing down and exercise that goes on in the kennels every day, all year round, is invisible to the majority.

Bigger hunts have a number of staff to carry out these jobs but nowadays smaller packs often rely on just one person. The West Percy in North Northumberland is one such example.

Giles Bennett is in his first season as huntsman of the West Percy (and his first season as a huntsman), having moved up country from the Holderness, and he has 25 couple, mostly bitches, in his care.

What does Giles’ day entail?

Timetable: non-hunting day

6.30am — remove muck and wash down yards, check drains

7am — remove wet straw from lodges and fluff up beds

7.30am — (later in mid-winter due to lack of light) walk hounds out

8.30am — return to kennels and feed, supervise hounds in groups while they eat and wash down feed yard afterwards

9.15am — put hounds back in correct lodges

9.30am — breakfast

10am — scrub lodges and walls, add fresh bedding

Noon — any odd jobs around kennels

12.30pm — lunch

1.30pm — collect butcher’s waste from butcher in Alnwick or Longframlington, attend to jobs in the country, e.g. fencing, seeing keepers

3pm — sort butcher’s waste into containers, valeting (polishing boots and coat buttons)

3.30pm — remove muck and wash down yards

4pm — maintenance jobs in kennels and any other jobs, such as collecting haylage, emptying the muck trailer

Continued below…

Timetable: hunting day

6.30am — remove muck and wash down yards, check drains

7am — remove wet straw from lodges and fluff up beds

7.30am — walk hounds out

8am — draw hounds for hunting, move lorry, put rest of hounds into their correct lodges

8.45am — have breakfast, get dressed for hunting

9.30am — load horses and hounds and head to meet

11am — hunting

5.30pm — back to kennels, feed hounds and wash down feed yard, remove muck and wash down yards

6.30pm  — sweep lorry out, clean off/dry out hunting kit

7pm — check hounds are settled for the night

Read the full behind-the-scenes feature about the West Percy’s hunt kennels in the current issue of Horse & Hound magazine (14 January 2015)