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hunting with hounds

With opening meets almost a distant memory, the main season is now underway.

Support for hunting is as strong as ever with the recent Countryside Alliance Newcomers Week being heralded a success and more people than ever taking up hunting.

The general consensus from many huntsmen around the country is that scenting conditions have proved difficult during autumn hunting this season. The dry conditions and hard ground have not been ideal for horses either with wiser members of the field avoiding jumping unnecessarily in order to try to prevent problems with horses in later in the season.

The young hounds and new members of hunt staff have had plenty of opportunity to learn their craft during the busy months leading up to the opening meet, with some packs hunting six days a week. This education will prove invaluable once scenting conditions improve.

The appointment of masters and new members of staff and masters for the 2016/17 season has already begun with the knock-on effects of those movements being felt throughout hunts up and down the country. Some positions have already been snapped up resulting in speculation of who will fill the vacancies created.

Jemima Matthews, aged 12, out with the Kent and Surrey Bloodhounds

The sound, smell and adrenaline of your first day's hunting isn't something you forget in a hurry, whatever age you are. Take a look at these riders enjoying their first day out — and standby for flying pigtails and legs that don't go past the saddle flap...