Hunter hirelings are hot property this season, with those stables offering rides with popular packs able to fill their saddles twice over.

“I’m putting out 20-odd horses each Saturday. I have a waiting list of eight for this one and the phone’s been ringing constantly. It’s been a good season,” said Oxfordshire-based Karen Bamford.

She provides hirelings predominantly for the Bicester with Whaddon Chase and Warwickshire.

And it’s been a similar case for Jill Carenza, whose horses go to the Beaufort, Warwickshire and Heythrop.

“We had a very busy Christmas and lots of new people this season – adults and children,” said Jill.

“I could certainly have filled more saddles and will try to increase my number of horses for next season.”

And Lesley Douglas, whose horses hunt with the Duke of Buccleuch’s, says it’s been her best season yet.

Mrs Carenza believes the phenomenon can, in part be blamed on the credit crunch.

Newcomers’ days and varied subscription rates have put hunting within reach of riders who would not previously have considered it.

But the expense of keeping a horse means that many of these new riders are turning to hirelings.

And the downturn is also causing existing hunt followers to turn to hiring.

Groups like the London Riding Club – which arranges equestrian activities for experienced riders living in the capital – have been a boon for Karen Bamford.

“I could fill half my saddles again some Saturdays with the Bicester,” said Karen.

Yards offering hunter hirelings have decreased in recent years, which may be another reason why those that do are so busy.

And Mrs Douglas credits a mild Scottish winter for her best season in 10 years of providing hirelings for the Buccleuch.

“People expected bad weather so wanted to get hunting in at the early part of the season, and it’s never got much worse than a bit of frost up here since,” she said.

This news story was first published in the current issue of H&H (23 February 2012)