Hunting Office director Tim Easby has saluted masters and hunt staff for persevering through an “absolute swine of a season”.

Autumn hunting was delayed due to the very wet ground and meet cards were further disrupted by the continued heavy rainfall, snow and freezing weather.

The outbreak of equine herpes virus (EHV-1) in Gloucestershire “compounded what was already a very difficult season”, said Mr Easby.

“It made it very difficult for hunts to accept visitors,” he said. “There also seems to have been an increase in antis trying to film our activities — and hunts have coped remarkably well with the extra burden from ‘monitors’ trying to catch them out.”

Mr Easby also cited two “particularly spineless incidents” — in which the High Peak huntsman and a Badsworth and Bramham Moor supporter were seriously assaulted — as a return to “old-fashioned” violent behaviour by sabs.

The Countryside Alliance told H&H the cases have since “come to a halt”.

But Mr Easby stressed that the hunting community was extraordinarily resilient.

“The determination, spirit and the atmosphere at hunt balls and end-of-season dinners, has been such that you wouldn’t believe it had been a difficult year,” he said.

He has also been cheered by the number of people coming forward to be masters and applications from “seven really good candidates” for the hunt bursary scheme.

“I think if we survived last season, we can survive just about anything,” he added.

This news story was first published in Horse & Hound magazine (18 April 2013)