Career highlights: David has hunted for 40 seasons, mainly with the North Staffs and the Staffordshire Moorlands. He whipped-in forfour seasons with the Lake of Two Mountains Foxhounds in Montreal, Canada. He has judged at Wembley, the Royal International Horse Show and Royal Dublin and won at many shows, including the Royal. He has also been a successful point-to-point jockey and show jumper.
Ride of my life: With the Meynell hunt
Breeding: 17hh bay part-bred gelding by Hard Source
Career highlights: Won three working hunter titles. Was unbeaten side-saddlewith Vicky Fortescue. Finished sound after 17 seasons’ hunting.
David Machin recalls his ride with the Meynell hunt
Deacon was a 17hh three-year-old, bay part-bred gelding by Hard Source, who was very difficult to catch and impossible to keep weight on.
He won his first two working hunter classes, beating Wembley horses and he was unbeaten under side-saddle with our head girl Vicky Fortescue. I tried him show jumping but he had no respect for the jumps so I decided to take him hunting. I never really thought he was up to my weight, but followed the maxim “an ounce of blood is worth an inch of bone”.
For his first outing, I took him to the Staffordshire Moorlands, where I was field master. This is mainly stone wall country, hardly ideal for a baby, but needs must.The first wall we attempted to jump we entirely flattened. It took half a day to rebuild it. But in the following 17 seasons, he never ever touched another thing.
Deacon was born to hunt. The more difficult the fence, be it barbed wire or an awkward gate, the better he jumped it. Mind you, no one else would ride him – they found him too strong, hard-mouthed and his habit of galloping along with his head on the ground tended to unnerve. He would lift his head as he jumped and drop it immediately on landing.
The one ride that sticks out most in my mind was when the late David Meynell, who was master of the Meynell hunt, asked the Staffordshire Moorlands to an invitation meet at Hollybush Park, Newborough.
Most of our field were used to stone walls, but here was a sea of grass, with huge hedges and big ditches.The next shock was when David said: ‘They’re your hounds, your field – so you’re field master.’
I went to that first big hedge not knowing whether we’d get any further, but Deacon flew it, and from then on I knew we were safe. We found at once and never stopped running all day.
It was hedge after hedge until David said: “We don’t jump this hedge.” Well, we’d already jumped 20 or 30, so I kept going. He shouted again: “Look, we don’t jump this one.”
I have to admit that as we got closer it did seem to grow a bit, and the ditch in front looked more like the Thames, but it was too late to stop. Needless to say, Deacon cleared it like a cavaletti.
There were some well-known hunting people out with us that day, and they said it was one of the best day’s hunting they’d had. Even David admitted: “I thought you were just a provincial pack, but if you go like that I’d better come and have a few days out with you.”
For two days a week over 17 seasons he stayed sound. We only retired him because we couldn’t keep any weight on him. Yvonne Sellwood had him to hack for another year, and it was only then, by chance, that it was discovered that he had a defective heart. How long he’d had the problem we’ll never know, but you’ll never find a horse with a bigger heart than Deacon.
Don’t miss this week’s Horse & Hound (13 March) where John Whitaker talks about his ‘ride of a lifetime’ on Ryan’s Son at the Los Angeles Olympics.
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