Falconer Nick Ross plans to be the first to fly his bird while mounted on a horse in the hunting field.

By invitation of the master — he prefers not to disclose the pack’s name — Nick has been flying his hawk, Jess, regularly since autumn hunting began in late August.

He’s been so totally swept off his feet by the thrills and sights of hunting that he has now found himself a horse and plans to be a regular rider to hounds.

“The fact that I’ve been taken right into the action, rather than standing on a road looking through binoculars, has opened up a whole new world for me,” says Nick, who keeps four birds of prey at his Oxfordshire home.

“I always thought foxhunting was for rich people with big horses and big Range Rovers. I didn’t understand hunting and thought it had nothing to do with Mr Average. But it’s such a different world to what you imagine.

“Standing on the outside and listening to people taking about hunting, it seemed to be such a closed shop, but the help and encouragement I’ve received from the mounted followers since saying I’d like to ride with them has been unbelievable.”

A self-employed builder, Nick, 42, has had lots of offers to teach him to ride, and says everyone involved with the hunt has made him feel as though he’s known them for years. Despite the ban, there are no negative attitudes.

“I can’t believe how addictive it’s become. I’ve only been going out for two months. I now have a horse, transport to wherever I want to go, boots, jodhpurs… I’m looking on the Internet for a hacking jacket — common sense would tell you not to do all this because it’s so expensive, but I’m totally gone on it.”

Nick says he doesn’t agree with the current argument about falconry mixing with hunting hounds: “The Hawk Board seems totally opposed to this, which I think is terrible. The antis have already said falconry and shooting is next. Why don’t we all stand together on this and all support each other’s country sport?”

  • This article was first published in Horse & Hound (10 November, ’05)


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