One hunter hireling yard has practically quit the business, while others are diversifying, but still preparing for the post-ban season. For all of them, it’s a case of heading into unknown territory.

Leicestershire-based Julia Hyslop has kept only four hirelings and has five hunter liveries compared with her usual 12. She is re-launching as a dressage yard – with the help of a Defra grant.

“No one knows how many people will hunt now and I couldn’t keep 18 hirelings on that basis,” said Hyslop, a British Dressage accredited trainer. “We were lucky that several clients who built up relationships with horses have bought them.”

Hyslop’s customers included hunt subscribers. But after 19 February, her income fell by 90%.

“We’d seen the writing on the wall, but when MPs brought in the law, we were still speechless. A business that took 20 years to build up was wiped out with a single sentence,” she said.

Wantage-based Linda Parmentier-Green, who sold half her 10 hirelings after last season, said: “I have regulars, but several are lawyers and teachers who doesn’t want to risk breaking the law. But hunt secretaries seem optimistic.”

By contrast in Gloucestershire Jill Carenza is getting 25-30 hunters fit — the same number as last year.

“I’ve had a lot of enquiries,” she said. “Without hunting, things would be very tricky. But I suspect people will support it.”

On Exmoor, Kevin and Ruth Lamacraft have brought in fewer horses than usual, and have also set up polo pony hire and livery at their yard. Despite being booked up for popular early-season meets, they are stepping cautiously.

“Normally we’d have a dozen hirelings ready, but we’ve prepared eight,” said Kevin.
Hampshire-based John Casemore is keeping more than 20 hirelings — against his instincts. Until 19 February, he hired out 20 horses a week, then it was just five to the end of the season.

“I ought to sell everything, but that’s what the government and the antis want” he said. “It would be like giving in.”

Interested in hiring a hunter?

Contact: Jill Carenza (tel: 01386 584 250); John Casemore (tel: 01256 780 375); Julia Hyslop (tel: 01664 823 739); Linda Parmentier-Green (tel: 01235 772 285); Kevin and Ruth Lamacraft (tel: 01643 841 130).