A family has paid tribute to their long-serving veteran hunter, who is set to retire at the end of this season after 21 unbroken years in the hunting field.

Twenty-five-year-old Irish Draught Ross was bought as a just-backed three-year-old by then novice rider Seamus O’Rourke and began his hunting career the next year.

While on paper they may not have seemed the most likely partnership, the gelding has gone on to be the horse of a lifetime.

“He was daddy’s first horse and he went out and bought himself a three-year-old — he doesn’t do things by halves,” said Seamus’s daughter Julie Kinkaid. “He was probably ill-advised by my uncle who used to hunt and is a bit of a free spirit!”

Julie explained that her father had never sat on a horse until he was 30, when she acquired a pony that could be naughty.

“He’d ride it for us because he was stronger. That was it then, he was bitten by the bug,” she said. “I think with Ross it was probably having no knowledge that helped him get away with it — they just tore on.”

Incredibly, the 15.2hh gelding has never been “sick or sorry” in all the years Seamus has owned him, and has faithfully hunted every season, usually once a week.

“He picked up an injury four or five years ago in the field when he cut himself on a rock on his hip. He has a impressive scar there but it was in the summer and it didn’t do him any lasting harm. He was fine by the time he needed to hunt again,” said Julie.

The long partnership has included a spell fieldmastering for the County Down Bloodhounds, before they were disbanded, while they currently hunt with the Newry Harriers in County Down, Northern Ireland.

“You’d see all these expensive horses and they’d not want to go over the jumps and then wee Ross would come flying along and lead them,” Julie recalled.

Julie said that while “he hasn’t got a bad bone in his body”, the horse can still be a bit of a handful.

“I rode him a couple of years ago and he took off with me and I couldn’t stop,” she said. “People can’t believe he’s 25, he’s still as mad as a hatter. I can hardly lead him to the field as he bounces along like a dressage horse.



“If you give him four days off he’ll go sideways down the road when you take him out. He’s full of life — that’s what daddy likes about him so much, his spirit. He wishes he could box it.”

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