Denise Sykes, long-time horse owner
“I used to be rather indifferent on the whole issue of hunting, but since becoming a regular reader of Horse & Hound, I have got more interested and was keen to learn what the hunting correspondents are so passionate about.
“With this in mind, my friend and I attended the newcomers’ meet of the Badsworth and Bramham on hired horses. My friend and I were overwhelmed by the friendship, manners and professionalism of those we met and by the sincere welcome extended to us.
“I would like to thank those who made the day so special — particularly Sue Clark and Jamie of Timber Tops, and Jenny who taught us so much of the work and etiquette of hunting. We are converted and I can only hope that we are not the only ones as a result of Newcomers’ Week. Our plans are now in place for attending Birdsall on Declaration Day!”
Vicky Tottle, hunt supporter
“I attended the newcomers’ meet with the Vale of Aylesbury with Garth and South Berks and would like to express my thanks to all those involved. I had a thoroughly enjoyable day, was welcomed by all and made to feel totally at ease.
“I would particularly like to thank the kind gentleman who stopped to help my sister, who was bucked off after 10min.
“I have been on all the marches and supported the sport throughout all the madness. However, I had never actually been out with hounds and I am so pleased that I decided to go.
“Many people had said to me: “ooh, loads of big stone walls and massive spreads to jump”, and I think that maybe this image puts people off. However, we were not the only ones who did not wish to jump and we were well escorted around all the obstacles.”
David Ford, happy hacker
“Despite being brought up in the country and having started riding only four years ago at the age of 37, I have always held a neutral view about hunting.
“While I was happy to hack out and compete in riding club activities on my old schoolmaster, hunting was always just another equestrian pursuit that other people did, about which I little knowledge.
“That all changed this week when I was kindly invited to go out with the Crawley and Horsham as part of Newcomers’ Week. Not only did I have 3hr of fun, but I also learnt so much more about hunting.
“I had no idea how well trained the hounds were and how quickly the final dispatch of the fox can be. Certainly the experience helped me allay any concerns I might have had about the ethics and it is a shame that so many people have formed their opinions without really understanding the full facts.
“I really was made to feel welcome during the meet, with so many people coming up to speak to me to see how I was getting on. Many thanks to my companion, Trooper, a real professional and a delight to ride.”