Horse & Hound was launched on 29 March 1884 with the strapline: “The best of my fun, I owe it to horse and hound” from George Whyte-Melville’s poem, The Good Grey Mare.

The “mission statement” from the 23-year-old Editor, Arthur Portman, a racing enthusiast and crack shot who chose the title, was to provide a “reliable journal of sport and agriculture”.

It had a cover price of tuppence and comprised 16 A3 pages of dense, pictureless reportage on hunting, racing, polo, horse shows, agricultural and bloodstock sales, plus other sports, theatre reviews, society gossip and political comment.

In the 120yr since, Horse & Hound has charted the horse industry’s tireless regrouping against world crises, economic deprivation, scandal and political strife. Yet Portman’s early leaders reflect extraordinarily similar preoccupations to those of 2004.

In 1884, he expands on road safety (the gratifying tolerance of riders towards a gigantic increase in “wheelmen”), safer fence construction (in racing) balanced with the need to educate horses properly in jumping, and the threat to hunting.

Portman wrote: “Disguise it as we may, there’s a formidable party in this country opposed to all field sports… There are even British-born subjects who, if they had their wicked wishes consulted, would put down foxhunting…”

He exhorted all sportsmen to “form square” and remember: “Union is strength”, opining prophetically: “If the thin end of the wedge is once inserted, no man living can tell where this crusade against sport will stop…”

The big stories: 1884 to 2004

1885 — Launch of the Hunters’ Improvement Society
1907 — Launch of Olympia Horse Show
1925 — The BSJA is officially recognised
1939 — Outbreak of World War ll
1947 — Dressage meets the public at White City
1948 — Britain’s first three-day event
1949 — Build-up to the first Badminton
1949 — Early anti-hunting Bills
1949 — The first ever Badminton Horse Trials
1949 — Launch of The Horse of the Year Show
1952 — Britain’s first Olympic equestrian gold
1956 — Pat Smythe makes history as the first woman to ride on a British team
1956 — The first Olympic eventing gold for Britain
1960 — Aussies upset the form at Badminton (does this sound familiar?)
1966 — Arkle’s Gold Cup hat-trick
1968 — Uproar as Sheila Willcox is omitted from Britain’s Olympic team
1971 — Mill Reef’s year
1971 — Princess Anne wins the European eventing title
1971 — Harvey Smith and his famous V sign
1972 — Richard Meade wins double gold at ‘murderous’ Olympics
1972 — Ann Moore wins hearts with her silver medal-winning show jumping round
1977 — Red Rum wins his third Grand National
1980 — Equestrianism boycotts the Moscow Olympics
1983 — Lester Piggott wins a record ninth Derby
1983 — Shergar is kidnapped
1988 — Seoul Olympics highlight way forward for British breeding
1990 — The FEI’s slow response to cruelty allegations overshadow the first World Equestrian Games
1991 — MFHA expels Quorn masters over handled fox
1992 — Dick Pound decries equestrianism in Olympics
1992 — Britain ‘blows it’ by using the wrong tactics in Barcelona
1993 — Grand National ‘shambles’ as chaotic start leads to race being declared void
1999 — The Coral Cove affair unfolds
1999 — Disbelief as Polly Phillipps is killed in fall
2003 — Pippa Funnell wins the Rolex Grand Slam in eventing
2003 — Britain’s show jumpers hit rock bottom by failing to qualify for the Olympics
2004 — Best Mate equals Arkle’s Gold Cup record
2004 — Incompetence surrounds the eventing in Athens
2004 — Olympic Champion show jumper tests positive
2004 — Hunting is banned

  • Read Horse & Hound’s full retrospective of the past 120 years in the current issue (30 December ’04), on sale now.

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