Andrew Sallis: Experience has taught me to embrace it *H&H VIP*

Opinion

Tin hats at the ready — it’s AGM season. The mere mention is enough to turn some MFHs to stone. Once a year, anyone with a toe in the hunt’s door has the opportunity to hold their hunt hierarchy to account. It is an important and necessary ritual, even cathartic at times.

As I drove to my first AGM nearly 20 years ago, my passenger, a distinguished retired MFH, informed me that the best AGMs are attended by a couple of subscribers, a farmer and his wife who walks puppies, and a wizened earth-stopper accompanied by his favourite terrier, who might get the casting vote. My heart duly sank at the sight of a full car park and a giddy atmosphere within. I’d never attended a public execution but feared this was going to run a close second.

If the hall is full of rarely seen faces, wheeled in for the occasion, and an independent “returning officer” has been engaged, you can be sure that a contentious vote is in store. Every hunt has had an AGM that’s entered local folklore. Some have more than one.

Preparation is key

Experience has taught me to embrace the meeting. In conjunction with the chairman, go prepared and head off all avenues in your presentation; offer a review of the year, its achievements and present the challenges for the season ahead. Good news stories are important and remember to thank everyone.

If you bang on long enough then the floor will be desperate for a drink, if not asleep, as you sermonize on the benefits of yet another Welsh outcross. The desire for awkward questions will diminish. Questions can be illuminating. Others are posed by those who already know the answer. Their issue generally irritates most people.

For those still conscious, the treasurer’s report is a real highlight. Subscription receipts may be up but don’t forget the amazing fundraisers. And a gentle reminder that a shiny new kennel gate is a worthy target but it’s no use sitting on the funds if the whipper-in can’t be paid to walk through it.

The elections on offer vary from hunt to hunt. Officers, masters and committee members may be elected. If  the chairman has done his or her work properly, these should follow without recourse and cause neither controversy nor blushes.

Voting rights are particularly crucial. These should be laid out clearly in the hunt constitution, although with some issues, when the chips are down, the constitution can mean for naught and all bets are off.

Blood splatter and beers

Hopefully everything has passed well and the ladies knitting in the front row haven’t been splattered in blood; tin hats turn into beer tankards and everyone breathes an audible sigh of relief. I now believe that the best AGMs are well attended by those who want to be part of their “club” and for one night, just need to check that it’s in good hands.

It is also reassuring see so many friends, hunt supporters and farmers alike, formalising their support for the hunt and its mastership. The receivers haven’t been summoned, support is on the up and the mastership isn’t doing too bad after all; at least far better than anyone else could do.

Ref Horse & Hound; 21 February 2019