Cycling through the parks of Amsterdam with our sons and their Dutch cousins en route to the zoo, we found ourselves caught up in Gay Pride. A massive party on the city’s canals in a capital without skyscrapers, I was struck by the similarities between our own countryside marches and this very continental version of an international event.
They both had a completely non-threatening, hugely social and carnival atmosphere. There may have been more comedy pink hairdos, sailor hats and recreational drugs at Gay Pride than at any of the marches, at least that I recall, but they share common principles — tolerance and celebrating a minority. Next summer, maybe we should have a flotilla down the Thames — Hunting Pride.
The new season is looming and final preparations are being made. It is time to run through the checklist… land changed hands, farms handed on to the next generation, new kit, new subscribers etc.
Repairs to hunting kit are best carried out before the eve of the first morning’s autumn hunting — major repairs may need the attention of tailor or seamstress.
I was recently handed down a case of Bedford cord and cavalry twill breeches. These beautifully-made pre-war garments will have life today if I can only find someone skilled to widen the calves. Those who hunted the Elysian Fields clearly didn’t have to do the pre-season cycling and walking country of their modern counterparts.
As traditional bootmakers and cobblers become increasingly rare, repairs become trickier. New boots require a mortgage, so careful maintenance is essential.
Check the tack too. Stitching repairs can save blushes and bruises! New kit and tack may have to be broken in, and some people are very superstitious about using something new for the first time out hunting.
Preparations with hounds and horses should be nearly complete by now — young hounds settled on exercise, learning the ropes, and new horses fit and acclimatised to hounds. As the autumn progresses we like to include cross-country schooling, grid work and visits to the gallops to tune in horse and huntsman.
Few aspects of the master’s role are more satisfying than opening new country.
After walking the new territory and planning access routes, a quiet midweek autumn hunting morning is normally the safest tactic for exploring how best to hunt virgin country.
Subscribers like the excitement of hunting new country too. My desire to have the country accessible, with jumps, gates and my “special spots” in order to stay with hounds has to be matched by the field’s ability to have a good ride and keep up with the chase.
If the hunt is fortunate to have gained new members, a few words of welcome before the season often go down well.
Ref: Horse & Hound; 20 August 2015