Steven Ashworth: To happy hounds and good hunting *H&H VIP*

Opinion

As May marks the start of the new hunting season, with it comes change. After hunting with the Holcombe Harriers for 18 years, and being employed as professional huntsman for the past 11, I decided the time had come for a new challenge and, like many other hunt staff all over the country, started to look to pastures new.

Having spent over a decade with my beloved harriers, and wanting to give the masters as much time as possible to find a suitable replacement, in went the letter of resignation. This was closely followed by sheer panic: what now? Where next? What’s the protocol?

The realisation soon hit that neither my wife nor I had written a CV since school, didn’t have a clue what jobs were available or how to go about getting on the elusive “list” to apply for them. Luckily for us, a phone call to a respected peer put us in touch with a hunt he thought was well suited, and off we went for an interview.

We drove up the M62 feeling sick, windows down, trying mentally to prepare for what we imagined would be a Dragons’ Den-style grilling. All intelligent answers went straight out the window as I faced the worst mental block of the 21st century and even managed to excel myself when talking about hound breeding by announcing that “my wife and I thrash it out in an evening.”

We laughed all the way home remembering the things we should have said, or in my case the things I shouldn’t have told a room full of strangers.

The waiting game

It was a long week waiting for a reply — we’d fallen for the comparatively open and rural country, the quaint village settings of kennels and the most welcoming of hunting people. We’d seen the door to Narnia (a garden gate looking out on to rolling green hills and a deep wooded valley that had everything you needed for great hunting), and we wanted in!

It was a huge relief when we were put out of our misery and offered the job at the Derwent. Of course we were thrilled and excited, but we also felt like we had cheated on such a fantastic pack of hounds, who that day like every other, tried their hearts out to add to our guilt of leaving them behind.

A strange season of “lasts” followed — our last opening meet, the festive period, the hunt ball and, before we knew it, our last closing meet with the Holcombe Harriers. Cue emotional breakdown number 127 for my wife as I blew for home.

With that, a mountain of cardboard boxes started to appear and, despite plenty of taking the mick out of everyone who brings a new box, it turns out there’s no such thing as enough boxes when moving jobs, house, yards and horses all in one go. Or enough helpers!

My advice to anyone who has a friend moving — take them cardboard boxes and cake, it’s much appreciated.

We wish everyone who has made a move this season the very best of luck settling to their new roles. To happy hounds, good hunting and not moving again for a long time!

Ref Horse & Hound; 16 May 2019