Making a comeback to hunting after taking a break can be a daunting prospect, but there are ways to make it as painless as possible, says Charlotte Mackaness...
5 ways to get your nerve back out hunting
1. Find the right horse
Having a good horse that suits you is essential.
Gill Parton hunted through to her teens and went back to the sport almost by accident in her 40s. “When my youngest child went to school, a friend asked whether I’d like to hack her horse to bring him into work after an injury and get me riding again.
“Reiker was 15 and a brilliant hunter so the lady who ran the yard where he lived asked whether I fancied going cubbing. I had a lovely time,” she recalls.
“In the end we had three wonderful seasons doing pretty much everything. Eventually, I became so keen I bought a younger horse as I like to stay out until dark on Pytchley Mondays.”
2. Be organised
Get logistics — location of the meet, parking etc — sorted in advance to reduce stress on the day.
3. Make the most of your friends
Ask the advice of friends or the hunt secretary about days that might offer the most gentle reintroduction in terms of country, usual size of field and people who you can follow. Take a friend (or request a nanny) who knows the country well and is sympathetic to any nerves.
4. Safety first
Feeling secure is more important than looking stylish. Don’t feel embarrassed about having a neck strap, crash hat, back protector or even Tubigrip on the knees.
5. Remember to enjoy it!
Don’t expect to carry on where you left off. Try to be as hunting-fit as possible before you go but be easy on yourself — it’s about enjoyment!
“Even the bravest of riders lose confidence after a break,” says sports psychologist Helen Rennie.
“While everyone will have different reasons for time off from hunting, one thing is universal when making a return: it should be enjoyable.
“Luckily, hunting has many ingredients that can help make it a positive experience,” she says.
“You’re with friends; there’s the distraction of the countryside and hounds; and nothing is compulsory.”