Somehow, no matter how many months there are between the last day’s hunting in the spring to the start of autumn hunting, the new season still manages to quietly creep up and it never gets any easier to be fully prepared.
The fat, unfit and long-maned hunters have been doing roadwork for weeks while you have been patiently watching the crops ripen and hounds have been building up their fitness, first with their hunt staff on bikes before mounted hound exercise took over.
Those with superstitious tendencies may have already got their lucky lightweight breeches out and their favourite hunting numnah washed and clean, however for those who aren’t quite so prepared, Horse & Hound offers a few tips on what to remember ahead of your first day autumn hunting so you don’t appear late, flustered and unkempt in front of masters and hunt staff — both new and old.
1. Track down your tweed hacking jacket and give it a thorough clean. The tweed may be adept at disguising the mud but it would be great to start the season with good intentions, even if they do slip slightly after weeks of early starts. Fish out any of last season’s mint humbugs that may have stuck to the lining and re-stock with fresh essentials.
2. Remember that autumn hunting mornings can be warm — especially if your horse gets lit up at the start of the season and you’re perhaps not as fit as you might be — so try to track down a short-sleeved shirt with a collar and leave your thermal stock shirt at home. You might want to check the top button is still on it too — nothing worse than stabbing yourself when trying to thread a needle at 4.30am on a hunting morning then blotting blood all over your clean shirt…
3. Find your hunting tie and get it cleaned if you need to — it is bound to still have either horse slobber on it or a bit of crusty egg-yolk from the last Hunt Supporters Club breakfast.
4. Makes sure you’ve visited your cobbler (or got yourself measured up for some new boots) if you find the soles have somehow come adrift from your hunting boots while sitting in the cupboard. Take a good look at the insides too to make sure they don’t need any holes patching up and track down the missing garter strap that had to double as a spur strap when one snapped on a gatepost last season. While on the subject of spurs, you had better find those too and give them a polish, and don’t forget your hunting whip.
5. Relocate your hunting cap, crash cap or headwear of choice and make sure it is comfortable — gentlemen should get a haircut if required and ladies should splash out on a new hairnet rather than wearing two with giant holes in the opposite way around to make sure errant hairs don’t poke out.
6. Make sure you have your horses’ travel wardrobe sorted out too. A lightweight cooler — most probably at the very bottom of the rug pile — will almost definitely be of most use before clipping during early autumn, while a tail bandage or tail guard is a must (unless you want to arrive with the proverbial bog-brush excuse of a tail). You might also want to clean your “hunting bridle” with a stronger bit and noseband combination to ensure you don’t spend the morning having your arms pulled out of their sockets.
7. The condition of horseboxes and other methods of transport should always be of paramount importance and safety checks to ensure that lights are working, the floor and walls are safe and the tyres are properly inflated go without saying. Just remember to take the wheelclamp off and check the handbrake on the trailer hasn’t been pulled up firmly over the summer though — there’s nothing worse than hitching up and pulling forward to find all wheels are locked tight and you’re digging grooves into the area where you’ve parked… laying underneath it before sunrise banging the brake drums with a large spanner to release them in your clean breeches is not ideal.
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8. And finally… don’t forget to have a shorter girth ready for when your horse eventually loses that extra inch or two of summer flesh. Trying to make-do with the long one you’ve been using for weeks could cause embarrassment when you leap off to open a gate then slide ungraciously round when trying to re-mount.