At a time when hunting is so seriously under threat, it was heartening to see so many hunting people having great fun at the Silver Fox Challenge – sponsored by Country Life – with non-hunting members of the public also enjoying the spectacle.
With 26 teams of four riders – travelling to Hambleden from as far afield as Ireland, the Isle of Wight and Cornwall – battling it out for the first prize of £3,000 and the coveted Silver Fox Trophy, the level of competition was always going to be high.
Riders desperately tried to jump an all-too-elusive fast clear round, and they also needed to ensure that the baton changeover was slick.
With the likes of Daisy Dick, Jonty Evans and William Miflin taking part, there was some very stylish riding on display and horses looked as though they enjoyed the beautifully presented courses as much as their riders.
After a thrilling first three rounds, newcomers to the competition such as the Wheatland and the Wilton, were sadly knocked out. This left the Ballymacad, the Four Burrow and the VWH – all of whom have been in the shake-up before – and the Bicester with Whaddon Chase
The Bicester despatched the VWH and there was a nail-biting semi-final between the Four Burrow and the Ballymacad, with the Four Burrow going through to the final with only a second in hand.
Ultimately, the determination of the Bicester proved too much for them, with local vet Bob Baskerville pulling out all the stops to produce a very popular clear round to clinch victory for the Bicester, thereby redeeming himself for falling off in a baton handover in an earlier round!
With a very light hearted Country Clothing Fashion Show, gun dog scurry, charity clay shoot, falcons, ferrets and cookery demonstrations the Silver Fox Country Fair was real celebration of the country way of life and the organisers have great plans to develop the event further next year.