Taking up hunting as an adult: H&H’s tips

  • Even people who have hunted all their lives will admit to feeling nervous on a hunting morning — anything from a few butterflies to full-on, stomach-churning nausea.

    But imagine if you are doing it for the first time; you are not a child so it hurts when you fall off, and there’s no one around to tell you what to do. This is not fun.

    It takes a lot of courage to set out on this path, but those who do can be richly rewarded — if you “get the bug” it’s nothing short of life-changing.

    Case study: Tatler editor Kate Reardon

    Kate Reardon is a London girl turned Portman subscriber, who swapped her Manolos for a pair of hunting boots three seasons ago.

    She started riding in her late 30s at a hunting livery yard and one thing led to another.

    She now she hunts once a week, has her own horse and describes this development as “possibly the most exciting thing that ever happened to me”.

    It was a strange meeting of worlds. At the time, Kate was a contributing editor for Vanity Fair, living, by her own admission, “a chic and fabulous London life”, so hunting wasn’t the most obvious weekend activity.

    I had to wait until I was 40 to get my first pony, so I was really excited, but I was surrounded by people who thought I was mad,” she says.

    And it took perseverance: “For the first year and a half, every time I got on I was so terrified that I thought I was having a stroke. Now I find it is the perfect antidote to London life.

    “It’s almost like meditation: no matter what you’re worrying about on Saturday morning, you can’t afford to think about it when you’re out hunting. You have to stay focused so that you remain alive and don’t kill anyone.”

    Kate recalls a breakthrough day with the South Dorset.

    “I jumped my first hedge and it was like an out-of-body experience,” she says.
    She found hunting people more welcoming than expected.

    “They might look scary, but the second you make eye contact and raise half a smile they beam back at you, and they don’t think you’re a moron because you haven’t done it for years.”

    Advice for hunting newcomers

  • Befriend someone knowledgeable and listen and learn
  • Don’t feel bad about falling off; even the most competent members of the field take the odd tumble
  • Start with a decent level of fitness; everything will be much easier
  • Don’t feel you have to jump everything — there’s always another day
  • Learn who to follow and who to avoid
  • Have the odd riding lesson
  • Don’t be tempted by too many hip flasks. It might sooth the nerves but you need to keep your wits about you
  • Don’t feel you are being judged. Hunts are much more welcoming than they used to be and most people are just happy to see someone new having a go

    Read our beginners’ guide to hunting to get the most from your day

    To read the full feature about taking up the chase as an adult see the current issue of H&H (10 January)

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