Life-long hunt supporter to celebrate 80th birthday following hounds

  • A life-long follower of hounds is planning on celebrating his 80th birthday on the hunting field this week.

    Benjamin Walden, who has hunted all his life, will turn 80 on Thursday (22 March).

    Mr Walden started hunting on the lead rein as a child with the Avon Vale, inheriting his love of following hounds from his father.

    “I think hunting is in my blood,” he told H&H.

    He served as master at the Avon Vale for 10 years between 1983 and 1993, before moving over to the South & West Wilts.

    “I think I’m the oldest out there hunting [with them] at the moment,” he said.

    He added that while he is a “little less gung ho than maybe I once was”, he does still jump and his hunt coat has served him for at least 40 years.

    “I have been determined to get to 80 and still be riding, and I’m going to ride to hounds [on my birthday],” he said. “I want to keep going, I think hunting is a great life.”

    Mr Walden’s mare “Choccy”, short for Chocolate, came into his life almost by accident five years ago.

    He had just lost his long-term campaigner, Murphy, when the mare arrived at the yard where he keeps his horses.

    Choccy had been sent to the yard to sell as her previous owner was moving away to university.

    It was very lucky — she kept me going,” he said. “She pulls my arms out, but she is very good.

    “My granddaughter rides and has taken Choccy out a few times on a Saturday.”

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    Mr Walden also owns eventers, including the former four-star horse Springleaze Macaroo, who Mr Walden hunted after the horse retired from eventing with William Fox-Pitt, Zara Tindall and a number of other riders.

    He also owns the former advanced mare Zidante, who was ridden by Kitty King until an injury cut short the horse’s competitive career in 2014.

    Zidante is now a broodmare and is currently in foal to Chilli Morning.

    The first of her offspring, a four-year-old by Esteban, named Zacaroo, is set to start her ridden career with Kitty this year.

    While the forecast for Thursday is for rain — and perhaps a celebratory whisky — Mr Walden said the weather will not stop him enjoying the day.

    “Every day out hunting is a good day,” he added.

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