The owner of a building company who took a Shire hunting on Boxing Day five weeks after he started riding said it was an “amazing experience”.
Lewis Evans had one riding lesson, but then decided to go it alone, and took on 18hh Mr Morph on loan.
The Boxing Day meet, with the Old Surrey Burstow & West Kent from Chiddingstone Castle in Kent, was the first time either horse or rider had ever jumped.
“When I started, my friends said ‘there’s no way you’ll be hunting this season’,” Lewis told H&H.
“But saying that’s like a red rag to a bull with me, I have to do it.
“I had a hack on a friend’s horse, and one lesson, then thought: ‘I’m just going to go for it, put my money where my mouth is and get this horse on loan.
“I’m not someone who does things by halves.”
Lewis, 36, has rock-climbed for 10 years but felt “age was catching up with me”, and that he wanted a new challenge.
“I’ve grown up seeing the hunt go out, all my friends do it and the social side of it appealed too,” he said.
“Everything about it – when you’re on a horse, it’s a completely different feeling. There’s the nobility of the whole scene and although I walk my dogs in the countryside, you see it in such a different way hunting.”
Lewis credits rock climbing for strong core muscles, which help his riding, and his other hobbies for a lack of nerves.
“Neither of us had ever jumped before the Boxing Day meet; I had a five-minute lesson while waiting at the castle and that was that, off we went,” he said.
“We didn’t do the big stuff but there were a couple of fields you couldn’t get out of without jumping so I just kicked on, as I’d been told.
“There was an element of nerves but with my hobbies – rock climbing, motorbiking and snowboarding – there’s not a lot I won’t throw myself at. I’ve found the more energy you put into trying, the less likely you are to hurt yourself; it’s when you hold back, the moment you start backing off, is when it goes wrong. You need to commit.”
Lewis, who also hunted with the Coakham Bloodhounds on 2 January, plans to keep hunting, and also hacking out, with refreshment stops at his local pub, the Rock Inn, Chiddingstone, where Mr Morph is allowed into the bar.
“Emily Marriott, who owns Mr Morph, has another horse who’s a bit more of a jumper and faster and she’s asked me to put some work into him so I might do the same again,” he added.
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“Everyone has been so welcoming and supportive. I rang the hunt secretary to say I was new and asked if they could point out any mistakes I made, and when you rock up on an 18hh Shire, you attract attention!
“I did have a spill, on both days, but it was just amazing.”