On the eve of the new point-to-point season, nothing has provoked more debate, much of it heated, than the alterations to the qualifying system for point-to-pointers.
The compulsory number of days’ hunting before a certificate can be issued has been reduced from seven to four, and each area is supposed to set a standardised minimum subscription based on the average charge for previous seasons.
Carmarthenshire joint-master Dai Jones, who has been involved with every aspect of the sport, is not a happy man.
“Something like this needs proper consultation,” he insists. “What gives the committee the right to play God? We knew nothing about it.”
He also points out that, in the West Wales area, some of the larger hunts kept their subscriptions deliberately high because they were getting too many followers on occasion. This allowed the smaller hunts to benefit by gaining those subscribers who wished to pay a lesser fee, and it was those “minnows” who were now likely to suffer.
Livery yard owner Caroline Bailey says that although the new system will take the pressure off those who have either a lot of horses, or animals which are difficult in the hunting field, it has been introduced at the most inopportune time.
“It’s sending out entirely the wrong message,” she says, believing, as do so many, that it is admitting defeat to the anti-hunt brigade.
The new standardised subscription is intended to cover just the four days, so anyone who wishes to hunt even one extra day will either have to pay a cap for that day, or pay a full hunt subscription.
It is unlikely that every hunt will impose this four days only ruling, but for those that do, their point-to-point fraternity will pay more money for less hunting.