Some of the bravest souls in the hunting and team chasing worlds negotiated the Melton Hunt Club Ride on Wednesday, over an undulating course through the cream of the Quorn Hunt Friday country, taking in the Quenby and Lowesby estates.
Having been postponed from Monday 1 March, due to hard frosts, there was much discussion about the state of the ground before the decision was taken to go ahead. However, a number of entrants, including the Kings Troop, were still concerned about the going and withdrew.
Even with this reduced field, moe than 20 horses assembled at the start waiting patiently for the starter, Charlie Gordon Watson. When he failed to arrive – it seems his quad was napping back to the boxes – Stuart Campbell stepped into the breech and let the riders go with his handkerchief.
Possibly due to the going, the first two fields were taken at a good hunting pace but the ones to watch had soon shown a clean pair of heals to the rest of the field, whose blood was rising.
The Melton Hunt Club Ride has a reputation for being big and hairy, and there were a few hedges that were best attempted on a very scopey horse, but this year’s course included some escape routes to avoid the stiffest questions for the first time.
However, once the ride was underway those fences that frighten the riders most, seemed to jump well. At the MHC drinks party at Quenby Hall on Sunday some riders had spoken in shaky tones about avoiding certain bogey fences but found themselves sailing over them with impunity on the day.
The ride is often won and lost over a single fence and the last, a relatively innocent set of rails, proved decisive this year.
Ashley Bealby’s stop at the aforementioned rails allowed the experienced Jos Hanbury, who first took part in the ride in 1973, to take first place for the second time, while Ashley came in second. Third overall and the first lady home was Emily Gilruth, while hunting officer Capt Rupert Sturgis came fourth and won the silver fox for the first Guards Saddle Club member.
The lure of this ride is such that two people had travelled from Cornwall to pit themselves and their horses against the best that Leicestershire has to offer. With people already hatching plans to enter next year’s race, the race’s supporters are hopeful that the future of this unique challenge is secure.