Hunting seven horses on seven days with seven packs is not for the faint-hearted — but the aptly named Frank Furlong did it in style, and has the hip flask to prove it.
Tom Guilding, of DG Equine in Gloucester which offers hirelings, as well as backing, schooling and horse sales, came up with the challenge and persuaded Frank to give it a go.
The pair went out with the Ledbury last Monday (17 January), the Curre & Llangibby on Tuesday, the Berkeley on Wednesday, the Vale of the White Horse (VWH) on Thursday, the Taunton Vale on Friday, the Cotswold on Saturday and the Farmers Bloodhounds on Sunday.
“I set the challenge to Frank, who’s in his 60s – I met him in the summer when he hired for a fun ride but he’d never hunted before,” Tom told H&H. “He came out a few times this season and when I set him the challenge, he said yes, but then I think his friends talked him out of it and he said he didn’t think he could do it.
“I said ‘Come on, Frank’, bearing in mind his name’s Furlong too, and he said ‘Go on then, if you say so’.”
The pair stayed out all day for most of the days; Thursday’s was a dinner meet and Friday’s a breakfast start, and the bloodhounds only went three lines, but both Tom and Frank enjoyed every day.
“At the end, Frank said ‘Will the next challenge be 10 days then?’” Tom said. “He was game for more, and it was actually a really good crash course in how to do hunting. On the Monday, it was quite relaxed, Tuesday we were jumping gates and rails and a few hedges, by Thursday it was ditch-jumping, Friday big hedges, Saturday stone walls and Sunday a bit of everything round the team-chase course! By the end of the week, we’d done just about everything, then in the evenings, we went out for meals, and Frank joined my skittles team one evening; it was like a ski holiday but with hunting.”
Frank rode Chester, Annabel, Casper, Ricky, Cosmo, Guinness and Rufus for his challenge, and Tom of course also rode seven different horses.
“I was really lucky in that the people at home were getting all the horses and everything ready, so I just got home and put the horses to bed,” Tom said. “I couldn’t let Frank have all the fun and one big thing was how welcoming all the hunts were, so happy to see Frank and interested in the challenge. Everyone wanted to know what was going on and he felt one of the team, which was lovely.”
Tom said he came up with the idea as DG Equine has been offering hirelings for some 20 years, and he is “always looking for something new”.
“It was good to have someone take it up, and it’s possible!” he said. “There were some big hedges out with the Taunton Vale, which Frank was jumping with wide eyes; he definitely jumped stuff he wouldn’t have thought was possible too, and he stayed on all week.”
At the end, Tom presented Frank with a hip flask engraved with the name of the challenge and the hunts involved.
“It was great fun,” Tom said. “I’m not sure how much I’d have enjoyed it if I’d been cleaning my own tack and horses though!”
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