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‘If you’re not well, go hunting!’ Field-master going strong as 80th birthday approaches

A field-master who is hunting twice a week on a 23-year-old grade A showjumper as he approaches his 80th birthday has no plans to hang up his boots.

Derek Clackett, who marks his milestone on 17 January, was out with the Jersey Drag Hunt on New Year’s Day, popping fences on Mr Personality (Roger).

“Together, we add up to quite an age!” Mr Clackett, who has also showjumped for Jersey and competed in dressage, told H&H.

“He was pretty good at dressage too; at least elementary level, in my view, but I think what makes a good hunt horse is one who’s good at showjumping and dressage – you can open a gate from them, or jump it.

“I look after him, nurse him a bit; I share duties with another field-master so I might go towards the back or take another line but he’s perfect. A snaffle mouth, no martingale, stands like a rock and gallops on command.

“I’ve had good hunters but he has to be among the best.”

Derek Clackett with his daughters and daughter-in-law on New Year’s Day

Asked if Roger is Irish-bred, Mr Clackett laughed.

“I have to say – although all the other horses in my yard are Irish, he’s a blessed Dutch warmblood, I’m almost ashamed to say it!” he said.

Mr Clackett, who has served as chairman of the Jersey Pony Club and British Showjumping club, and president of the hunt, the master of which is Nick Arthur, is undergoing chemotherapy for lymphoma, but has not let that stop him, as his New Year’s Day meet was days after a session of treatment.

“One of my mantras has always been ‘if you’re not well, go hunting’,” he said.

“In the army, soldiers used to have a good old night out, till 4am and could barely stand, then at 5.30am, they’d be in full uniform, go for a gallop, and when they came back, they’d have a good old breakfast.

“My daughters will bear me out; you always feel better when you come back. And as well as the mental side of it, I’m sure there are medical benefits, as well as being in the fresh air and everything moving about.

“I’d hate to say I’m an example but having made my age, I put it down to being outside with a shovel full of you know what.”

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Mr Clackett, who still runs a surveying practice, also comes to England twice a year to hunt with the Devon and Somerset Staghounds, on Exmoor “where it always rains”.

And his family are chips off the old block; while his wife no longer hunts, his two daughters, daughter-in-law and all but the youngest of his eight grandchildren have all followed hounds, while his oldest has showjumped for Jersey and the youngest looks set to follow suit.

Mr Clackett has no plans to stop hunting “unless anyone orders me too, and I don’t think they will”.

“Every time I approach a certain age – I used to think when I got to 70, I’d think about stopping, then it was 75, then 80, and I’m looking at 85 now,” he said.

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