Andrew Sallis: ‘I’ve just mowed the lawn in December — the best is yet to come’ *H&H VIP*

  • When the terraces at Brighton & Hove Albion Football Club erupt on a Saturday afternoon with a rousing rendition of Sussex by the Sea, every Sussex man and woman is touched by its earnest camaraderie.

    At the end of November, another local tradition reached its annual conclusion — mercifully so for horse owners. Sussex takes its bonfire parties very seriously. One town was reputed to have a blinking Pope as the effigy on its bonfire this year. But like many traditions, its political origins fade over time and are lost on many enjoying the dazzling spectacle.

    Local private displays, often unannounced, cause horse owners huge problems — fatal injuries are not uncommon. Fireworks are spectacular and an integral part of our local culture.

    Although I am instinctively against banning anything, over the past few years several injuries, a colic and distressed hounds during two months of fireworks have convinced me that they should be enjoyed at organised community events or private, licensed celebrations that are required to advertise locally.

    Early learning

    As this year’s young entry establishes itself in the pack, next year’s cohort arrives back at kennels, offering their walkers a well-earned rest.

    The forgotten heroes must surely be the long-suffering family pets who shudder with resignation every spring when a couple of puppies lollop into their yard and proceed to hang off their ears and steal their beds.

    After months of abuse, it’s no wonder the helpline at the “Society for Pets of Puppy Walkers” is constantly engaged. Luckily for the hound puppies, instruction from dogs not afraid to put them in their place offers invaluable life lessons.

    So much of a hound’s education takes place on the hunting field at arm’s length from the huntsman. When hunting there should be a natural order — quarry (trail), hound, huntsman.

    All the hours of hound exercise, puppy walker’s love and attention, puppy show training and kennel routine mean nothing if a young hound is more interested in hanging around the huntsman’s horse than joining in with the rest of the hounds. Instinct (formerly known as fox-sense) and industry are fundamental and careful breeding over countless generations should principally take these into account.

    Fortunately, un-varmity hounds are rare and they are more likely to be found running around with their eyes on stalks for the first few days, like a child in a sweet shop. Channelling this enthusiasm, when free from the immediate clutches of the huntsman, is an art that relies on the strength of the pack and the will of the individual hound, as well as its desire to hunt intelligently and learn off its elders.

    Each season I am amazed by those hounds who possess remarkably old heads on young shoulders and get stuck in instantly like experienced sages. How do they know how to scale 5ft of stock fencing and barbed wire or cast round a farmyard?

    I have just mowed the lawn, in December, which probably explains why scent has been moderate of late. The sun and mild wind have sucked it off the wet ground. Hounds have worked hard in sweaty, balmy conditions to keep everyone on the move. Save for the occasional day, really decent sport won’t arrive until the jet stream moves, slashing the temperature in half, and a few frosts have cleaned the ground. The best is yet to come.

    Ref: Horse & Hound; 10 December 2015