Andrew Sallis: Rain? What’s that? *H&H VIP*

  • Opinion

    Worlds collided when the lost tribes of the Amazon gazed skywards in awe, curiosity and fear as a mammoth jet roared overhead. The beagle puppies that our children walk for a local pack, now nearly six months old, looked equally shocked at the recent wet stuff coming down from the heavens, allegedly called “rain”.

    Now, I know that some parts of our blessed isle have had a reasonable amount of autumn precipitation but the home counties and much of England have been arid, consistently so. Repercussions for farmers are significant with little grass and no second cut of hay and silage. Forage prices have already risen for farmers and horse owners.

    The ground conditions have made autumn hunting challenging for hounds and horses, too. The cracks in our vale are large enough to trip a horse and lose a hound’s leg. Hounds are, however, remarkable creatures whose ability to adapt and persevere never ceases to amaze me. Settled conditions are infinitely preferable to a waving barometer and hounds, for the most part, have had a level, if poor-scenting, playing field to tune their senses. Ironically, confusion can arise when there is a sudden change of conditions or climate and everything smells different.

    When talking to a senior professional huntsman, who was tearing out what little hair he had left, we agreed that the hounds will have worked extremely hard for their supper throughout this autumn and when the conditions improve it will be to their benefit, as their hard graft will be rewarded.

    Hounds have begun the new season with gusto and I can’t fault their industry, nor that of the mounted field, whose enthusiasm and numbers are buoyant. As the opening meet approaches, hunts are becoming longer and days more expansive.

    Be ready for the big day

    Whatever it takes, make sure you’re ready for the opening meet. Ensure your hunt coat isn’t covered in last season’s mud in advance of the night before. In all of the excitement, do remember to load your horse and put the ramp up. If not, you wouldn’t be the first.

    Many dyed-in-the-wool hunting people are superstitious about wearing new clothes, or even clothes that have never been worn on a horse before, for the first time out hunting. Last week we all sported splendid pink hunt ties for our hunt’s recent fund raiser for breast cancer, organised by the partner of a hunting farmer next to the kennels. I did hear of one person who was unable to break in her new tie before hunting. Fearing Armageddon, she sat on her horse in the stable before loading for hunting.

    Of course, I think it is all codswallop, as long as I am wearing my lucky waistcoat and Grandfather’s stock pin, otherwise who knows which black hole will swallow the earth.

    Your hunter may not have jumped as much as usual on the hard ground during the last month, but a schooling session or two on a more favourable surface might not go amiss for you both — all horses benefit from the change of scene.

    When at the meet, take a moment to greet the masters and the huntsman. Then push your hat down and keep up with those wonderful hounds. Hopefully they’ll fly like starlings.

    Ref Horse & Hound; 25 October 2018