At last, my dancing shoes are working and the rain has arrived. It has never been a drier time for hunting, and this has made for a less-than-happy start for most of my fellow huntsmen. Both horses and hounds have suffered from the hard ground and the need to go steady has certainly been helped by a very poor scenting time.
Our opening meet coincided with Mrs Frampton’s birthday — what a treat indeed. The thought of a relaxing day was not on the agenda. Having horses, tack and kit to get ready for the big day, as well as tea at our house afterwards, was a different sort of birthday treat to the one she might have imagined.
There are, of course, some blessings in life and our twins, the “Frampettes”, managed to help their mother by getting at least some of their kit together. With any luck these two great events will not clash again for a while!
Careers in hunting
November is the time when hunt staff think about their future positions. A large hunt needing a new huntsman gets tongues wagging and it isn’t long before everyone but the hunt involved knows who their next huntsman is going to be.
The Masters of Foxhounds Association (MFHA) runs a list of people looking for jobs as well as jobs available. This is fine, but, in order to keep standards as high as possible, checking with the powers that be that you have a suitable candidate for the job is never a bad thing and will lead to a happier time for all concerned.
For me, the bursary scheme, which was started as a response to the lack of young men and women entering hunt service, has been a great success. During the year those on it will experience all aspects of a career in hunt service. For those who complete the year, a qualification in animal care and a position in hunt service will ensue.
The national shortage of staff in all areas of the equine world will inevitably mean that the long career ladder to the top is now a short hop up and the wealth of experience that we once had is no longer as readily available. The need for proper training and regulation for the future of hunting has been recognised by our leaders and action is now being taken to help support all those making their careers in our great sport.
For masters, the workload will be greatly increased from now on as more country is set for a full day’s hunting. All the shoot dates will be in and the biggest challenge will be coordinating days in what has become a very busy countryside. In many countries, stock will still be out and electric fencing must be turned off where possible. Hounds and electricity don’t mix!
The dry time will be good for relations with farmers and landowners but as the wet weather finally arrives this will become more of a challenge. The preparation of the jumps, gates, bridges and rides is ongoing but now there will be damage to put right as it occurs.
Field masters will have been walking the country on your behalf and will know the places that they can and cannot go — no mean feat when under pressure. With all this done there is no doubt that long hunts will ensue, but remember as you head home that it will be the masters and the staff who will be ensuring that we are all welcome another day.
Ref Horse & Hound; 15 November 2018