Our season came to an abrupt end due to kennel cough. It was a rather sad way to end, without our normal Cheltenham Wednesday meet.
It is always a fun day with many visiting masters and hunt staff as well as people from afar all joining in with the festivities of the greatest week of racing in the calendar. The whole area comes alive as thousands gather to watch the best England has to offer against the mighty Irish.
A few years ago we were lucky enough to lead the Festival winners in. This long-standing tradition shows the bond that the racing and hunting community still holds. The feeling that you get as you ride down in front of the stands with the roar of the crowd cheering the winner in is like no other.
There were very few instructions given to us, but a little advice was handed out by one senior member of hunt staff. If you want to be on TV, go slowly so that the jockey is right behind you, and if you fall off, don’t get up!
A couple of weeks ago we hosted the Wynnstay hounds. Richard Tyacke, who is retiring as master and huntsman, has done a wonderful job in keeping the country open, providing top-class sport and breeding a fine pack of hounds. These hounds are old English-based with a touch of modern blood every few generations.
It was a pleasure to see a different pack operating in an alien country to their own. Every huntsman has a particular type of hound that they favour, based on what suits their country best.
When breeding a pack of hounds you are always striving to improve them, so it is important not to be blinkered in your approach.
We were lucky enough to have two Wynnstay doghounds for the season who performed well in the hunting field and nicked in with our hounds despite being a totally different type.
Taking your hounds to a different country shows their strengths and weaknesses and gives an opportunity to go back home and address your future breeding plans. A good pack of hounds should be able to hunt in any country but taking a lowland pack of hounds to a hill country is the ultimate test.
A hill pack has to draw far and wide and have the ability to hunt without much aid from their huntsman. A lowland pack will inevitably struggle with this to begin with but gain confidence as the day goes on.
A trip to another hunt country is also an opportunity to meet other hunting people. Everyone wants to make their guests feel as welcome as possible; teas, dinners and parties will ensue and firm new friendships made.
The week was tinged with sadness as we said our goodbyes to two proper foxhunters.
As we stood in church hearing about the lives that they had led and the fun that they had had, I could only think, “I hope I get it right.”
It is truly a great honour to be asked to blow the traditional “gone away” at the end of the service.
The moment comes and you just hope that the note comes out right and you have enough air in your lungs to give them the send-off that they deserve.
Ref Horse & Hound; 21 March 2019