Point-to-point, like many equestrian disciplines, is heavily reliant on volunteers. From those providing hospitality in the sponsors’ tent to those treading in the divots at the back of the fences, without them it would be very difficult for our sport to function.
Money inevitably changes hands for the provision of some services, such as medical support, but many people give up their time free of charge, largely for the benefit and enjoyment of others.
One key party that regularly gets overlooked, often in exchange for little more than a goodwill payment and a “by kind permission of” tucked away somewhere within the racecard, is the landowner.
Plying my trade for Fisher German LLP in the world of land agency means that from Monday to Friday, property and land prices are at the forefront of my mind. But at Chipley Park a couple of weekends ago I drove off the course feeling guilty about the mess we had left!
The land in question has been home of the Tiverton Foxhound point-to-point for as long as I can remember and, during the forgettable 2001 foot-and-mouth season, was the scene of my first winner.
Owned by the Summers family, by 5pm on 19 January 2014 it resembled little more than a quagmire after 108 horses had contested a 10-race card on rain saturated ground.
My own crude calculations suggest somewhere between 20 and 25 acres turned from green field to brown mud bath on that day, yet it will be restored and farmed over the next 364 days with one day in 2015 in mind.
Such commitment represents a significant practical and financial investment from the landowners, which is often forgotten.
Gratitude must go out to the Summers family and all who allow hunting and pointing to take place on their land for the pleasure of so many.
Darren’s column was first published in Horse & Hound magazine (6 February, 2014)