Goodnight – Tessa Waugh’s hunting diary: a spectacular misjudgement *H&H Plus*

  • Tessa Waugh underestimates trusty Rusty’s summer energy levels, as the 12.2hh scatters the hounds like skittles on his seasonal hound exercise debut in an inadequate snaffle...

    How many of life’s cock-ups begin with the words, “You’ll be fine?” These were the words coming out of my mouth as we tacked up Rusty for hound exercise yesterday, noting a bit too late that he didn’t have his pelham and curb chain on, just the snaffle. Alec is bigger now. I figured that he wouldn’t have any trouble controlling the chunky 12.2hh on what is basically just a glorified hack.

    No doubt there will be (sensible) people reading this and shaking their heads vigorously at this spectacular misjudgement, but I was still thinking about Rusty’s summer incarnation; grass-obsessed kick-along who can barely raise the energy to walk in from the field – you have to drag him – let alone trot. I watched Alec load him on to the lorry and walked down to the field to get Jim.

    It was about 10.30am when I heard the lorry pull into the yard shortly followed by Adam coming in for his breakfast. As usual, all information was on a strictly need-to-know basis.

    Adam switched the kettle on and put some bread in the toaster while I stood by with bated breath. Still nothing volunteered. Several more minutes ticked by before I finally cracked and ventured a tentative, “How did it go this morning?”  The reply that came back was not what I wanted to hear.

    “That pony’s no good for hound exercise,” said Adam firmly. “Alec couldn’t hold one side of him, kept trotting through all the hounds.”

    He went on to fill me in on various tack malfunctions; pony’s head in the air rendering the bit useless, the ill-fitting martingale gaping with the neck at full stretch. It wasn’t difficult to imagine the scene: Rusty, impervious to anything his rider did on top, scattering hounds in all directions. Adam’s stony face.

    I wondered how I could possibly, after all these years, miscalculate the effect a pack of hounds can have on a pony. Particularly after five months of hacking and doing circles. Rusty didn’t get the memo about exercise – in his mind, he was going hunting.

    Fortunately, Alec seemed unbothered. When he appeared from the stables, he didn’t mention going through the hounds like a ball through skittles, just said his hands were a bit sore from pulling.

    “If he wasn’t such an easy-going child, I would have put him off years ago,” I mused.

    He has taken Rusty again this morning and we were out at the stables first thing today with curb chains and pelhams. With any luck, he’ll be quiet as a lamb this time.

    H&H 13 August 2020

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