Goodnight – Tessa Waugh’s hunting diary: A sense of optimism *H&H Plus*

  • The finger is pointed at Tessa Waugh’s horse, as all the others in the holidaying herd pick up mysterious little injuries – while renovating the kennel huntsman’s cottage gives succour in troubled times

    The horses are out on the hill for their annual summer holiday; their rugs are off, their summer coats are through and they are enjoying some downtime. Adam and I walked out to see them one evening enjoying the pleasant tableau they made; four geldings standing around like a group of old boys in a pub. It seemed idyllic.

    We can see a good portion of the hill from the kitchen window, but neither of us were alarmed when we couldn’t see the horses the following morning.

    Later that day, I was heading out with Mary and Alec on their ponies, when Alec spotted them – two bays and two greys – standing at the top of the hill some 200 feet above us. They looked wonderful silhouetted against the sky and we watched them for a while as they trotted about in formation.

    “How many horses,” I wondered, “get to hang out like a mob of brumbies in their spare time?”

    These romantic thoughts were forgotten the following morning when the two greys came in with marks all over their legs.

    “Jim is the only one without injuries,” reported Eildon, who helps on the farm, “so I expect he was responsible.”

    There is no denying my horse is the resident bully, but I was on the defensive. Would he really kick the hell out of the others? The marks on Jack and Trigger’s legs – which on closer inspection were only cosmetic – could have been caused by wire.

    A day later, Adam noticed that part of the fence dividing that hill was down and some of the posts had been pulled out of the ground. There were 50 cattle calving on that hill for two months and none of them came in with a scratch.

    “Typical bloody horses,” Adam and I muttered in unison.

    ‘DIY SOS on steroids’

    The cottage down at the kennels is undergoing some work before our new kennel-huntsman can move in, and each day a crew of masked and gloved volunteers turn up one by one to strip wallpaper, cut down trees, build bonfires and paint walls. It’s a fairly torturous process, renovating a house under social distancing rules, but work is coming on apace.

    “It’s like DIY SOS on steroids,” someone quipped, above the hum of two-stroke engines.

    Everyone was getting stuck in. The hunt secretary, ordinarily a dapper figure in a well-cut suit, was up a ladder lopping branches in his boiler suit.

    “I can’t watch,” said another masked figure, emerging from the garden with his hands over his eyes.

    Meanwhile, on the other side of the fence, our local high court judge, who is recently retired, was going psycho on some tree roots in a JCB.

    We may all be working on separate little projects, but the place is a hive of industry, everyone is enjoying themselves and the sense of optimism is palpable. I wish we could bottle it.

    Ref Horse & Hound; 28 May 2020

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