When Mary and I set out for hunting on Saturday, my heart wasn’t really in it. We had high winds again, something that has blighted a number of days this season; they were whistling around the treetops in a menacing way, which could only bode ill for the day ahead.
Unboxing, it took all my strength to close the trailer door. I was clinging on like Mary Poppins with her umbrella, only with far worse language. Feeling defeated before we’d begun, I told Mary we’d give it a couple of hours and call it a day.
It was a lovely meet at a neighbour’s farm and afterwards we hacked up the road to a celebrated patch of gorse where, despite my gloomy predictions, hounds took a trail away with gusto. Off we went; a route followed many times before, up a gentle hill and down the other side, through large grassy fields with hounds on in front, going well.
“I think we’re heading to Lanton [a farm some distance away belonging to two former masters],” I said happily, as we cantered downhill towards a wicket gate.
But it wasn’t to be. Just seconds after uttering these words, I noticed Mary’s weight shifting forwards up Rusty’s neck. “Sit up,” I shouted, as she shifted uneasily in the saddle.
There was a tantalising moment when it looked as if she’d recovered her balance, before she catapulted out of the front door at speed, hitting the ground with a thump. They always say the worst falls come on the flat.
“You get off and see to Mary, I’ll hold the pony,” said Caroline, taking control in her ever-efficient way. Mary was crying, very gently. “My arm really hurts,” she said plaintively.
Rachel, our unofficial paramedic, was asking all the right things like, “Can you move your fingers?” but I, to my shame, was still thinking, “Hounds, ahead, keep moving.”
“Don’t worry, don’t worry. We’ll soon get you back on,” I blustered, but when I tried to give Mary a leg up, she yelped horribly.
The penny finally dropped: it was blindingly obvious that our next stop was not Lanton but A&E.
“Please go on, we’ll manage,” I said to the solicitous group that had gathered.
John, a new subscriber, stayed on to help while Scott and his brother on quad bikes gave Mary a lift back to the trailer. Having dropped the horses off at home, we were in A&E an hour later; the patient X-rayed (a broken wrist), bandaged and out again in another three. Say what you like about the NHS — the service was flawless. But next time an ill wind blows, Mary and I are staying at home.
Ref Horse & Hound; 20 February 2020