Goodnight: Tessa Waugh’s hunting diary — breaking an unwritten rule *H&H Plus*

  • Tessa Waugh considers the folly of lending her horse to her husband to hunt hounds when her charge returns late and punch-drunk — and ponders if he will cope being relegated to the field again

    When you’re married to a huntsman, there are certain things you try to avoid. You can’t always manage it of course, but life is generally more harmonious if you do.

    An obvious one might be attempting to talk to your husband while he’s hunting. That’s a basic. Another one, carved into a stone tablet somewhere, is the one that says, “Thou shalt never lend your horse to your husband to hunt hounds.”


    Sounds churlish, but there is a very good reason for this which all huntsmen’s wives understand. Quite simply, if you do it too often and the horse enjoys it, it’ll be wrecked for riding in the field — that is, for you.

    For a horse, taking up the job with the hounds is like being promoted from chorus girl to leading lady; some of them simply hate going back to the rank and file. Not to mention the fact that Adam’s horses need to be fitter, harder and used to carrying more weight. But with both of Adam’s off, there was nothing for it but to offer him my horse Jim; he’d taken him on hound exercise in the summer and felt confident that he wouldn’t kick the hounds.

    The day before, our friend Cookie rang, sensing the opportunity for a wind-up.

    “I’ve told Adam to fill him full of bute beforehand, then you won’t know if he does any damage to himself,” he teased, knowing full well that Adam would do no such thing.  I tried to laugh at Cookie’s joke, but it sounded a bit hollow.

    ‘It’s the thoroughbred in him’

    Saturday came and there was the unfamiliar sight of Adam atop Jim, surrounded by hounds. I fluttered around them, inspecting Jim’s noseband, attempting to put a hand under the girth like I would with the children.

    “Get off,” warned Adam fiercely. There was nothing for it but to step away from the horse.

    As it was, the day was curtailed because of high winds, so horse and rider were back in the yard by two o’clock. I put the kettle on, hoping foolishly for a debrief, but blood and stone sprung to mind as Adam eventually bestowed the information that Jim was a fidget but went up the hills well. I tried to take credit for the latter but was shut down unceremoniously with the words, “It’s the thoroughbred in him.”

    Anyway, he can’t have been that bad because Tuesday came, and Adam needed him again. I was totally fine with this until later in the afternoon when the lorry still wasn’t back in the yard, I spent the next hour or so nervously twitching the curtains until they rolled in sometime after five. Jim looked punch-drunk. With any luck we’ll be reunited on Saturday.

    Ref Horse & Hound; 30 January 2020