Goodnight – Tessa Waugh’s hunting diary: ‘Farewell to summer’ *H&H Plus*

  • As summer ebbs away, Tessa Waugh starts getting her hunter back in gear and cherishes the memories of this year’s homespun version of Pony Club camp, complete with sweets, plaiting and exhaustion

    I never love this time of year. Farewell to summer, however dodgy the weather has been, is a downer and the back-to-school vibes are double strength this time because the cherubs have been at home for six months. The cure, as usual, for any woes comes in the form of something four-legged. I’ve been taking Jim, big and fat from a summer at grass, on steady strolls around the farm. Starting to get him fit.

    Yesterday we completed my favourite circuit, up and around the hill nearest to our house, which rises 1,135ft above sea level. After a day of unrelenting rain and fog – while everyone south of Leicester was enjoying a heatwave – we made it out of the cloud at the top. A strange yellowish light was shining down from the sky, sunlight I think we used to call it. It felt warm and wonderful on my skin and I was tempted to stay up there and camp, rather than descend back into the gloom.

    There was no Pony Club camp this year, so we diversified with a homespun version courtesy of Eildon, who helps us with the horses. Three days of intense riding with a treasure hunt, dressing up and an elaborate point-scoring system fuelled by several tonnes of sugar. The children were bouncing off the walls with enthusiasm.

    Funny isn’t it, if a parent suggested putting on a tail bandage or teaching their child to plait, said child would run a mile or go all droopy like Kevin the teenager. Replace parent with fun and lovely 20-something, and putting on tail bandages and plaiting becomes pre-teen catnip. Eildon was like the Pied Piper. All I had to do was supply the sweets, serve up the lunches and admire the fantastic pictures on WhatsApp at the end of the day.

    For the fancy dress showjumping, Alec chose a blue Cinderella dress and a matching blue silk. Jack was a jockey. Mary appeared in leggings, long socks, Crocs and hoodie-gilet combo with her hair in a bun on top of her head.

    “I’m Eildon,” she said, showing me a mobile phone she had made out of a cereal packet: on it were loving text messages between Eildon and her boyfriend Henry the farrier.

    Camp at home was a blast, with energy levels peaking midway through the second day, crashing down to grey faces and exhaustion on day three. Rusty took to his bed and was found supine in the shavings. Even the lovely 20-something looked a bit peaky. I wonder if she’ll be up for it next year

    Ref Horse & Hound; 3 September 2020