Goodnight – Tessa Waugh’s hunting diary: ‘The ties of community’ *H&H Plus*

  • Tessa Waugh takes solace in hunting’s community spirit and the pared-down puppy shows going ahead, as she enjoys watching one of last summer’s fluffy incumbents picking up a prize

    This year has seen racing with empty grandstands, cricket and football matches played to eerie silence, and now, on a micro scale, puppy shows with just small gatherings of people.

    Ours is a small hunt, but there are often over a hundred people at the puppy show. As well as being a thank you for the puppy walkers, it is an important get-together for farmers and supporters at the end of the summer. While lots of hunts further south were forced to cancel their puppy shows this year, we were able to press on with a skeleton gathering now that restrictions have loosened. Groups of 30 are currently allowed to assemble, which meant that puppy walkers and their families and hunt officials could get together within the law for lunch and the all-important judging. Spaced chairs around the ring, lots of hand gel and an absence of social kissing provided a nod to the strange new world in which we find ourselves.

    It is always a bit of a guessing game for me, the puppy show. Working out which of the foxhounds scampering around the ring are the gangly puppies that hung out here the previous summer. Alec, who takes care of the puppies over the summer holidays, gives me withering looks when I point at a likely customer and shakes his head in dismay.

    Of last year’s pair, Mantle, a fluffy bitch, was always the bigger of the two. Now fully grown, she looked strong and workmanlike, but no oil painting. Judges Michael Hedley of Border fame and Andrew Cook MFH from the Dumfriesshire and Stewartry dismissed her first. Her sister Margin, a smaller white bitch with a single black spot on her bottom, had a bit of star quality, some pizzazz. She glided around the ring and came in second to another sister, Magnet.

    At the weekend, we went to the West Percy puppy show where Adam was judging with his new kennel-huntsman, Jake. It was a treat to see the hounds, the hanging baskets, the immaculate kennels, the gleaming white kennel coats. If nothing else, the past few months have taught us to appreciate everything so much more.

    Among the 30 who were there, the oldest member of the hunt, Bob Telford, a sprightly 99, arrived driving himself and was ushered to a chair. At the other extreme was the two-year-old daughter of the new master and huntsman, who allegedly didn’t miss a day last season. There was much sympathy for her mother, Phillie, who arrived with her leg in plaster.

    We are so lucky with the ties of community that exist around our sport. With choppy waters ahead, it should provide some solace for us all.

    Ref Horse & Hound; 27 August 2020