Tessa Waugh reflects on a season blighted by storms, rain and injuries to horse and human — but is buoyed by a new horse from down south, who is taking to hill life like the proverbial duck
I think we can safely say that 2019/20 hasn’t been the best of seasons. I was talking to a master from further down the country the other day and he agreed.
“And anyone who says any different is lying,” he said robustly.
First it was wet: biblical amounts of rain throughout November and December. Then more recently the wind came along, blowing a gale on hunting days, dropping back to a normal speed for the rest of the week. In the entire season to date, I can count on one hand the times Adam has entered the house dancing the conga and feeling pleased with the day.
Boxing Day, which rarely amounts to much wherever you are in the country, produced good sport — Adam congaed then. And last Tuesday, the visiting Tynedale had a five-mile point in some of our wilder country. That day, the field made a heroic skedaddle over scree and bogs until the trail reached its conclusion somewhere in the Border country. I bumped into Caroline, who was among them, in Tesco the following day.
“Probably one of the best days I’ve had,” she told me, still radiant with the memory of it and, as Caroline’s not a gushy person, you had to take the statement at face value.
There was a time when I’d have felt envious, having missed a good day, but I didn’t at all. Perhaps it’s something to do with age.
On the home front, the season has been similarly taxing what with lame-gate — Adam’s two horses both off at the same time. Then there’s Mary and her broken wrist. We were supposed to be hunting today in the hills on the Scottish side, but it wasn’t to be thanks to the weather. Storm Dennis is giving us what-for with swirling snow and 50mph winds, the horses are in the stables and I’m indoors with sleet coating the windows.
It’s not all bad, though, for a new horse has arrived from Leicestershire for Adam; a handsome bay belonging to Andrew Osborne, recently retired master and huntsman of the Cottesmore.
In the past I have felt sorry for southern horses when they first arrive here. They stand at the gate mid-afternoon in a freezing wind with an expression that says, “Why have you brought me to this godforsaken place? Take me back to the Shire.” Not so this one, who has adjusted to hill life like a duck to water. Give him a pack of hounds and he’s ready to go.
As for the dud season. There’s no point getting fed up about these things. All hunting people know there are as many annoying aspects to the sport as punch-the-air ones. Onwards and upwards we go and here’s to the next one.
Ref Horse & Hound; 27 February 2020