Goodnight — Tessa Waugh’s hunting diary: We must be mad *H&H Plus*

  • Best-laid plans are scuppered, but the hardy few who brave the sleet are rewarded with a great day – while Tessa Waugh’s mother provides the gold standard in plucky perseverance

    How long do you expect to carry on riding? Hunting, for that matter? Make a clean break at 60? Carry on for as long as you can like The Queen? Wait until your horse gives up the ghost and retire with them, or plan to “die in action” on the hunting field, as a friend from the South and West Wilts once told me she hoped to do.

    I’ve heard people make a case for all of the above, and I was thinking about this on Saturday as I watched my mother gamely step aboard a friend’s horse for a day with the College Valley.

    “Hats off to Mother,” my sister and I said the following day, “nuff respect and all that.”

    “Of course, she doesn’t get nervous,” said Gillian wistfully. “If I’m doing that in 30 years, I’ll be thrilled.”

    We’d had the weekend in the diary months in advance – my parents were coming to stay with their friends, one of whom (Paddy) would hunt with them on the Saturday. It was one of those situations where everything was planned so carefully, that – as Sod’s law would have it – it was almost guaranteed to be disrupted.

     High winds forecast

    The first casualty of the plan was Paddy. In November, his new horse had a heart attack out hunting, falling on top of him and shattering his hip. He and his wife Sue were still keen to come but getting on a horse was now out of the question. Then, story of the season, the weather for the allotted hunting day looked dodgy with more high winds forecast. My father, quite sensibly, decided to cancel his hireling.

    “You’d think Chris Packham was controlling the weather. It’s only bad on hunting days,” complained Adam to a friend who hunts hounds elsewhere in the country.

    The much-planned day dawned and it was just my mother, Alec and me of the original crew who were on board at the meet. We stood in the field next to the kennels with 20 or more others as the sleet blew over, coating our backs white and making the horses hunch in horror.

    “We must be mad,” people kept saying delightedly, as they got stuck into the drink and the sausage rolls and sandwiches that were being offered around.

    I’d anticipated being back in the stables by midday, but it didn’t happen. The sleet stopped, blue sky appeared and despite the wind, hounds worked hard and managed a couple of local hunts which kept us on the move all morning. My mother and I beamed at each other with matching blue faces, loving the day and whatever it threw at us.

    Ref Horse & Hound; 12 March 2020