Former joint-master of the Ludlow David Palmer sings the praises of his “brilliant” confidence-giver, writes Octavia Pollock
Irish dealers have the gift of the gab, but videos are less easy to embellish and so it proved in the case of Tealeaf.
“I was in need of a horse and was told of one in Ireland that was worth looking at,” explains David Palmer, who was joint-master and huntsman of the Ludlow at the time.
“I didn’t have time to go and see him, so they sent me a video. It showed him jumping a single rail that was balanced on a couple of 50-gallon oil drums with two Calor Gas bottles on top and no ground line to help. He sailed over with ease – I was hooked!”
The full Irish Draught duly arrived late one night at the Ludlow hunt kennels, complete with Irish vet’s certificate. His unusual name came from one of his ancestors, the Thief.
“We used rhyming slang to come up with Tealeaf.”
He was an instant success.
“My groom, Sue, loved him on sight,” remembers David. “When I rode him hunting, I did too, although he was very strong.”
An early concern was when Sue called to say he would not move sideways across his box.
“We had the vet to look him over and were told he was a slight shiverer. I had already fallen for him, so decided to keep him and hope for the best. I had four wonderful seasons on him before the problem showed itself seriously.”
One consequence was that the blacksmith “found him a bit of a trial”, but learnt his ways.
Unfortunately, this meant that when David retired from the Ludlow and Tealeaf went with him to the Worcestershire, where he joined the mastership, “I had to bring the blacksmith too! By then, nobody else could get his hindlegs up to shoe him.”
Tealeaf “adored” hounds. When other packs, such as the Albrighton Woodland, visited, “he was so brilliant with them that I could hunt strange hounds from him”.
He gave tremendous confidence going into a fence: “You knew that whatever happened, he’d get over it.”
Sadly, the end came one evening after a long hunt when they were hacking home across country in near darkness.
“We came to a nasty, awkward, narrow stile that had to be jumped,” David remembers. “Ian Starsmore, the huntsman, and the hounds went over first in the gloom and I leaned up Tealeaf’s neck and said, ‘I’m glad I’m on you old boy.’
“A minute later over the fence, he just could not bring his hindlegs up and he turned over, fortunately not on top of me. I knew the time had come and my days of riding my fantastic horse were over.”
Ref Horse & Hound; 22 October 2020
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