Tessa Waugh’s unsentimental nature is challenged as a faithful old steed looks to have reached the end of his hunting road — signalling the end of a charmed four seasons
It never rains but it pours, so the saying goes. In four seasons’ hunting the hounds here, my husband, Adam, has kept going with the same two horses and, in the main, they have stayed remarkably sound. In our two-day-a-week country, Adam hunts one horse one day and one the other, alternating between the two all season. He’s no featherweight, but at the same time he doesn’t cane his horses and they keep going remarkably well, barely missing a day.
We kept marvelling at their sustained run of soundness, but we were also conscious that two horses in their mid-teens wouldn’t do the work forever and had started a tentative search for replacements. Then, last Saturday, this run of luck came to a crushing end.
It happened at the end of the day during a lovely circular hunt of 40 minutes or so in the low country: fading light, goose bumps, hounds speaking in the dim distance, all the reasons why we love this frequently exasperating sport. I didn’t witness the incident, but when we were chowing down on the remains of the Christmas cake later that day, Adam divulged that he and Wexford had fallen foul of a deep and filthy gateway.He looked sound hacking home with his usual excitable jog — exhausting for horse and rider — but the next day he was hopping. The vet came and diagnosed a possible check ligament or suspensory injury and we will know more when he comes to scan him later this week. Either way, the prognosis isn’t great.
I confess I’ve never been crazy about Wexford — a plain old ewe-necked thing whose default mode involves bouncing around like Tigger with his big ugly head in your face and his ears grazing your cheeks. Riding him is like sitting on a pogo stick.
Adam, loyally, would never be drawn on which of his two horses he preferred, but recently, before the gateway incident, he had a change of heart. “The bay does my head in,” he admitted, “that’s the one I need to replace first.”
I pride myself on being unsentimental about horses, but when I went out to the stables and saw the old boy, who is as gentle as a lamb, standing calmly behind his stable door, I felt quite sad. For all his bouncing about, Wexford has done a wonderful job, but it is probably the end of the hunting road for him and only a person with a heart of stone could fail to be touched by that.
As for Adam’s other horse, Jack, he is now “off games” with a suspected poisoned foot and Adam is resisting taking my horse on Tuesday. I suppose there’s always the quad bike.
Ref Horse & Hound; 16 January 2020