John Holliday: For the love of horses, hounds and dogs *H&H VIP*

  • Opinion

    The great Jorrocks was wont to bemoan those “stinkin’ violets” of May as they heralded the season’s end. Modern farming methods now mean that in most areas snowdrops in March are a more likely portend.

    “Unsettled” is the word to describe best the conditions this season; a frost of -5°C one night then 10°C above the next day, all capped off with an Arctic blast from Russia. Settled conditions, however they manifest, are better for hounds and continuity of sport. Pre-Christmas proved mainly dry and poor scenting, but the arrival of rain in the New Year saw a marked improvement.

    During January and February both our dog and bitch packs provided some exciting days before the appearance of the “Beast from the East” confined hounds to their quarters for a spell. Thankfully the East Midlands were not as badly affected as the West Country and the North.

    Here’s to Harry

    All of us at Belvoir would like to wish Harry Horton all the best, for on 1 May he moves to further his education under Peter Collins at the Quorn. Harry arrived as a little lad to work in the stables, although he has since grown a full 12 inches. After six years he has almost become part of the furniture. It has to be said he has benefited from some direct and character-building advice, imparted in a sometimes vibrant and stimulating manner. But it must have worked: he arrived a boy and leaves a man, whose hard work and dedication to his job is exemplary. Good luck, Harry.

    A countryman’s legacy

    The sad news came from Herefordshire recently of the passing of my very good friend and mentor Harold Thompson. Ray, his father, hunted the Wye Valley Otterhounds for 30 years, so with hunting in his blood Harold followed suit.

    He became great friends with Capt. Ronnie Wallace, who hunted the Hawkstone Otterhounds and whom Harold forever after held in the highest esteem.

    In 1971 Harold became master of the South Herefordshire and hunted hounds for 10 years.

    In his youth Harold proved to be a gifted amateur jockey. He began point-to-pointing when he was 16 years old and was quickly riding winners. He landed the Horse & Hound Cup at Stratford and in 1960 he rode Proud Socks, trained by the famous Herefordshire huntsman and showman Vivian Bishop, to victory in the National Hunt Chase at Cheltenham.

    After Harold retired from race-riding he went on to officiate at numerous point-to-point courses around the country and was the starter at Whitwick, Ludlow and the old course at Belmont, Hereford. He stewarded at Garnons and continued to officiate well into his 70s.

    He also judged show and working hunters at county level. Harold was a friend to many, who will miss his advice and company. But most of all, like all countrymen, he loved his horses, hounds and dogs, and they loved him.

    The world is a little nicer for having Harold Thompson pass through it.

    Ref Horse & Hound; 22 March 2018