John Holliday: Will they or won’t they? *H&H VIP*

  • Opinion

    The hot gossip in the Shire counties is of nought but the imminent conclaves of the Quorn and Cottesmore hunts to decide the destiny of these two famous packs. The excitement is palpable, like anticipating smoke from the Sistine Chapel.

    The advantages of unification are manifest and have already been observed in an earlier issue of H&H, but many of the old guard (and some new) are finding it hard to accept that things have changed so quickly in recent years that a merger is necessary. One thing is certain, Brexit negotiations will be, by comparison, a walk in the park.

    I spent three happy years at the Quorn when they were still hunting four days a week. I have been astonished when I’ve been through areas where once we enjoyed good sport; some places now resemble Hyde Park Corner in rush hour, a problem that would give any huntsman sleepless nights. Having survived the introduction of wire, railways and pernicious legislation, the internal combustion engine is doing most to ruin many countries.

    On the flip side, both hunts still have areas of country that have remained largely unchanged: rolling grassland and hedgerows that look as if they were made by God for the purpose of hunting. And then there is the “Quorn” marque, no doubt the most famous hunt, known all over the world. And when it’s gone, it’s gone.

    Remember the words of an old sportsman: “Ah! Youth make the most of your day while it lasts — no sunset can equal the dawn! I’d barter 10 years of a peaceable life, for a day when I rode with the Quorn.”

    Be patient

    Tough conditions continue in the East Midlands with no significant rain for several months. The going is very firm; it is nice to be on top of the ground when we are usually up to the hocks, but those who do not respect their horses will pay the price. We have two horses each day and the jarring ground is still taking its toll.

    After the wet spring, a particular hazard is hunt jumps, still poached from last season and now rock-hard. Hounds find hot and dry weather tiring work, and all a huntsman can do is, as Churchill advised, “keep buggering on” and wait for conditions to improve. Nevertheless, it has been disconcerting to be greeted by shirt-sleeved villagers happily mowing their lawn at the back end of November.

    Robert’s priorities

    Legendary showman and former MFH Robert Oliver gave his friends and colleagues cause for concern recently when rushed to hospital with viral pneumonia. After two days in an induced coma, his family were warned to expect Robert to be disorientated and confused when he was wakened.

    His first word, “hounds”, caused some puzzlement to visitors. Clearing his throat he clarified: “Hounds meet at home on Friday, is everything ready?” Nothing like getting your priorities right.

    With the weatherman predicting an east wind and a rising glass, we anticipate an improvement. In the meantime, we shall keep an eye in the direction of High Leicestershire to see if the smoke over Oakham is black or white.

    Ref Horse & Hound; 29 November 2018