H&H’s hunting columnist enthuses about new team members, and the benefit that social media can bring...
It feels as though summer is coming to an end, rather than just beginning, such has been the length of good weather we’ve been enjoying. I’m sure the sunshine has done much to alleviate some of the gloom that might have descended upon the nation during the lockdown and we can be grateful for that, particularly all of us who live or work outside in the countryside.
May is often a transitional month in the life of hunt kennels. Staff who were moving or retiring will have done so on the first of the month and new staff have arrived. We have enjoyed great continuity of staff here at Brixworth over the years, with only two whippers-in and two countrymen spanning the past 11 years or so, and this is the first time we have had two changes in the same year.
This brings with it a lot of added time invested in showing them around areas of the country both on and off road, and meeting all the people who make up the complex social dimensions of a hunt, including farmers, subscribers, puppy walkers and gamekeepers.
New blood a boost
All this usual “meet and greet’ has obviously been affected by the current restrictions on travel and social interaction. The flesh collection round has continued, however, and is a very useful way of finding your way around a new country and beginning to piece together who owns what and where.
We have also been able to get a lot of fencing and repairs done in the country to jumps and gates and so on. This sort of work fits nicely into the social distancing policy, as you are usually five fields from anyone!
One of the unexpected bonuses of new members to the team is that their enthusiasm gives everybody a “fuel injection”. We pride ourselves on working hard and doing things to a high standard, but inevitably you become accustomed to things being as they are. Having young, hard-working people looking at things with fresh eyes makes you re-evaluate, and you find yourself fixing and tidying things you wouldn’t have previously.
The routine of kennel management and hound exercise continues as usual, which is important both for animal welfare and for the general wellbeing of both hounds and staff.
All the bitches I selected for breeding this year have now whelped and the older litters, born early in the year, are away at walk, while the most recent of the litters are still tucked up in a whelping lodge and just beginning to open their eyes.
The benefits of social media
It is sad that hunts will not be able to hold social functions in the foreseeable future. These fulfil a variety of functions from hospitality to farmers and puppy walkers through to much-needed fundraising events, as well as light-hearted social gatherings and entertainment. Many hunts are thinking on their feet and coming up with new and novel ways of connecting with their support base and bringing in some revenue.
This is one of the benefits of social media and it’s amazing how many things can be done online, from horn-blowing competitions to dog shows, cake making and the sale of merchandise – jigsaw puzzles have proved a hit at the Pytchley with Woodland.
Ref Horse & Hound; 4 June 2020