Matt Ramsden: ‘There hadn’t been a strand of wire in sight and the going was perfect. And then I woke up’ *H&H Plus*


  • Matt Ramsden on a magical meet, praising of keen youngsters and a school, plus the inevitable lockdown woes

    Hacking on to the meet, the air felt joyfully cold yet still, while the hedges looked black and inviting. A pheasant three fields away scuttled off as he heard the gentle jig-jog of our horses, such was the clarity the day had afforded. Hounds awaited the off with eager eyes and a few minutes later, as they peeled away from their first covert with a violent crescendo of music, we all knew we were in for something special.

    Each beat of that first hunt provided a first-class ride for the delirious ladies and gentlemen. While the hounds gathered momentum, our horses responded with overwhelming empathy, taking each obstacle with care, sensing the occasion. An hour and 10 minutes later, the hounds concluded a wonderful hunt over a sea of grass and fly fences. There hadn’t been a strand of wire in sight and the going was perfect. And then I woke up.

    As you read this, I expect that many of you will have just completed your first day’s hunting for some time. I also hope that to help you through the past four weeks, the odd hunting dream in a seemingly fictional paradise has cropped up. Mine have been many and varied – but we’ll leave it at that.

    Consideration of the unborn

    As in all hunts, we are fortunate at the Beaufort to have a well-run Pony Club branch that has excellent links with the kennels and the hounds. It is always encouraging to see an enthusiastic gang out on exercise and lending a hand in kennels on their summer holidays. The flesh house can be a step too far, but a bucket and a brush cause little alarm.

    I was sent an email recently by one such keen girl, now back at school and hoping to become a vet. To my delight, she is doing a major piece of coursework on hound breeding. Not only is this commendable on the school’s part for encouraging a range of interests, but also wise of Poppy; the subject is endless and will easily cover the 9,000-word requirement.

    Although almost all of our thoughts are with this year’s entry and their loss of a vital month of education, we must remember that the breeding time is upon us. A raft of bitches coming into season in May and June is a positive indication of the same occurring around now, when a great deal of consideration comes to the as-yet unborn entry for 2022. There were far fewer chances than usual to assess potential sires this summer, although the easing of restrictions towards the end meant we were able to make some kennel visits.

    Ironing out the creases

    Eager to keep the horses fit – not to mention their riders – the kennel staff and I have been cantering three times a week. In the main this has been hugely productive, if a little repetitive.

    Equally eager to prevent even worse habits developing than already cemented into my own riding, I took a horse last weekend for some cross-country schooling with Beanie Sturgis. With the patience of Job, my Thursday field master quietly tried to iron out a few creases.

    On the hunting field, mistakes can often be concealed, but not in this arena. Especially when the paparazzi (in the form of the Sturgis children) lurk behind every fence. I longed for the end of lockdown…​

    Ref: Horse & Hound; 3 December 2020

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