Robert McCarthy: Time off? What’s that? *H&H Plus*


  • With Christmas just around the corner, all hunt kennels and stables will be getting ready for two of the biggest and busiest weeks of the season.

    I always smile to myself when people ask how much time we get off at Christmas. The answer for me and most huntsmen, whippers-in, grooms or kennelmen is very little or none. Hounds and horses still need looking after and flesh rounds don’t stop for Christmas.


    Although very busy, it’s also one of my favourite times of the hunting calendar. Here at the Percy, we try to save the best of the country for these two weeks.

    Election results

    Writing this column in the days leading up to the general election, I hope and pray that the result gives us a majority government that is more sympathetic to not only hunting, but also shooting, fishing, agriculture and the countryside as a whole. One that not only takes time to listen but also understands the countryside.

    Whatever the political outcome, it’s very important that everybody shows their support, particularly at the big Boxing Day and New Year’s Day meets. We are very lucky here in Northumberland, but many packs have a fight on their hands to meet in towns and villages. Whether you go on a horse, a quad, in the car or on foot, your support will be hugely appreciated and noticed.

    Anyone wishing to go on a horse for the first time should not be worried. Just ring your local hunt secretary and I’m sure they’ll put your mind at ease. If you’re worrying about jumping, don’t be.

    There’s almost always an alternative gate when hunt jumps come up and plenty of people happy to help you out.

    ‘I wouldn’t wear my Man Utd shirt!’

    Anyone who knows me will know that I’m pretty useless at doing anything online (emailing this column is about my limit). As a result, I have managed to pencil one day’s Christmas shopping in the diary, which means a rare trip to Newcastle.

    Apart from forking out for all presents required, it’s the perfect excuse to have a very good lunch in the city. It’s also the one time of the year and the one place where I wouldn’t wear my Manchester United football shirt!

    Christmas is the one week of the year when we hunt four days per week. We try to get very well organised. All valeting is done well in advance so the whipper-in and I have four sets of kit all ready to go in advance. Hound bedding is well stocked up on, as is haylage and horse feed.

    No matter how busy the flesh round has been, we always get skinned up the day before Christmas Eve so we have plenty ready to feed over the Christmas holidays. We still pick the fallen stock up every day throughout Christmas, though.

    On Christmas Day morning, we try to get the kennels done as quickly as possible, hounds walked out and horses fed and mucked out. When that’s all done, my family and I eat dinner at the kennels as part of a quiet and relaxing day. Let’s all look forward to some good trail-hunting over the festive period.

    Ref Horse & Hound; 19 December 2019