As my esteemed colleagues have already written so eloquently about the weather, I am going to steer away from it. Although it has been so bad that it has been difficult to talk of anything else…
I would like to add my good wishes and heartfelt sympathy to all of those who have been so badly affected — some devastated — by the worst winter for two generations.
Life goes on and, while it may seem minor to some, no hunting has meant that all of us are struggling to keep spirits up and funds coming in.
Hounds need to be exercised, as do horses. We keep trying to invent novel ways to get all our members and subscribers together to have some fun.
Looking at the two hunters standing next to each other recently, one could not help but notice how bored they looked. “Fresh” has brought on a new meaning this season.
It looked as though they were talking to each other and I couldn’t help imagining what they may be saying…
Pico, a 16.3hh chestnut to Benji, a 17hh bay: If I don’t get to do something soon, I am going to have to break out of here.
Benji: And just how are you going to break out exactly?
Pico: Are you stupid? It’s a piece of cake, she leaves the bar open at least twice a day, no wonder I am always the first choice and you are always second horse.
Benji: That’s unfair, it’s not my fault he dislocated his shoulder and broke his ribs out autumn hunting.
Pico: Maybe not, but it is your fault that, as soon as he was better, you broke his collarbone in four places.
Benji: Well, I have always had a problem with cows of any type and when I took off over that hedge and saw them standing there, I just panicked.
Pico: Panicked indeed, why don’t they take us to the beach or something, anything to break the monotony, or organise a gymkhana for horses like us?
Benji: Good idea, or a
chase me charlie.
Pico: No, that was banned in 2004, ha ha ha.
Benji: Look out, here comes the farrier. I don’t know why he bothers, how can my shoes be wearing out?
Pico: Why do you think? He needs the money. If that Jack Russell keeps eating my hooves I am going to kick him.
Benji: Oh, to be out hunting again…
It may not have seemed like it recently, but we do have a lot to look forward to over the coming months.
Among it all will be spring point-to-pointing, the shows, a chance to organise our hunt country and, of course, “the party” that hunting so richly deserves — the Horn & Hound Ball at Cheltenham racecourse on 26 April.
Every pack of hounds in the UK is invited to come and celebrate at the home of National Hunt racing.
A champagne reception will be followed by a three-course dinner, dancing to the amazing band 29 Fingers, an auction of “money can’t buy” items and other entertainment.
Invited guests will take part in the hornblowing competition for the Horse & Hound Trophy last contested back in 2002. It promises to be a great night and all proceeds will go to the Hunt Staff Benefit Society.
I don’t know about you, but I will be due a party by then!
A very happy 80th birthday to Janet Stakemire. She keeps all of us at the Old Surrey Burstow and West Kent up to scratch regarding turnout, etiquette and standards.
Janet has been a Pony Club district commissioner and looked after and taught literally hundreds of children, including several MFHs, three huntsmen, numerous jockeys, polo players and farmers — you name it.
We all owe her a huge debt of gratitude.
I was describing her to someone the other day and they said: “Oh yes, every hunt has one.” They may well do, sir, but we have the best!