Many top national hunt and event horses have done it, but it must be unique for an international show jumping stallion at the height of his competitive career to go hunting.
Robert Smiths ride, Marius Claudis, the second highest money-earner in Britain, having won around £100,000 last year, is worth “megabucks”, yet he enjoyed a proper day with the Warwickshire a fortnight ago.
Having hunted one or two grade As myself, most of which were verging on lunatics when they saw hounds, I couldnt resist going along to watch Robert. The last time he hunted was when he was a young lad.
At one time I used to hunt all my young horses because nothing gives them a better education. In this current era of lighter poles and material, theres always trouble when a track includes a ditch or a bank. That is unless horses have been hunting in which case they usually take them all in their stride.
Another reason why hunting is so good for show jumpers is that most of them nowadays are brought up on perfect going. Indoor surfaces are better than ever, many riders have all-weather arenas at home and most outdoor rings are less undulating than they were.
But even good ground deteriorates when it rains hard, and its surprising how many otherwise experienced horses simply dont know how to jump out of it, although I can appreciate people being reluctant to hunt valuable horses on heavy, wet land.
Perhaps the greatest benefit of hunting is to freshen up a horse. Last year, said Robert, his horses lost a bit of fitness after Olympia, and not wanting to keep working them in the school, he decided to give them a bit of a change.
In fact Marius Claudis, and Roberts other ride, Jerry Maguire, both behaved impeccably, but you know what they say about a horses second days hunting . . .