This year New Year’s Day meet was held on January 2 due to Sunday traditionally being a day no quarry can be shot or hunted – a custom which has been upheld despite changes to the law.
I had promised to take Felix on his spotty Shetland, Pongo, before the holidays ended. As anyone who has attempted it will know, there is an art to leading a small pony and child out hunting and managing to enjoy the day.
In order to prevent collapse from exhaustion, getting lost or ending up two miles behind the field with a moaning child, I can offer a few tips from the parents’ survival guide.
First, be in the right place to see without annoying the huntsman or standing on the trail line – you will be shouted at.
Second, avoid being trampled by the field. They turn into sheep when in pursuit and stop using any brain cells. They will act as if you are invisible.
Third, learn the country so you can cut corners without trespassing or getting stuck, particularly in large fields with no through gates (farmers seem to love that one).
Fourth, avoid heavy thick coats, you will boil as you are running to keep up. Wear wellies – you could be wading through rivers.
Fifth, take plenty of provisions to keep your child occupied (sweets, drinks, sleeping bag, matches). At some point you will get tired, your child will get cold and demand to go home when you are miles from anywhere and possibly lost.
So preparation may avoid a tantrum. In the worst case scenario, you can camp out and light a fire until your other half realises his tea isn’t on the table and eventually sends the emergency services to find you.
As our young persons’ hunt representative, I hope you find this advice useful without being off-putting.
On a more serious note, your child will have a whale of a time and it is a fantastic way to keep fit. There are plenty of us at it, so you won’t be on your own.
Monday was a special day for one visitor from Knaresborough. Ashley Bealby, who used to be field master for the Grove and Rufford, was celebrating a centenary – the combined age of his horse and himself. His 27-year-old hunter ‘Berry’ had been out with 42 packs of hounds in her lifetime and is still going strong.
She looked a picture and is a credit to Anthony. He has had the mare 23 years, describing her as ‘hard as nails.’
A huge supporter of local charities, Anthony recently paid £3,600 at a charity auction for the sheepskin jacket famously worn by 1990s champion trainer David Nicholson, known as ‘The Duke.’
Funds from the auction will go towards building the Malton rehabilitation house for injured jockeys.