Harry pointing to family tradition

THE first Yorkshire point-to-point of the season, due to be held at Sheriff Hutton on January 16, has had to be postponed because of the recent bad weather.

The organisers of the Yorkshire Area Point-to-Point Club meeting hope to re-schedule it for the following weekend, January 23, but that is to be confirmed.

The point-to-point, which is held on land belonging to racehorse trainer Mick Easterby, also had to be cancelled last year due to the weather conditions which affected many of our area's meetings.

Among the jockeys hoping to ride at Sheriff Hutton is 16-year-old Harry Bannister, who will be riding in his first race.

He will be following in the footsteps of his father Nick and uncle Tom, who have both ridden in point-to-points and are joint masters of the Pendle Forest and Craven Hunt.

Harry will be riding the very successful Sonevafushi which has had over 12 wins and belongs to his father and uncle. Tom Bannister, who runs the family's Coniston Hall Hotel near Skipton, said: "It will be his first ride and he's very keen. Hopefully, he'll still be able to ride on that date – but it's very nerve-wracking for all concerned and all the family will be turning out in force to watch."

Harry has been riding out at Mick and David Easterby's yard and also at Cherry Coward's yard where Sonevafushi is stabled. "He's been riding everything, helping with the mucking out and learning a lot," said Tom. Harry is away at boarding school so all this has to be fitted in at weekends and during the school holidays.

After a change in the regulations regarding sponsorship, the Coniston Hall is now sponsoring the Easterbys' point-to-point horses.

There are 16 point-to-point meetings planned for the Yorkshire area over the next few months, starting at Sheriff Hutton and culminating with the South Durham Hunt at Mordon on May 14. The West of Yore, who were due to hold their first point-to-point for some years last season at a new course at Whitcliffe Grange, have decided not to hold a fixture this year but are aiming to have a December point-to-point next season.

The combination of snow, ice and frosty ground over the past few weeks has caused major problems for hunts in Yorkshire and other parts of the country.

Boxing Day, which is traditionally the biggest day of the year in the hunting diary, was described as a "wipeout" by one hunt member.

Hunts met on the Monday this year as hunting does not take place on Sundays. For many this was a low-key affair with the riders on foot because of the icy conditions.

Some hunts have been able to go out since Christmas but others, such as the Pendle Forest and Craven, have not hunted since November and were among those out on foot during Boxing Day.

"The ground was solid on Boxing Day but we still met and had huge crowds at both events, at Aberford and Wentbridge," said Badsworth and Bramham Moor's Jenny Tomlinson-Walsh.

"We have been able to go out since then and we are optimistic but it all depends on the weather. All hunts are suffering but we haven't lost as many days as some of the others."

The Badsworth and Bramham Moor are planning a special day for newcomers to hunting, which will be held on February 5 at Bramham Park.

The York & Ainsty North had to cancel their children's meet just after Christmas but they did manage to hunt following a well-supported meet at the Royal Oak in Staveley on New Year's Day.

Even exercising horses in the current weather has been difficult for most people. Those lucky enough to have an indoor school or a mechanical horse walker have been using them to try and keep their horses fit while others are having to tread carefully, using lanes and tracks.

Any repeal of the ban on hunting with hounds, which came in in 2005, does not look likely this year. The coalition government said it would allow a free vote but despite David Cameron's own commitment to doing this, it does not appear as though there will be time on the parliamentary timetable for the vote to be held. The Countryside Alliance are asking for some clarification over the existing act which, they say, is unclear.

Another casualty of the bad weather was a New Year ride due to take place on the estate at Farnley Tyas near Huddersfield. This had to be cancelled due to the ground conditions but the organisers are hoping to arrange another date as soon as possible.