Over the stable door: Point to point is underway

Jo Foster sorting out the tack at her stables at Menston near Leeds.
Jo Foster sorting out the tack at her stables at Menston near Leeds.
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Today a new Yorkshire point to point season gets underway. A sociable and highly competitive days racing beckons at the Sheriff Hutton track for those willing to brave the elements and watch stars of the future in action. With the huge number of entries taken it promises to offer plenty of excitement.

There will be a number of fresh faces in the weighing room this season which is positive news. The sport is facing a tough future unless The Pony Club and hunting field work together and encourage confident and brave young riders to give it a try.

Look out for Debbie Boyes in the ladies race – a 36-year-old farmer from Cropton who rode in the Macmillan Charity Race at York last year and rides out for local trainer Roger Fell. She is riding Altar Rock whom she purchased from Sue Smith so he should prove a safe conveyance for her first ride in a point to point.

Another newcomer is Bertie Hayton from Nunnington who had her first ride last weekend at Alnwick and is set for her second today. She hunts with the Sinnington hounds and is attached to David O’Meara’s yard.

Another fresh face to join the amateur ranks is 17-year-old Billy Garritty - son of Cheltenham Festival winning jockey Russ - who rode a number of times as a conditional jockey for Micky Hammond. He found it tough to settle in one yard and returned home to give pointing a try. Today he rides for Malton Marquee man Andy Nicholls and has the added bonus of having brother Jack down at the start to shout orders to him, which may not go down too well. Jack is a successful flat jockey based with Richard Fahey and is acting as assistant starter for the day.

As I’m no longer riding in races I have graduated to leading up and other general dogsbody duties whenever my father’s point to pointers run. Sadly, they won’t be in action today as there were no suitable races so we will wait for another week.

No dogsbody duty means I can head straight to the refreshment tent. My mouth is already watering at the thought of those joints of roast beef and pork on offer, kindly donated by local farmers and the scrummy home baked cakes provided by hardworking volunteers. It’s definitely a tent not to be missed. The whole day is very much a combined hunt team effort which makes it such a success.

Next Sunday, January 22, it is the Pendle Hunt Fashion Show and Lunch at Coniston Hotel and Spa near Gargrave, run by the Montana Country Clothing of Northallerton. I have been nominated to compere catwalk proceedings for the afternoon, which is a slight worry as the onset of early dementia usually arrives at vital moments. There could well be the odd long silence where I’m left scratching my head and looking bewildered as I try to remember a simple word. I strongly suspect numerous bouts of concussion suffered over the years may be the cause.

Our catwalk models are members of the Pendle, each of them offer an array of experience in various cosmopolitan fashion hubs – mainly Skipton. Unfortunately, as may become obvious none of their experience has been on the catwalk. The closest we can boast to having a fashion guru in our midst is the ex-Hon Sec Howard Pighills, a wool expert who always cuts a dashing figure in his Savile Row suits.

Others who have been chosen to strut their stuff in Montana’s finest designs include hunt Master John Chadwick who has offered to model the children’s wear and our Whipper-In Blake Storrey who will be hobbling down the catwalk thanks to a chipped knee after banging a gatepost out hunting last week.

Tickets are £40 to include reception drink, two course lunch and coffee and a catwalk show. If anyone would like to join us, then please ring Liz Smith for tickets on 01943 880474.