Over the stable door: Boy band raises the spirits and the work rate in the Dales

A visit to a couple of my favourite Yorkshire packs recently were thoroughly enjoyable. I spent a total of 13 hours in the saddle during my days with the Middleton and the Holderness, leaving me slightly reluctant to jump out of bed the following morning when the alarm woke me at some ungodly hour.

Conditions were not ideal for hunting, the sun was out early and the ground had warmed up by the time we moved off, making scent hard to pick up.

The trails were not easy for hounds to follow but I was thankful to be out and meeting so many friendly faces.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

I had a phone call from Tom, my friend who runs a hotel outside Gargrave, last weekend. Usually it is to inform me how much he has won when backing one of his pointers.

But he had missed out on the racing because of work commitments. Only two girls had turned up to work in the restaurant on Saturday morning, grounding his gambling activities. Normally, Tom would be in a foul mood after this but he was cock-a- hoop.

“Guess who is staying in my hotel?” he asked excitedly. “Go on, just have a guess.”

“Err… Barack Obama?”(it has been known for world leaders to drop in for a spot of afternoon tea at his Dales establishment).

“No, better than that! It’s JLS… you know, the boy band?”

His excitement was infectious, and even I had heard of them.

“I’ve just served them breakfast; Oritise had cereal and Aston wanted his eggs well done…” More detail of their tastes and requests followed.

Apparently the boys were in Yorkshire filming their new video at Malham Tarn. Tom’s mood was euphoric and, by lunchtime, the news had spread to his workforce.

The number of female staff turning up to work rose from two to seven. They came plastered in make-up and all set for overtime.

Tom wined and dined the boys into the early hours that evening.

“Tell me you didn’t show them your dance moves Tom?” I am familiar with his half-dressed, floor-clearing antics.

“Of course – they asked me to be in their next video.” It really wouldn’t surprise me.

Losing an animal is hard to deal with, but working with livestock it becomes an inevitable part of life.

Going home to an empty stable always tugs my heart strings, but the job must go on.

Last week, my horse, Wherethat, broke his shoulder at the Holderness meeting. He landed awkwardly over a fence while in contention but, fortunately, the jockey, Mark Walford, escaped unscathed.

The horse didn’t suffer as the vet was immediately on hand to deal with him.

That is some consolation to me as it is the suffering of animals at the hands of humans I abhor.

An example of this I heard about some time ago. An old horse had been turned out in a large field during the middle of the harsh winter.

He was rugged up well. The owner had gone away leaving a “capable” lad to look after the animal.

Thick snow covered the grass so there was no grazing in the field and temperatures dropped to minus 15 at night, so all the water supplies were completely frozen up.

After three days of being left to fend for himself (the lad having failed to turn up) the horse became so hungry he tried to cross the cattle grid which kept him in the field to find water or food.

This is horrifically dangerous to horses in any circumstances without being in their turnout paddock.

He was found the next morning still in the cattle grid having got stuck and died there during the night in a distressed state.

I was devastated to hear that story and think of the horrendous suffering that animal had endured at the hands of human negligence.

All I can hope is that the lad responsible for causing such suffering has been brought to hand and his conscience prevents it happening again.