Over the stable door: Frankie goes hunting

Country Week columnist Jo Foster. Picture by Tony Johnson.
Country Week columnist Jo Foster. Picture by Tony Johnson.
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Last week we took a couple of the racehorses out hunting for the first time. Hunting provides invaluable experience for unraced youngsters with crowds of energetic horses they have to react quickly to the new challenges they encounter.

It offers older horses a change to their regular routine without the pressure of a race environment, a fun day out. I took out a horse called Frankie Ballou for the first time. His ears pricked as hounds screamed on the trail scent ahead and I felt his heart racing. If I had let him he would have flown across the moor in hot pursuit. The basic instinct of a horse and a hound is so similar.

Talking of hounds my dog field is now up and running remarkably smoothly. It has not all been plain sailing though. The afternoon before our grand opening I was busy doing the final touches.

As the parentals were away on holiday I had both terriers staying at the farm, Baffle and Pingu the Jack Russell. These two wild souls together usually result in one outcome – a disappearing act, so the Patterdale was restricted to going everywhere reluctantly on a lead which was no less annoying for me having to drag her around. I was balancing my wheelbarrow full of paint with her lead tied to the handle when a squirrel shot across the driveway.

Baffle set off to chase it, pulling the barrow over with her and sending paint pots rolling down the driveway. It was time to put the field to good use before I removed anymore hair from my head. I shut both terriers in and left them exploring while I continued.

Ten minutes later I was painting a sign and noticed a little tan and white body gently trotting up the drive in my direction. Pingu. She looked at me with tail wagging unaware of the turmoil she had just unleashed inside my head. I sped to the entrance to check if Baffle had followed, the less clever of the two was still sniffing around inside. So how had she escaped?

I locked her back in and waited. Soon her escape route was revealed, jumping high above the rabbit wire she wiggled her frame cleverly through the narrow slat of the deer netting.

I had 16 hours until opening time, a full weekend of bookings and my new business venture had a serious flaw. I rang Otley fencing contractor Andrew in despair. “Small problem...” I began.

Less than two hours later he arrived with a trailer full of netting. By eight that evening it was almost dark but he had the whole place double netted. I couldn’t have been more grateful and handed him a bottle of whiskey by way of thanks. Andrew saved the day, not even a hamster could escape after he’d finished.