And so our season is over! Our hunting ends early at the Tivyside, with closing meet in mid- February to allow for the lambing season. After having a month off following his Christmas Eve colic, Bluey returned to the hunting field at the end of January. We had an excellent meet on the mountain, set off with extremely strong punch, and accompanied by a band of visiting Irishmen in camo and galoshes. Later on, when the weather turned and the mist came in, they loomed like characters from Game of Thrones, propped up on their wooden sticks and visible only when the fog swirled past them. That day was called off mid- afternoon when the weather got so poor that hounds were vanishing in to the gloom. A few of us took it as a good opportunity to head to the local pub for a Thai green curry and hot chocolate; an excellent day to get back in the field. Bluey was back on form, jogging to the meet, putting in a little buck at his first canter, and jumping every gorse bush I put him to.
Our final day with the Tivyside was our long- anticipated joint meet with the Croome and West Warwickshire. It was another wet, foggy day, and the visiting hounds worked extremely well in difficult conditions. Hearing my English pack sing as they crossed the Preseli mountains was an experience I never thought I’d have, and I have to say that the whole weekend was one of skin- pinching. Two of our visitors came a cropper on the hill, one chap rolling down a slope after he found that his girth was a little loose, and another being bogged down in wet ground. Hunting on the hill is completely unlike anything we see in the Midlands, and it was a reminder of how much Bluey has had to adapt to and change in order to hunt in Wales. All in all though the visitors has a good day, those on hired horses full of praise for the sure- footedness of their steeds, and the supporters’ committee asking for the phone number of our evening entertainment- a mouse racer- in order to carry out the same activity back at the Croome! Our return visit next season is eagerly anticipated; I can’t wait for my Tivyside friends to be able to put faces to the names they’ve heard for so long, and to show them all the scenes of our old hunting adventures.
Last year the Bicester with Whaddon Chase brought their hounds down to hunt with us, and so in February we returned, albeit just as mounted guests. Bluey and I are used to that sort of country, but it was a stark contrast for some of the riders who had never, or had seldom, hunted outside of Wales. We were shown brilliant hospitality and had a real red letter day, some of our members hacking home with hounds at dark. I was riding side saddle (hugely nerve wracking in front of Bicester joint master and side saddle legend Lucy Holland, as well as Pembrokeshire’s Val Rees, who was following on foot) and called it a day a little earlier, riding aside at that pace is a little tiring! One of our riders had a fall early on and was sent home with concussion, while another horse thought that a jump was a bit too small and jumped the gate beside it instead! Bluey and I were really happy to be back jumping rails and galloping across open country, he may be a good bog crosser, but his strong point will always be country where the going is fast and there are no stones or peat bogs.
We closed the season with a couple of fun days visiting our neighbours at the South Pembrokeshire; a weekday where I rode astride, and their closing meet which I did side saddle until dusk. Both were hugely enjoyable, busy days with one of the most welcoming and sociable hunts in Wales, unsurprisingly both ended in the local pub!
Last Saturday I took Bluey to a fun ride (again hosted by the South Pembrokeshire) and his next major outing will be outriding at our (Tivyside) point to point. There are a few hunter trials coming up and we may have a whizz around a local unaffiliated team chase (side saddle of course, there’s a lower risk of me falling off and smashing up my coccyx- again). If the situation gets desperate I may volunteer a failed round at inter hunt relay, but otherwise it will be a relaxed summer as we count down the days to opening meet. I hope that everyone reading has had an enjoyable (albeit wet, and latterly very cold) season!
(Photo Credit David Bunn)