Hello and thank you for reading my very first blog for The Old Hunting Habit! I am so excited to work with my favourite hunting shop, and hope that you enjoy reading about my hunting season.
I am a West Wales based agricultural consultant, specialising in grass- based dairy systems, and trying to forge something of a side hustle through freelance writing (difficult when I’m useless at pitching editors!). Some of you may have already come across my blog The Hunting Diaries (www.askauntannie.com), these write ups will be of a similar nature, but covering wider sections of the hunting year, and I hope a little more sophisticated, with fewer mentions of my bra size or random anecdotes about members of the field.
It’s a great stroke of luck to find one good hunting pack, to find two seems somewhat excessive, but I count myself incredibly fortunate to be a subscriber of two packs; the Croome and West Warwickshire Foxhounds in England, and the Tivyside Hunt in Wales.
The first thing I ever heard about the C&WW was that they enjoyed their drink, a year or so later I found myself accepting a job in their country, and phoning the secretary to ask for livery yard recommendations! I spent a season living in Warwickshire, keeping my horse on the same yard as the hunt horses, and becoming irrevocably fond of everyone involved with the pack. During this time I started writing meetly write ups, and they seemed to go down well with my new friends. When both that first job and the one that came after didn’t work out for me I packed my bags to go home to Wales, but with the determination that I would pass my trailer test so that I could continue to hunt with the best hunt in England.
I did indeed pass my trailer test, but was left at a loose end as I needed a Welsh pack to hunt with on my non- C&WW weekends! In the strange way that these things happen I was introduced to someone at a hunt ball who took me hunting with the Tivyside. I fell immediately for the hunt country, the followers, and the wonderful sport shown by their hounds. As we rode home in the dark, my borrowed horse on one shoe, the huntsman sitting astride a terrierman’s quad bike because the first whip had had to take the hunt horses home, I knew that I had found the pack that would earn both my Welsh subscription and take up most of my hunting hours.
Through these write ups I hope to give you a taste of what it is like to hunt with two different packs in two very different parts of the world, but sharing the most important aspects of hunting life; excellent hounds and huntsmen, beautiful country, charming followers, and a fondness for a good hipflask! F Scott Fitzgerald wrote there are all types of love in this world, but never the same love twice and I think that it applies in some sense to hunting and different packs; each one is as different as they are similar, but the key to enjoyment is to appreciate each on their own merit.
My lady’s hunter is Silver Blue (Bluey), a 15.2hh chestnut thoroughbred that I bought off the track eight years ago. Supremely arrogant, very pretty, and assured that he alone knows everything, Bluey is a quirky character who combines impeccable manners in the field with a tendency to bite me when he gets the opportunity, to stand on two legs when asked to compete in inter hunt relays, and to look down his nose at any horse he deems less important. We started side saddle in February 2015, in some ways Bluey has mellowed and behaves better since this introduction, but the extra attention at meets means that he is even more haughty than before, his favourite trick being to amass lots of compliments at the meet for his manners and grace, and to then knock me over when I get him back to the trailer to be untacked.
(Photo Credit Stu Norledge)
Our season has been slow to start; I missed early mounted cubbing because Bluey had a recurring sinus infection that we thought would need surgery. Luckily two of the committee members at the Tivyside offered me the ride on their son’s mare, and I took her out. Bluey came around for one day’s autumn hunting, having a great time jumping stone walls and ignoring the mist and drizzle which seems to have been a feature of this year. Unfortunately he then had an accident in the trailer which put him out for opening meet. Again I was given the ride on the lovely Molly, and we had a splendid day jumping lots of new hunt rails, and falling off in the mud when Molly took offence at a herd of marauding cows!
Following opening meet I spent three weeks in Australia on a study tour, watching with envy the steady uploading of hunting photographs! Bluey had flaked off a small piece of bone in his pastern in his accident, and so he was on box rest while I was away. He is now back in work and enjoyed a short day’s hunting on Saturday. It was a beautiful meet, looking down from Newport to the sea (probably my favourite view), but shortly after leaving the meet the rain and mist came in in horizontal sheets. No one who doesn’t live in Wales will quite appreciate how awful West Welsh rain is; it soaks you to the bone, and visibility can fall to the length of your arm holding an outstretched hand. I enjoy hunting so much that I think I was grinning through it all, but it was definitely a soggy start to our proper season!
Now that Bluey is back in work I have been able to pencil in a few December dates with the C&WW, and have been invited to a local side saddle meet with a neighbouring pack, and to hunt with our nearest bloodhound pack. All being well my next report should have some more action, until then I bid you all good night and happy hunting!