Countryside Alliance’s Head of Hunting Polly Portwin writes:
“Christmas Eve or Boxing Day?” This is the sort of discussion that takes place in a household where a member of the family wants to hunt at the priority meets over the Christmas period. This would be a perfectly normal discussion, rather like other families discuss whether to have turkey or goose for lunch. Or is it dinner?
Despite the perception that everybody who follows hounds has a yard full of fit hunters with staff on hand to clean tack, polish boots and ensure horses are injury-free, the majority of people that hunt have access to one horse or pony to take hunting and do all the work themselves. Mucking out early on Christmas morning before preparing the vegetables and in between opening presents is perfectly normal. In fact, as with most people that have livestock, the priority is usually with the four-legged friends outside, many of which will get an extra carrot, their own stocking full of special treats or even have tinsel around their stable doors on Christmas morning.
Meet cards will have been planned by Masters and hunt staff around the Christmas holidays to maximise opportunities for everybody to enjoy as much hunting as possible over the festive break, not just for people of all ages on horseback, but also for those who follow on foot or in a car too. Ensuring that the meets are spread evenly around the hunt country to ensure everybody can access a meet in their local area becomes a priority, as is maximising the number of days hunting during the holidays.
Although to some it may be classed as a “first world problem”, selecting hunting dates when looking at the Christmas meet card can bring its own dilemmas. Hunting two days almost back to back just isn’t an option for the majority and difficult choices have to be made.
The traditional Christmas Eve meet for many packs would be held in one of the most fashionable parts of any hunt country and would be on most people’s shortlist while Boxing Day is also a “must” for anybody who hunts. Not only is it a great opportunity to burn off the excesses of Christmas Day, but it is the one day of the season that everybody who hunts should turn out to show their support for our legal hunting activities.
This year, with Christmas Eve falling on a Sunday, traditional foxhound, beagle and other foot packs will meet on Saturday 23rd December, meaning there is an extra day in between to get kit, horses, hounds and everything else turned around in preparation for Boxing Day.
Around a quarter of a million people are expected to head out into villages and towns to show their support again this year and there is nothing that the huge crowds want to see more than a large number of horses and riders filing away from the meet following the hounds. It is therefore the responsibility of every one of the 40,000 people that regularly follow hounds to attend wherever possible in order to put on another wonderful display.
For a listing of Boxing Day meets, please see our map.