Countryside Alliance young hunting correspondent Georgie Archer has sent us the following report from a Newcomers’Meet of the Golden Valley during the recent CA-backed National Hunting Newcomers’ Week.
Widely promoted by the Countryside Alliance, the hunting ‘Newcomers’ Week’ was soon upon us. Having received goody bags supplied by the CA, the Golden Valley Hunt Newcomers’ and Children’s meet saw a large field gather on 29th October. A contrast to the quiet gatherings of usual, early morning Autumn hunting days; the field in which the hunt assembled was bustling – 29 mounted followers sat on a range of horses from hairy Welsh ponies to fully clipped vast steeds. Children grinned delightedly as sweets and cakes were handed out, with tummies rumbling in anticipation of the promised barbecue once everyone had returned to their trailers and horse-boxes at the end of the day. Adults merrily drank port whilst exchanging avid conversation with new friends and old. The hounds chattered on the lorry; they were eager to be off and running free. Many followers stood on foot, hurrying their children onto restless ponies; others leant against gates and cars, talking to others and shivering on the chilly autumn morning.
The sky was bleak. Dense fog smothered the ground and trees. Despite being surrounded by the picturesque hills and quaint rural farms, only the very nearest hedges and vehicles could be seen. Sadly this meant that the hounds couldn’t be taken out initially and so the field was taken up the track for a brisk trot to pump some blood back into the chilly limbs of the riders. After this they returned to the trailers and marched back off into the fog in the opposite direction. As the horses clattered down the road, car followers began to set off and the crowd filtered away.
The Master of Fox Hounds (MFH) and Field Master combined efforts to ensure that fun was had by all – the field was taken straight for some jumping practice, leaping over wooden hunt jumps built for the summer’s fun ride and more for this meet, plus more improvised jumps made from logs and branches. With many jumps having height options, fun was had by everyone. However, some of the ponies had legs only just as high as the smaller jumps and so a new little log pile was constructed to ensure that not one person was unable to enjoy popping the obstacles. Unfortunately, the Shetland pony outwitted his determined rider, managing to get out of having to join in. Following this, the now rosy-cheeked and smiley field began to attempt trick-jumping with nine horses managing to jump one jump at the same time!
Following this, the fog finally cleared a little and the MFH went to collect the hounds from the lorry. Whilst he disappeared, even more jumping took place; many of the little ones tackled the bigger jumps with great courage and enthusiasm before galloping off to catch up with the hounds. A few trails were laid but the fog soon descended once more, putting an end to any thoughts of hunting for that day. The field returned to the delicious smell of burgers cooking and tucked in, managing to ignore the dampness gradually seeping through their thick hunting coats. Not a single burger or sausage were left: the cars and lorries that headed out of the field hosted only full-stomached and satisfied field members, despite the fog that had brought the day to a premature end.
Everyone who attended; newcomers, children and old hands, went home excited about the upcoming Opening Meet and promises of even more jumping and fun.