A fam­ily af­fair

Jo Bell in­ter­views Hunts­man Har­vey Wil­son, whose life is cen­tred around hounds, the hunt field and home It was al­ways some­thing spe­cial to go to a hunt on some­one’s place and to ride around with all your mates’

NZ Horse & Pony - - Profile -

As the hunt­ing sea­son draws to a close and hun­ters are turned out for their an­nual spell, spare a thought for the hunts­man whose work car­ries on.

For Taupo Hunts­man Har­vey Wil­son, the year-round com­mit­ment to his hounds and the hunt is all worth it for the lifestyle it pro­vides to his fam­ily.

Har­vey’s wife, Lisa, says their three daugh­ters, Ge­orgie (11), Libby (9), and Vi­enna (6), are in­cred­i­bly lucky as they get to go to work with Dad and he IS around a lot more than with a nine-tofive job.

“Now the girls are older they are of­ten down at the ken­nels help­ing Har­vey with the hounds and muck­ing about with the horses.”

Com­ing through the Mahia Hunt ‘ap­pren­tice­ship’ Har­vey has now been a hunts­man for more than 20 years and says it’s the thrill of the chase that keeps him in­ter­ested.

Grow­ing up on a farm in Wairoa, he started hunt­ing with his mother, Mar­ion, with Mahia Hunt, aged about 11.

“It was al­ways some­thing spe­cial to go to a hunt on some­one’s place and to ride around with all your mates.”

Har­vey says there was a good bunch of peo­ple in Mahia who were very en­thu­si­as­tic about hunt­ing and used to col­lect a group of kids and their ponies from town and take them to hunts in a big, open-top cat­tle truck.

“Graham Wil­liamson was the Master and they would line us all up and get us jump­ing the spars – it was great!”

Har­vey must have showed his flair with the hounds from a young age as he was a reg­u­lar whip from the age of 14.

It was dur­ing his six months at the Taratahi train­ing farm in Master­ton that Har­vey was of­fered the hunts­man job at Mahia, and he turned up to start work just be­fore his 18th birth­day.

“I was lucky to have some good peo­ple help­ing me – Bruce Gold­stone, Peter Ben­nett and John Von Pein all gave me good ad­vice and tips.”

For nine years Har­vey lived out of his suit­case dur­ing the hunt sea­son, as with no ken­nel base and the large hunt bound­ary, the Mahia Hunts­man moves be­tween

the dif­fer­ent hunt wards, be­ing bil­leted along with his hounds.

When Har­vey de­cided to call it a day on Mahia, he headed to Waipuku­rau to work on a farm. He joined Dan­nevirke Hunt and says Barry Beat­son, Dan­nevirke Master, ‘cracked the whip’ to en­cour­age Har­vey to con­form to bet­ter Hunt eti­quette.

Har­vey met Lisa hunt­ing with Dan­nevirke and the cou­ple moved to Taupo in 2001 when he was ap­pointed Taupo Hunts­man.

It was in­ter­est­ing time for Har­vey in terms of hound man­age­ment as he was now work­ing with a per­ma­nent ken­nel set-up, and man­ag­ing a hunt farm.

It didn’t take too long be­fore Har­vey had the pack hunt­ing his way.

“Hounds aren’t like do­mes­tic dogs; they have a real pack men­tal­ity and you have to be the boss. Their noses re­ally rule their brains. Some can be easily stopped but oth­ers are very de­ter­mined and to­tally fo­cused on the scent so you have to get to know them.”

Har­vey likes his hounds to be happy as he says it makes it eas­ier to work with them.

“Our girls play with the pups all the time, drag­ging them around on the lead. It re­ally de-sen­si­tises them and makes them friendly. I think this is pos­i­tive as they will come to peo­ple and are happy to fol­low.”

Each year Har­vey breeds from two or three se­lected bitches and he says there is quite a lot of dis­cus­sion amongst hunts­man from the dif­fer­ent hunts about the breed­ing side of the sport.

“We will of­ten get a new bitch from another hunt or use some­one else’s good dog to breed from – we are al­ways try­ing to im­prove the blood­lines and get a bet­ter hunt­ing hound.”

On the hunt field Har­vey says his fo­cus is al­ways with the hounds.

“I gen­er­ally switch off from the field but when you’ve got the big­ger fields, like Taupo Hunt Week, I do have to be mind­ful of them.

“I al­ways go out there to pro­vide the best pos­si­ble day. Some days it just doesn’t hap­pen the way you want it to and this can be dif­fi­cult, but peo­ple still may have had a fan­tas­tic day, es­pe­cially if we have jumped some in­ter­est­ing fences.”

Like most hunt­ing peo­ple, Har­vey is pretty fa­nat­i­cal about the sport and says even if he wasn’t a hunts­man he would def­i­nitely hunt.

“The girls will come out with us now, and Ge­orgie es­pe­cially will of­ten come and ride in with me which is a good thing to share. They are also get­ting pretty quick at telling me what I’ve done wrong!”

In the sum­mer, Lisa and the girls are suc­cess­ful in the show­ing dis­ci­pline with a num­ber of Na­tional and Horse of the Year ti­tles to their credit. And with three young riders, Har­vey has needed to get in­volved as the lead rein han­dler for youngest daugh­ter, Vi­enna.

Out­side the hunt sea­son, Har­vey works as an agri­cul­tural con­trac­tor for a lo­cal farmer and pre­pares his young horses.

The hounds have a rest from their busy win­ter months but they still re­quire daily man­age­ment and care be­fore the pre­sea­son work­ing up time be­gins in the New Year, to be ready for another hunt sea­son.

Har­vey and Lisa’s girls en­joy play­ing with the hound pup­pies

Har­vey and Lisa ride out at Taupo Hunt Week

It’s a spe­cial day when the girls ride out with their dad

Har­vey in show­ing mode, look­ing dap­per with youngest daugh­ter Vi­enna

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