A rare effort to leave the ground out hunting this week — inspired by a renewed sense of confidence following a day out with the Bedale — ends unceremoniously for Tessa Waugh
Columnist Tessa Waugh’s hunting diary
‘It is a sad state of affairs when a 10-year-old gives you a bollocking, but on this occasion I probably deserved it’
IFELL off this week. Whoopy-do, what’s so noteworthy about that, you might say? The thing is, there isn’t a lot of falling off in our hunt (the College Valley North Northumberland) because we don’t jump very much. I haven’t jumped a stick all season — literally I have not left the ground, and I wouldn’t be alone in that. I am sure the concept of hunting without jumping is an abomination to many, but you get used to it. We had some visitors from the Middleton last season who were completely perplexed: “We could have jumped that,” they said, signalling glumly at someone off their horse untying a gate. “Oh no,” we shook our heads sagely.
There are other challenges here for a horse — lugging their rider a thousand feet up a mountain for one. Anyway, a couple of weeks ago I went down to Yorkshire for a day with the Bedale and had no choice but to leave the ground, repeatedly. That lot would jump a double decker if it was parked in the way. Net result being that when I went out last Saturday, I felt ready for anything.
We found a trail shortly after the meet and the hounds were speaking nicely as we set sail across a large field with a hunt jump at the far end of it. The fence wasn’t small because there was a rail nailed on a foot or so above it but James, the field master, and Frances, our sole thruster, both made light work of it. People were already peeling off to open the gate further up, which should have been my signal to follow.
“Right,” I said, “let’s go.”
As we cantered forwards, Jim didn’t feel like a horse that was about to jump.
He was confused: “What are you doing? Have you lost your mind?” — and since I haven’t jumped him since August, who can blame him?
There was a desperate lack of impulsion, a hesitation, then he took off, smashing the top rail and dumping me (gently) on the other side. For some reason, his front legs ended up on one side of the fence and his back legs on the other. He was forced to reverse and trotted back to the others, leaving me fiddling pitifully with the broken rail.
My son Alec was appalled.
“What were you doing?” he asked. Until then I hadn’t given a second thought to Alec or his new pony, who almost certainly would have followed us over (against the wishes of his rider). It is a sad state of affairs when a 10-year-old gives you a bollocking, but on this occasion I probably deserved it.