Horse & Hound

Goodnight Tessa Waugh’s hunting diary

A dreamy fun ride emerges from the doom and gloom of another lockdown, as Tessa Waugh watches horses and people of all shapes and sizes safely enjoying a pleasant autumn day


IF you build it, they will come.” Those are the reassuring words that Kevin Costner (he of the well-practised smoulder) hears in the cornfield in Field of Dreams, a baseball film from the 1980s. Kevin’s character goes ahead and builds the pitch against the odds and is rewarded when the ghostly players arrive to play. These days the disembodie­d voice would have to add, “as long as you’ve completed a risk assessment, displayed your social distancing policy and provided masks and hand gel on tap”.

There is nothing like a pandemic for putting a downer on things, or so I thought until last weekend when a Field of Dreams scenario developed here on our doorstep.

It was just a few days before the hunt hosted another fun ride when news came through that the north-east was entering a regional lockdown: not as severe as the one earlier in the year, more of a lockdown-lite which involved pubs and restaurant­s closing at 10pm, and no mixing with other households.

It would have been easy to conclude that getting people together, albeit outdoors, was too complicate­d and to cancel the ride until restrictio­ns lifted. Luckily, Ed, the organiser, bashed on, and on the allotted day 180 people – all booked in beforehand for the purposes of track and trace – turned up with their horses.

On the ground, 20 or so helpers were tasked with watching road junctions, pointing the way and scooping up any fallers. The visitors proceeded to spend a happy two hours or so cantering along field margins, trotting up hills and down dales on the farm belonging to

“The lack of competitio­ns, or anything really, has piqued interest in

these fun ridesÓ

two former masters of our hunt, with a couple of jumps thrown in for good measure.

Some had come from as far as Durham, two hours away. It seems the lack of competitio­ns, or anything really, has piqued interest in these rides. People have spent plenty of time at home this year and they want to get out and enjoy themselves.

MARY and I were at the start with the job of ticking everyone off as they started. We looked across a field of trailers and lorries parked 20 metres apart, watching the riders return, smiling and relaxed, hands on the buckle. There were horses and people of all shapes and sizes. Young and old. People riding around en famille in chattering groups, people riding alone, just them, their horse, a pleasant autumn day and lots of peace and quiet. Old men on skittering Arabs, teenage girls on feisty coloureds, a little girl on a Shetland being led by her dad on foot.

With lots of doom and gloom around, it’s good to know that happy outcomes do occur in real life, not just Hollywood.

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