A Bit of Winter Fun

On November 11, 2012 by Sarah Lewis

As I only ride twice a week at Hickstead, the benefits of riding two lovely five year olds are probably far greater to me than them, but they are both seem to understand my instructions, and I hope they might be benefitting a tiny bit; I’ve even been allowed to jump one of them. The lovely Sid is starting his long trail towards Badminton 2013. He is incredibly well behaved so I hope he is enjoying some relaxing hacking as I feel fairly sure some major dressage nagging is just round the corner for him to improve on his 15th place at Burghley.
With not much riding to do at home as Emma, Biscuit and Ferro are still on holiday, and Homer is hunting two days a week, I could be catching up on domestic chores or even doing my Christmas shopping, but luckily I have found a few extra horses to ride! I asked Shane Breen if I could come and ride a couple of times a week, to keep me in practice, and I am also helping get my sister-in-law, Clare’s, lovely Sidnificant fit while she recovers from an operation. I have managed to catch up on a fair few work chores though, so check the Old Lodge Website which has had a major update.

I have been also having such a wonderful time with Homer. He just gets even better every time he goes hunting. He is so fit now, and looks absolutely fantastic, is so well behaved and is a proper flying machine across any country. Sadly all this really means is that I must get on and market him for sale.As he is only six someone could probably get at least 12 seasons out of such a lovely made hunter.

Away from the horses; Anna, Sophie and I gave Mark at trip to the ATP World Tour Finals at the O2 for his birthday – their brilliant idea, and I helped pay.

We had the most fantastic seats, 2nd row back, just to one side of the umpire’s chair, and saw the most fantastic tennis. Johnny Marray and Frederic Neilsen won their doubles match and Tsonga and Berdytch had a very tense three setter in the singles.

The following evening we attended a dinner to celebrate Mark Bycroft’s 20th season as Huntsman of the Old Surrey, Burstow & West Kent. A really great evening at the High Rocks Hotel. 300 people from near and far with some major names from the hunting world. Having hunted with Mark on and off for every one of those 20 years I know what a class act he is, but it was great to see that the effect of his enthusiasm and professionalism has spread far beyond the South East. He is now the major authority on how to hunt in the 21st Century, and this season has spoken to many other hunts about how to get the best out of trail hunting, and how best to simulate hunting a live quarry. We had delicious food, good company and excellent speeches.

Driving home on Remembrance Sunday it was amazing to see how many people turned out at the War Memorials on my journey, to reflect and give thanks
A good week finished off even better with a trip to stay with Sarah Jane Tillard and hunt with the Blackmore and Sparkford Vale. Nylands is one of their best meets in their biggest country and I was really lucky to be lent the lovely Jock by Sarah Jane. I have never seen such deep, wet going and we jumped some pretty big hedges out of it. Despite my pretty determined attempts to hit the deck Jock managed to catch me every time, but by 2 o’clock I felt that a very busy morning in such deep going had taken its toll, and Jock had a nasty overreach so he went back to the yard at second horses and I changed to foot following. It was a real red-letter day with hounds finding their trails and hunting fast and diligently and I think I actually saw more in the afternoon than I would have from a horse. It was a special treat to out at the same time as Royal Auclair who was second in the 2005 Grand National, he was ridden by Australian eventer Chris Burton who was having his first ever day’s hunting – nothing like starting at the top! The perfect end to the perfect day was dinner with Bella Moger and Ian & Jo Hepburn, who I hadn’t seen for 12 years.

Driving home on Remembrance Sunday it was amazing to see how many people turned out at the War Memorials on my journey, to reflect and give thanks for those who have given, and continue to give their lives to depend the personal freedom of people the world over. This afternoon I rode Homer up to the Airman’s Grave on Ashdown Forest to look at the wreaths and give my own quiet thanks.