A Hunting Medley

On December 6, 2012 by Sarah Lewis



I then had a really lovely afternoon with the Mid Surrey Farmers Drag Hounds on the South Downs at Firle where we probably jumped 40 sets of rails in about two and a half hours. I certainly knew I wasn’t an event rider anymore when I had been galloping without a break for about 20 minutes – very lucky that Homer doesn’t pull at all, and an excellent cure for a crashing hangover! 
Typically, just when I thought Homer and I were truly flying we had a bit of a crash landing when he mistook a hedge for a bank. Unfortunately there was a big ditch behind it which Homer sat in while I apparently somersaulted very neatly into the stubble. As I hadn’t really got a clue where I was and had only been out for about 40 minutes I was heaved back into the saddle (I have absolutely no spring once I have fallen off) and stayed out for the rest of the day. Luckily there were no more hedges and quite a few rails so we got our confidence back. Homer comes from bank country in Ireland and so thinking that a ditch towards means a bank is a common mistake, but one that needs sorting out. Homer seemed none the worse for his adventure, and I just felt a bit tender, so two days later we set off for Hickstead and David Simpson very kindly give him a quick school over some hedges, and then I had a confidence boost over a few.  The school definitely worked as since then we have had a fabulous day with the Old Surrey Burstow and West Kent when we jumped several hedges.

Scenting conditions are always a mystery, it was cold, damp and dull and yet hounds struggled to follow a trail all morning. This gave Homer and I time to work out exactly who was what and gain our confidence, and then suddenly at about 1.00 o’clock we were off. Hounds flew, and I let Homer tuck in behind Ashley Bealby, the field master. The Quorn is one of the very few places where you can really take your own line across country. As you come down to each hedge you choose your spot and as you take off you make a plan for the next hedge taking account of which way hounds might be swinging, with a lovely horse reading your mind and answering every question, it is just the most exhilerating experience.We were then brilliantly set up for my idea of Hunting Heaven – a day with the Quorn. We drove up to Leicestershire on Sunday night and stayed with our lovely friends Nick and Helen Connors. It had been a frosty weekend so I was nervous that the meet might be frosted off, but it rained in the night and was warmer in the morning. When you are used to hunting in Sussex it is always quite sobering to come down to the first fence of the day with 150 others, especially when you have no idea who you shouldn’t be following. Mark managed to bag a lift for the day with Charles Church, the equestrian artist, so he also had a really interesting day.

We flew for about 35 minutes before hounds lost the trail, and then hacked back to second horses and then Helen and I hacked back to their farm. I washed Homer off and gave him a feed while we had a proper hunting tea: boiled eggs, tea and lots of cake, before making the long drive home. Fortified by coffee, adrenaline and mini twirls we made it back in time for me to cook supper for my co-driver who had slept from Leicester to Newport Pagnell, where he woke up for a short debate on whether the South starts at Newport Pagnell (me) or Reigate (Mark). A long, but really wonderful trip, catching up with lovely old friends, making a few new friends, a wonderful day’s hunting and best of all my fabulous young horse giving such a good account of himself.

Closer to home I have ridden 14 very different horses at Breen Equestrian, so I have certainly kept fit and alert, and now Ferro, Emma and Biscuit are all back in work. Ferro has had the shortest holiday so she is already clipped and doing a bit of cantering, whereas the other two are hard to recognise as competition horses, but have both been really good to get back on and they all feel lovely to ride. Ferro is almost ready to have a go at the very smart, new-look Royal Leisure, and the other two will soon be transformed from unbelievably hairy ponies into sleek competition horses.