“Don’t worry, we’ll take things very carefully and bring him back in one piece,” Jane Spencer promised my wife, somewhat rashly, I thought.
Jane was talking on the eve of my first proper day’s hunting — in “Monday country”, with the Pytchley — and like most non-hunting spouses, the Fawn (as she’s known) wasn’t looking forward to the prospect one bit.
It’s not that the Fawn is anti-hunting. Her mother — quite rightly — thought that it was the greatest sport on earth and before she died she ceremonially handed down to me her cherished hunting whip.
But the Fawn knows what hunting is like and, worse, knows what I’m like: reckless, impetuous, irresponsible, immature, hopeless. As I demonstrated only the other week when I broke our daughter’s ankle.
I’ll spare you the ugly details. Suffice to say that it was a riding injury and as the parent supposedly in charge at the time, I got all the blame. It could hardly have happened at a more inconvenient moment — the day before school started and, worse, the beginning of the autumn hunting season.
How in God’s name was I to persuade the Fawn that riding isn’t dangerous when we had such strong evidence to the contrary, stomping round the house with her boot and crutches and being as bolshie as only a hobbled female teenager can?
Anyway, to my first proper hunt. I say “proper” because although I’ve been out one or two times over the years — once, with the Devon & Somerset staghounds, just before the ban, for an article in The Sunday Times; once with the Cotswold for a TV documentary in praise of toffs — I’ve only ever done the really important bit, the jumping bit, by accident.
Jumping petrifies for me, because though I’ve been riding on and off since I was a cold, reluctant eight-year0-old (“Ianto. T-rot!”), horses aren’t in my blood and I never did Pony Club or anything proper like that.
Read the rest at Horse and Hound.