l-r MFH (Master of Foxhounds), Mike on Bruce, Me on Dai
We won't be able to hunt often unless invited. A day's hunting costs more than I earn in two days. As guests we weren't required to pay the £100 cap, though we did make a donation to the hunt, and of course we tipped our grooms.
Accompanying the hunt on horseback was a tick off my bucket list. For Mike, it was a politically savvy move. I didn't understand that, in the past, gamekeepers and huntsmen could barely maintain a grumbling tolerance of each other. I suppose that gamekeepers see foxes as hungry vermin, and the Hunt view foxes as sporting quarry. One wants to eradicate the threat, the other wants to preserve a population for sport. Traditionally anyway. As I said, hunting foxes is illegal since 2004.
Mike & his young groom /minder Alice
On an estate, the landowners are most often both shooters and riders, so gamekeepers and hunts had to co-exist. But Mike is a rare keeper that supports the hunt (though it is drag hunting now) and wanted to show his support by attending a meet on horseback. In fact, it's so rare a relationship that supporters took photos for a hunting magazine. Our day's hunting opened the doors for a good working relationship between riders, supporters, and shooters in future.
After our pre-hunt glass of port, just about to mount up
Neither Mike nor I joined the Tumblers' Club - that's hunt code for falling off your horse - but my elderly tweed jacket couldn't take the strain and both shoulder seams split over my first jump. That old jacket is now officially retired. I'm back to my mostly-daily hacks on Kitty, whose steady pace I have come to appreciate after Dai's hell-for-leather one.
Terrible leg position!