Imagine the typical Valentine’s Day. Candle-lit dinner in a cosy, warm place and a nice relaxed dinner with your loved one, yes?
Mine was the exact opposite.
I’ve always wanted to go hunting, but with Rupert always being almost uncontrollably strong jumping in the school, I thought I ought to give it a miss if I wanted to live! But when Zoe, a lady on my yard, asked if I’d like to go to the Quorn Hunt Meet that were meeting at Grace Dieu Priory (meaning that we could hack to it) and I was on my half term holiday, it seemed silly to miss the opportunity!
Then when I decided to go, it seemed silly to go. I only had one day notice as it was a very last minute decision for us to go, which became problematic when I realised that 1) I had a very hairy horse as his clip had grown out 2) I can’t clip (well). Thankfully, Haylie managed to find time to clip the hairy beast so he looked a bit more presentable than bog pony!
My second problem was how strong Rupert is, making the idea of galloping and jumping in open spaces in a pack of fit, enthusiastic horses that know their job slightly daunting. As he is usually ridden in a Pelham with roundings (that doesn’t really offer much brakes!), I decided to opt for the shock tactic and change his bit the day before back to the Cheltenham Gag (which, when I previously tried it to jump in, made very minimal difference) as a last resort.
With our tack cleaned, boots cleaned, horses’ legs washed, jackets on, girths tightened and hip flasks full to the brim, we headed off. We were running a tad late which meant I didn’t have time to plait his mane (which I’m soooo gutted about- not! Let’s just say plaiting is not my forte) but I went with the mindset that although he didn’t look quite as smart, it was something extra to grab on to if necessary!
We arrived at Grace Dieu Priory and Bea (Zoe’s horse), a relatively experienced hunter, started prancing about. My newbie horse stood like a rock- instant brownie points to him. After a glass (or two) of port, we set off. Rupert and Bea both wore red ribbons in their tails as a precaution, and due to mine and Rupert’s inexperience, we stayed near the back of the pack. A fall at the first fence for a girl I know from my previous yard definitely didn’t help my confidence! Luckily, she and her horse were fine and we all continued.
I was expecting Rupert to be bolting, tanking and yanking my arms out of their sockets all day long. I was wrong. He was a total angel the entire day, I didn’t have to fight to pull him up once, yet he was as responsive to my leg as ever. He was very brave about everything and was especially clever when we had to turn round to find another route and we had to negotiate a gap in a wall followed immediately by a leafy drop into a ditch and back up a slope that was even more difficult due to the overhanging branches, particularly as he was the first horse to go through (bar the Field Masters). There were several questions that day and he didn’t question me once which is incredible for a horse that some times decides to run out at a 20cm cross pole! Very proud mummy moment.
Even though I was aching all over (we concluded I hadn’t quite drank enough sloe gin and jager!), I loved the entire day and I’m so grateful for Zoe accompanying us and for the Quorn Hunt being so welcoming. I think we’ve finally found Rupert’s niche in life, so we’ll try to get out to Hunt Meets as often as possible now and work on our fitness.
Next stop: Quorn Hunt Ball on Saturday!
P.S: the boyfriend did treat me that evening, didn’t hate me for choosing the horse over him and coped with my complains of aching by making sure my wine glass was never empty!