The British fox hunt is a tradition as old as time and while it is now illegal to actually hunt foxes, the tradition continues in the English countryside by using fake fox trails for the dogs to follow. So on NYE I ventured out of London into the country to see one of theses hunts take off for the first time. It was a fantastic way to end 2014, which already had many horse related moments, including Polo in the Park and Royal Ascot last summer.
It was really early in the morning, so was quite cold but still a beautiful start to the last day of the year. I didn’t mind the cold too much as we were given hot mugs of tea & coffee upon arrival while we waited for the horses and hounds. (My grandmother informed me that one does not call them dogs, they are called hounds). Anyway, when the riders with their horses finally started making their way down the driveway, it was quite as sight with the bright red tailored jacket of the Hunt Master along with the navy and black for the other riders. Once the hounds appeared, everyone was hanging around the courtyard sipping on slow gin and port (at 10am!!) until it was time for the hunt to begin.
Then came the speech by the Hunt Master, then the horn sounded and they were off up the driveway and into the rolling fields. We watched until they were out of sight, galloping through the open space and jumping over fences. I felt like I was in another world that morning and I absolutely loved it! Definitely something I want to see again this year.
Some cool facts I learnt that day:
- As I said before they are called hounds not dogs.
- At the kennel where the hounds are kept there are total of 90, of which only a quarter were there on the day.
- The handlers of the hounds know each one by name and live with them & train them year round.
- The color of ones jacket depends on how long one has been participating in the hunts. Red is for those who have been involved the longest.
- A rider’s rank and status in the hunt is also indicated by the number & types of buttons on their jackets.
- We were told that there is a special button for each county that riders can earn and it’s a symbol of accomplishment in the sport.