Monday, 27 December 2010

The Great British Boxing Day Meet

One of my favourite things about Christmas is when it's over! No, not really, but I do have terrific memories of the Boxing Day meet: children and ponies decorated in tinsel, a great way to resume normal life after the indulgence of the festive season, but also celebrate with friends, on horseback, riding across country, and just a couple more drinks!  All over England hunts meet at local pubs in the countryside or on high streets the day after Christmas, spreading good cheer, sausage rolls, and glasses of port.

Now more than ever, as the ban on hunting remains in place, it's important that everyone shows their support for hunting as a way of life, and as a huge part of the fabric of our countryside and livelihood of so many.   This year, due to Boxing Day falling on a Sunday, most hunts met on Monday 27th December, and this despite frigid temperatures, hard frosts, and plenty of snow on the ground in most places.

How encouraging then, to see so many people show up, on horseback, immaculately turned out, even though many hunts weren't actually going to hunt, but were just "meeting" for tradition, and good relations purposes.   The horses were so well-behaved, standing quietly, in the bitter cold, most of them fully clipped, while riders talked, drank and ate - next time I start a youngster I need to add hunter training to the repertoire.  What a pleasant surprise to see so many young people out as well, mounted and on foot, chatting, laughing and drinking, and perhaps shivering a little!  That great English Blitz spirit lives on, and the Hunt truly embraces the whole community.

Our local hunt now is the Cotswold, and as I am splitting time between horses and 2 young children, and England and the US, I don't ride, but we three definitely enjoyed ourselves on foot. Huntsman Simon Hand told me that the Cotswold Hunt has 42 couple of hounds,  about 17 of which were out at the Boxing Day meet, and all of which were so gentle, friendly and sweet, we definitely wanted to bring them all home.   They are mostly bred from English lines, with some Welsh crossed in there, (the hairier ones!). He knows all their names, and despite talking to me, several other people, and downing a few drinks in quick succession, all at the same time,  he also managed to keep an eye on pretty much every one of them, and would add in a crack of the whip every now and then, perhaps just for good measure!

The Cotswold Hunt has a very modern website,  The Cotswold Hunt       and you can adopt a hound for a year - straight onto next year's Christmas list, and you can also learn how to support your local hunt or the countryside, or country sports in general via the countryside alliance   Countryside Alliance - home

My grandfather was an MFH, and I know he would have been proud that my children and I were there at the Boxing Day Meet, regardless of whether we were mounted or not, but just to be counted,  and I've learnt all sorts of lessons for life out hunting that stand me in good stead today.  I look forward to the next edition of  Horse and Hound for the Boxing Day meet reports from all around the country, and hope you enjoyed this brief one. Thanks for reading.

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