Hounds hungry for…aniseed

Field Mistress northern hunt club cropped

Hounds hungry for...aniseed

AUGUST 2016 | Joanne Eisemann

THERE ARE many good reasons to go hunting according to Life member of the Northern Hunt Club, Sandra Atkins.

“The thrill of being on a horse, galloping across properties that you would never get to ride on otherwise, jumping whatever comes, training horses for competition during the ride, and its just great fun, you make new friends and they are all there just to have fun, no competition,” explains Sandra.

Established in 1953, the club does not hunt live game but follows a ‘drag’.

The ‘drag’ rides 2 -3 minutes ahead of the field, laying the scent by dragging a wallaby skin anointed with a small amount of aniseed essence that makes a trail easy for the hounds to follow.

“A lot of the English clubs are now following a drag because they are not allowed to chase foxes,” comments Sandra.

“We have a maximum of 12 hounds which are called 6 couples,” says Sandra.

Hounds are cared for by the ‘Master’ of the club assisted by the payment of hunt fees.

The ‘Master’ can be male or female and is in charge of the hunt, a ‘Master’ must have good horsemanship and hound control skills.

Hunts are run over 2 to 3 hours and are organised in a series of 2 – 3 km ‘runs’, with a break of 5 to 10 minutes in between each run to give the hounds and faster horses a rest and the slower members of the field time to catch up.

“The break is just enough to stop the hounds and horses from puffing and they are ready for the next one,” comments Sandra.

Two ‘whippers in’ ride with the ‘Master’ close by the hounds, the rest of the field are asked to stay behind the ‘Field Mistress’ (or Master), who is appointed on the day to ensure that no-one rides over a hound.

The course is checked before the hunt takes place.

“You’ve got to know where you are going is reasonably safe,” says Sandra.

Many of the items of traditional hunting dress have a purpose; the stock that was once worn around the neck (these days a smaller version is worn) is a long bit of material that could be used as a sling, the long boots help prevent a rider being dragged if a fall occurs, the whip used in England has a hook on the handle that you can pull a gate shut with.

Hunting is suitable for riders of all ages, occasionally even small children attend.

“My grandchildren started hunting when they were 5 or 6 years old as soon as they could canter,” says Sandra and adds “I had them on the lead at the back of the field, they were cantering, I was only trotting, they would jump limbs on the ground, they learn through the winter with hunting to just take what comes and to deal with it. A great accomplishment for a child or a beginner rider.”

“It’s good fun for the riders and hunting makes the horse a better ride, if they are safe on their feet, then you are safe on top.”

The Northern Hunt Club is grateful for the support of the property owners who allow hunts to take place on their land.

For more information see their facebook page.

Mike Moores