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Thirty of us arrived at Pontispool from all over the southwest for a day of hunting education and fun. Three had never hunted before, some for a few years, some for most of their lives.

We divided into six groups for cross country training with three excellent instructors:

Andrew Lovell for the “careful”/inexperienced/rusty or new combinations of horse and rider; Mary Baillie for the “improvers”/more experienced/medium level combinations; Chris Johnson for the “wilder”/experienced combinations. Without exception, we all had a very happy time around Pontispool’s wide variety of fences.

The other half of the morning was spent with Leonie Middle, Critical Care Paramedic from the Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance, who gave us some background as to how the Air Ambulance works, and what we should do to help the casualty while we wait for the helicopter to arrive. A cheque for £555, from a sponsored Bike Ride in July, was presented to the Air Ambulance and another £250 was collected after her talk.

We had a delicious homemade lunch (lasagne or hunter’s chicken!) and Will Bryer MFH, who hunts the Cattistock, gave us some tips on what to do out hunting to keep the huntsman happy. This was an interesting talk with the emphasis on hunting in the modern environment, taking pride in the community spirit we engender, reminding us to be considerate and polite, not only to hunt followers both on foot and mounted, but particularly to the general public.

Well fed and with eager anticipation, we tacked up our horses for the afternoon “jolly”. Mark Heuff MFH led the fast and wild mock hunt over some good hedges, with quite a few quietly downsizing to join David Lowes leading the gentler charge across hunt jumps and smaller hedges. Not everybody jumped everything, but we all stuck together and had an exhilarating

afternoon. Many smiling, mud spattered faces were seen later for tea in the canteen, scoffing completely delicious homemade cakes.

Special thanks go to Richard Mitford Slade, a former Master of the Taunton Vale, for allowing us to use Pontispool and to Cat Down for providing an excellent photographic record.

It was lovely to receive some emails after the day from people expressing how much they had enjoyed it.

“I just wanted to say what a fabulous day we had today! Such a great format and Chris is a brilliant instructor.

Everyone was so friendly and it was just the best fun!”

“Thank you for organising a fabulous day today. I thoroughly enjoyed the xc training with Andrew, he inspires such confidence.

The air ambulance talk was very interesting, the lunch was yummy and the hunting chase was also excellent (even though we were out of control). And then to finish with delicious cake was amazing.”

“Thank you for an amazing day. I really enjoyed the format, learnt a lot, got my jumping mojo back and met or reconnected with lovely people. I think it was a showcase of TVFH friendliness, professionalism and fun; I hope you feel very proud of the success of the day."

"Thank so much for the warm welcome extended to my Italian friend, and the help getting her a horse. She was thrilled with the experience and I think will try and hunt with you again. The rest of our Household Cavalry troop civi riders were also inspired after hearing from her this afternoon, so watch out for more London based ladies in 2020!"

"Would you please pass on my thanks to Mary for her instruction? She was so clear, encouraging and supportive. It was hunting relevant jumping that led very nicely into the afternoon session.

Lastly I really enjoyed listening to Will and his direct, common sense approach to hunting life. It was an interesting thought provoking session.”

See you all in 2020 for the next Pre Hunting Clinic!!


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