Thursday 29 December 2011

Cyclist meets Huntsmen

I usually like to take a walk on Boxing Day and burn off a few calories before the next deluge of Christmas stuffing.

As I was up North on this occasion I decided to add a little more interest to the outing by stopping by at the gathering for the Holderness Hunt in Beverley.

I'm not a fan of fox-hunting but I was still curious to see what goes on at these events and what type of people attend.

The masters of the Holderness Hunt had actually placed an article in the local newspaper inviting people to come along for a meet and greet session prior to them galloping off with their hounds.
So at around 11am on Boxing Day I and around 2,000 other townsfolk rolled up into Westwood Pasture. There were around 70 horseriders out and about all dressed up in their best livery. Their horses had also been dolled up for the occasion - with plaited mains, some with tinsel on, their coats trimmed and hooves clipped.

I was struck by how many women were out. It seemed like more than half the riders were women, many of them dressed up like Zara Phillips lookylikies. Once I got talking to them though, there was no chance of mistaking them for a royal. They were just straight-talking Yorkshire lasses! To be honest, in a funny way it made them seem more approachable and less stuffy. The riders were polite and friendly, and many of them seemed to have just come along for the ride. It was a chance to have a Christmas chinwag with other horsey friends and a quick hack around the local fields in East Yorkshire. The hunt was scheduled to leave around midday and finish around 3pm, though many of them were not expecting to stay out that long.

For some, a combination of the Christmas hangover and being up grooming and preparing their horse had put paid to anything longer.

Just before midday the master called everyone to order, ready for the off. Firstly he made the traditional Merry Christmas, "thanks to everyone for turning out etc," and then made the slightly controversial "please bear with David Cameron, I know he will repeal this unworkable hunting act, he's just got alot on his plate right now, please understand that the Conversatives are our friends and they have a strong bond with the Countryside Alliance."

And with that, the dogs were let out, the bugle sounded and the huntsmen and women rode over the Wolds in the December sunshine. Who knows what happened next....

I must say it was interesting to watch a few of the proceedings. I guess in that part of the world, these activities are part and parcel of their heritage and also the livelihoods of many folks in the area. It is still difficult to digest the brutality of what happens to the foxes though, so I can't say I am a supporter.
On a personal note, I was glad to meet the riders because I am likely to meet a lot of them on the local bridleways when doing my off-road bike rides. Speaking to the different horseriders in the area helps in maintaining good relations with other bridleway users - which is always a good thing.

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