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 From Pony Club to Grand National


It is still amazing to realise that some people are unaware about Fox Hunting and it's structure and process which is still relatively unknown.
People are surprised to learn that in the multi-million pound Horse Racing World, there are certain races, such as Hunter Chases and the Grand National that all horses entered in these races have to qualify. One has to remember the amount of money involved in Horse Racing. It would be rediculous to imagine horses entering a race without any form of qualification. It is essential that both horse and rider are compedent and fit.
By this, there is a process. Each horse has to prove itself, and by doing so, the horse and rider has to have hunted with hounds on at least 6 to 8 occasions, depending on the hunt. Once this is achieved they receive a Hunter Certificate from the Master of Fox Hounds of the particular Hunt they hunted with.
The next step is for young horses aiming to join the horse racing circuit have to entered several Point-to-Points races held and organised by hunts up and down the country.
Point-to-Pointing racing is amature horseracing over fences, undertaken by horses who qualify for the races by learning their skills in the hunting field. Strict rules for entering these races are required from the horse's owner. A regulatary body provides over 100 Point-to-Point Racecards every year. Even a formbook covers every Point-to-Point and Hunter Chase in the UK.
The fences at each Point-to-Point are built by members of hunt holding the event to a very strict standard and then inspected by an external authority to warrant their use. It is hard work and that is how members of hunts receive their buttons to be worn on their red coats by working at various events over the years.
Young riders coming up through The Pony Club (founded in 1929 by the The Horse Society) provides sound training for both pony and their rider. The aim was, and still is, to ensure that young riders know how to look after their ponies and tack and, behave in a responsible and considerate manner to others, especially when Hunting.
There are so many different riders taking part on the Hunting Field - all are welcome with no social barriers, from the social ride with friends, to the farmers and lamdowners who have a vested interest in this activity, and, the could be proffesional jockeys of the future.
To keep a hunt functioning, there are many people throughout the country, giving their time and money to ensure hunting continues.
We have worn jumpers for many years, which were specially made, with a motif of a Huntsman with Hounds on a Chase and a slogan saying "Foxhunting is Conservation" - of course it is. Young fit foxes are very difficult to catch and many of the foxes caught are full of buck shot and mange, who need to be put out of there misery.
A days hunting is good exercise for all involved, whether riding, being a foot follower, or just a local spectator, enjoying the fresh air and day out in the country. For the kill, if there is one, is swift with a break of the neck, which usually happens way ahead of the field and in the majority of cases may only be viewed by the Huntsman.
One should be aware that there are as many Foot Followers as mounted, and they all contribute to the benefit of the particular hunt they are involved with. It should also be noted that there are Foot Packs with no horse involvement, such as the fell packs in the hill districts around the country.
Occasionally you get people coming up to you and saying " I don't agree with Fox Hunting" but when you ask them if they have every attended a Hunt the answer is ususally "No." And they certainly do not know the connection between the other organisations, which are essential to the whole structure.
It is hoped that this article will open their eyes and minds to the entire fabrication of hunting and it's benefit to the social, economy and environmental aspects of the countryside.
It is considered by many that the way in which the Ban on Hunting with Hounds in England, Wales and Northern Ireland was passed, by using the Emergency Parliamentary Act (which should only be used when the country is at danger from an international thret) it seem rather peculiar that a rural activity which, from the foxhunting aspect of hunting with hounds (there are several other activities of hunting with hounds, apart from hunting foxes) has been in place for centuries, and was initially set-up by farmers who were loosing their livestock had to be interferred with?
On Sunday 15th January 2012 on the BBC programme Countryfile, John Craven intereviewed David Cameron, the Prime Minister for the UK. During the inerview John Craven asked the Prime Minister if the Ban on Hunting with Hounds was going to be reviewed. David Cameron stated that the Act would be voted upon in The House of Commons during this Session of Parliament.
Let's hope 2012 will see common sence return?
Douglas and Margaret Steen
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