Fox Hunting Life with Horse and Hound

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Here you will find reviews of, selections from, and commentaries concerning books, many of which don't even appear on Amazon's radar. But what goldmines for the literate foxhunter!

The Ride of My Life: Memoirs of a Sporting Editor

the ride of my life.claytonThe Ride of My Life: Memoirs of a Sporting Editor by Michael Clayton, Merlin Unwin Books, $30Before his retirement, author Michael Clayton probably had the best job in the world—editor of Horse & Hound magazine in Great Britain. He led the magazine for more than two decades—from hunting’s heyday through the bad times, when laws were passed to prevent hounds from chasing a fox. Now Clayton has given fellow foxhunters a chance to share his adventures in his memoir, The Ride of My Life: Memoirs of a Sporting Editor. And we are lucky to get to go along for the ride.

Clayton writes that he once read that a happy adult is one who feels he made his childhood dreams come true. An only child, his youth was overshadowed by World War II, and he remembers nights dashing to the family air-raid shelter at the foot of the garden. “If this sounds grim,” he writes, “it was not. We were generally safer in Bournemouth than those living in London.…”

But horses beckoned. When he was seven, Clayton, an only child, announced that he wanted to learn to ride, and to his surprise, his parents agreed instead of saying wait until after the war. The Longham Riding Stables, a bit run-down and shabby, were just a thirty-minute bike ride from his home and were “my first gate-way to horsemanship and the hunting field.”

Siegfried Sassoon’s Haunted Sequel

sassoon memoirs foxhunting manMemoirs of a Foxhunting Man, Siegfried Sassoon, 1928, Penguin Classics, paper, available at Amazon and bookstoresEarly July exactly one hundred years ago, British, French, and German troops engaged in battle near the River Somme that left a million men dead or wounded on the fields in just four months of butchery. Known to history as the Battle of the Somme, it was arguably the bloodiest in all of human history. All for a gain of just six miles into enemy-occupied territory.

Author and poet Siegfried Sassoon was at the Somme. His lovingly-written classic, Memoirs of a Foxhunting Man, ends with his wartime service, his loss of dear friends, and the beginnings of his ruminations on the madness of war.

For just the foxhunting content, the book is a classic to be recommended to any literate foxhunter. But Sassoon wrote a sequel, Memoirs of an Infantry Officer, which is the most moving anti-war book this reporter has ever read.

Colour

We see every color of horse in the hunting field. And while foxhunters really shouldn’t care about color, I’m guessing that many riders have a preference. Right or wrong, I know I do. In this photo, several horses of varying colors are crossing the country well. We may be missing more colors than we care to, but we hope you’ll get the idea.

karel.nmf.3.kleckKeeping up with the Blue Ridge hounds in Virginia are (L–R) Cyrus (a paint) owned and ridden by Karel Wennink; Guitar (a “black-pointed bay”) owned and ridden by your editor; Hot Rize (a “black-pointed bay” and winner of the 2014 Virginia Gold Cup) owned and ridden by Russell Haynes; and Very Berry (a roan) owned and ridden by Jef Murdock, MFH, Old Chatham Hunt (NY). / Nancy Kleck photo

Colour by Edric G. Roberts

The old saying, so often repeated,
That ‘there never was yet a good horse
Of a really bad colour,’ is greeted
With a shrug, as a matter of course;
To the past it is now relegated
As the lore of some old-fashioned school,
Which believed in tradition that rated
An exception as proof to the rule.

Staying at the Ringwell Kennels

siegfried sassoon2Sassoon was excited to be hunting in the Ringwell country this season. On his very first hunt as a youngster with the local pack, he had spied, admired, and envied another young boy, Denis Milden, who had appeared to be so experienced. That boy was now the new Master and huntsman of the Ringwell. It was an overnight trip to that country for Sassoon, and he had been invited to stay at the kennels with his old acquaintance, the Master, as often as he wished. What follows is extracted and condensed from Memoirs of a Foxhunting Man, Part Seven, Chapter III. Click for our earlier sampling from Part Seven, Chapter II.

Staying at the Kennels was the most significant occasion my little world could offer me, and in order that he might share my sublunary advancement I took Cockbird with me. In reply to my reserved little note I received a cheery letter from Denis: he would be delighted to see me and gave detailed instructions about my bag being called for and taken out to the Kennels from Downfield.