Grapevine Stories

Martin Scott writes a few words to Grapevine members as the hunting season gets fully underway.

'Scottie' as he is affectionately know, is one of the most experienced of hunting men. As one of Grapevine's treasured ambassadors, he tells us all a tale or two and a few words of wisdom, as hunting truly gets underway.

As the hunting season is about to start in earnest after the hound training, getting the hounds prepared for the Opening Meet, our big white chief, Panda Christie, has asked me as one of your ambassadors to write a few notes to help put you off ever getting on a horse again.

This time 36 years ago, I was getting ready for our VWH Opening Meet and the night before spent an amusing evening that included her parents, where her dear father was taking the piss, in no uncertain terms and reminding people like me who thought about nothing else but hunting, that there were other forms of life, like making money (yuk) but much needed to pay for the horses!

Anyway, the Opening Meet was held, but at around 3.30 that afternoon, I found myself stuck in a rut - a rather nasty rut - with a horse resting on top of me while it was doing its best to make sure I never rode it again. Well I didn’t, I sold it from my hospital bed where I spent 6 weeks of my life idling the time away being well looked after by nurses and doctors and so many friends.

I managed to get back in the saddle the following season and wisely went back to school with Annie Backhouse, reminding me of all those lessons that had been taught and forgotten in the Pony Club, but the best thing she did was give me my confidence back. 

Now starting my 70th season, I am glad to take a little more care than I used to and have managed a good number of early mornings watching hounds working in the difficult dry conditions that have prevailed so far this season - the hard ground not doing the horses legs any good either. But I have really enjoyed myself and that is what hunting is all about, having fun and chatting to everyone.


I am still very jealous of my good friend who is now 84 and still hunting, he is an excellent rider and is looking for another horse but one that will open gates and that he can get on and off easily. I love his optimism and that is what good foxhunters are. They are “optimists” they must be otherwise they would never go out!

The Opening Meet, like Boxing Day, is an important day in the hunting calendar with the season ahead. With all the leaves about, scent is never good but I have had some good days from the Opening Meet. One meet in Devon, where our host, the hunt chairman, said there would be no scent as there was a blue haze. I was glad to go back to see him afterwards with the field spread out across several parishes but there are always exceptions to the rule and that is why I never like to miss a minutes hunting. 

Recently we had been delayed by fog and I muttered about not waiting more than 3 hours (which I had done) and after the decision to go home was made, I heard that hounds had a busy afternoon in brilliant sunshine - nothing makes one more jealous. 

The worst thing about Opening Meets are the number of people who come out who have not been out so far, and their horses not only are extremely fresh but indeed rather dangerous, so they need to be avoided.

Scent plays an important part in the proceedings and as each trail is different and so is the ground and the weather, it takes a brave man to predict what sort of day, but rather than being a humbug, I prefer to keep my council and hope we will have fun.

There are so many different ways people enjoy hunting, whether it is hacking on full of anticipation, seeing the wonderful wildlife that abounds in the country, hearing the first hound open (speak) or watching which hounds put the pack right at a check or galloping as hard as one can to keep up with them, or jumping that awkward place without mishap, and hacking home tired and happy, these are a few of the things that bond the followers together. Then there is the endless leg pulling which goes on and makes us more human if that is possible. Part of the fun is the camaraderie where in the field everyone is equal. I get great pleasure in watching the young enjoying themselves. It is the one thing hunting allows, letting all generations mix freely and enjoy each other's company.

There are so many different ways a day’s hunting is enjoyed that I am sure your readers will know. Have a great season and many more of them!

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