Original Entry Winner
Two Glimpses of Riding in Wales
Up in Tilley country after a Meet at the edge of the world
Where the familiar and domesticated touches the untamed…
And Fortified with the fire of a Percy brew,
We clatter and slither through stream and bog to a high crest,
To the wall below which the world drops away
To a dwindle of tiny farms and a miniature covert.
We sit on our horses like gods and survey
Ravens tilting and grabbing the wind beneath us,
Filling the air with their dragon speech,
Their dark imprecations…
Hound-music suddenly swirls up
From the wood at our feet and the raven voices are drowned
As our eyes refocus
On the miniature fox well away on a sunlit slope, clear away from its pursuers
And the pack that follows, divides as a second fox sneaks some to a further hill
And more distant music arises
Like an. echo…
One hound returns to watch as we do in a god-like pose
Seated beside his huntsman..
Glancing from right to left with gracious condescension..
Looking for the best chance,
Waiting for the signal
Breaking at the right second
Rejoining his companions at the critical moment
For the swift and glorious running down and instant execution of the quarry.
Such is the nature and art of the fox hunt:
The combination of skill and experience, of patience and understanding,
Bred in the bones of the hound, in the brain of his master,
Coloured with courage and spiced and seasoned with danger.
Riding out this morning after a snowfall
And after the hunting ban,
I marvel at the beauty of Wales
And celebrate the freedom of its high hills unfettered by fences
And think of the fox.
Evidence of its passing lies in the next field:
A group of crows cluster and dance about the corpse of a sheep
Shocked to death after a partial butchery.
Next, the fox will be shot
Or most likely wounded
To shamble away and expire slowly under the dank hedge..
Deprived of the neat execution of a pistol to the head
Or a swift bite to the back of the neck and instant oblivion.
Excerpts on Hunting Winner
On Hunting, by Sir Roger Scruton
By now I had led Dumbo to one side and was edging down the road towards the turning which would take us home. Suddenly the Huntsman’s horn stuttered out its excited semiquavers. The hounds, which had been drifting round the trotting horse like gulls around a fishing boat, instantly form a line, running one behind the other towards the copse, each hound breaking into song as it jumped the low stone wall that crossed the valley. There was a commotion behind me. I turned to see the Master swing his horse towards the rails that border the road on this side of the valley and then rush at them with a scraping of hooves. The other riders followed, some 40 or more, each horse fired with enthusiasm pulling its rider into the jump and following the herd in its downhill stampede towards the river, into which they plunged like the Gararene swine. Dumbo was rearing in my hand, and I was tempted to let him go. But soon the hunt had waded the shallow stream, and galloped off behind the copse and was lost to view. Dumbo allowed me to mount him for the journey home, setting off at once in an excited trot, ears pricked, eyes searching the horizon to every side, hoping for a miraculous vision to be granted again. Only when the familiar houses of his village lined the road, did he returned to his plodding gait. And I noted that he was drooping and covered in sweat. Thus it was that I resolved to take up hunting during this, the best part of my life.