War’s Effect on the Fields
Hunting will be carried out during the present winter, but – as need hardly be said – the circumstances surrounding the sport will be of a totally different character from what is usual. Hounds will meet, and hunt foxes, and will have some following, but the killing of foxes will be the chief endeavour rather than the securing of good hunts. Hunts there will be, of course, for as the season advances it becomes each week more difficult to hold foxes up. The man who heads a fox will not get into trouble, however, as he would in normal times, and many followers will probably learn that to head the fox which has just left covert is not always a simple matter. Foxes vary greatly in the matter of determination, and whilst cubs are, as a rule, easily turned, there are many bold foxes who will make their point even if they have to pass through a crowd of horses, while others will jink to one side and make their original point from another spot. No doubt whenever and wherever it is possible foxes will be turned towards hounds, and no doubt many more will be dug out than is usually the case. In some hunts digging operations are very rarely resorted to, and the practice is not one which commends itself, except under special circumstances. it may, for example, be a matter of policy to kill a fox or foxes if possible, on certain ground, and in such a case a master who is not addicted to the practice in the usual way is fully justified in giving the order to dig. For that matter, a master is always within his rights when he digs out a run fox, but in the interests of his field no master will, at ordinary times, spend the best hours of the day in trying to get a fox out of a place which involves a long period of spade work. During the coming season even this may happen, for it is generally agreed that the head of foxes must be kept down at all costs. As for the followers of hounds, they will come out when they can, and do their best towards fulfilling the desires of the master, but their numbers will be greatly depleted. Many hunting men who are ex-soldiers have rejoined the forces, whilst hundreds of young farmers and sons of farmers are also serving. It will in effect be found that very few men of the right military age will be hunting, but in some districts it is, of course, possible that a few Territorial officers may be able to snatch a short half-day occasionally. Possibly ladies will form the larger portion of some of the fields, but, there will be absences of both men and women due to motives of economy. It is greatly to be hoped that the falling off in subscriptions will be kept to reasonable limits. Expenses at the various hunt establishments will doubtless be cut down as far as possible; fewer horses will be kept and fewer men to attend them. There will be a general decrease in the forage bills in consequence, and a great number of hunt servants, and a far greater number of hunting grooms have enlisted. But it must be remembered that the conditions vary all over the kingdom, and there can be no hard and fast rule binding upon all the hunts in the same way. Some hunts are fairly rich, others exceedingly poor. Some, are well foxed; in others the supply does not equal the demand. In certain hunts the claims are promptly paid, and in some cases – we are told – will continue to be paid as usual. In other districts there is bound to be less money for poultry than usual, but followers must make up their minds to pay whatever is justly claimed, if it is found possible for them to do so. The great thing to remember is what hunting means to the country. It is due to hunting that light horses, other than thoroughbreds, hackneys of high action, and so forth, are now bred. If there was no market, at high prices, for all the best animals, fox hunting, light horse breeding would collapse, for the motor has caused the harness horse pure and simple to become almost non-existent, and practically everyone who puts a thoroughbred horse to a half-bred mare, with a view to future profit, does so in the hope he may have bred a valuable hunter.