Fox Hunting by Mrs. Burn

"My dear young lady, you would enjoy your hunting so much more if you would only watch the hounds!" I once heard a Master of Hounds say to an eager young woman whose only aim and object seemed to be to get on. Such indeed was her anxiety to do this that she was quite oblivious of the fact, she was meanwhile riding the hounds off the line. The M.F.H. quoted being one of the finest huntsmen in England, I have remembered his words. For it is simply wonderful to think of the hundreds upon hundreds of people in Great Britain, who hunt regularly week after week in the season, and who never "watch the hounds!" Talk and chatter when they draw, gallop of course and jump—most probably—when they run, but "know what they are doing?" No.

And yet to anyone who is really fond of hunting, the greatest charm of all is in watching the hounds and in taking an intelligent interest in the hunt itself. Not that this interest is given to all, for crowds come out, some because they can afford it and it is the right thing to do, some to see their friends, and others to ride, and lastly some, not many, to hunt.

These last have generally been "bred to it," as a man would say, and have the love of hunting born in them, and so they are able to enjoy themselves when others do not. For even though the scent be bad, and they "cannot run a yard," these few will take a pleasure in watching hounds really hunt, and will hug themselves with delight as they distinguish old Rhapsody feather up a furrow away from the rest till she can assure herself that it is right, and then with a note like a bell bring all the others flying to her cry, till one after another they pick up the line and proclaim that it is good.

Part of the charm of hunting is the beauty of its surroundings. I know nothing prettier than the different scenes of a hunt. To watch the hounds put into covert, to stand at a corner and see down the ride the huntsman's red coat and all the hounds round him, among the brown leaves on the ground and the dark trees in the background is simply a picture, and time after time in each hunting day such pictures appear, and delight the eye. Then the joy of listening to the cry, and not only the cry, for it does one good to hear the huntsman cheering the hounds in covert, especially if he has a good voice and can blow a good note on his horn.

Even the smell of the dank leaves turned over as the hounds rustle through them is delightful, and like all loved scents it brings back more than anything else the days of long ago.

I never go out cub-hunting now without that scent bringing back to me the old days at Brigstock, when my father[1] hunted the Pytchley hounds. In Spring and early Autumn we always went to the Woodlands, for the Woodland Pytchley had not then become a separate pack, and I once more seem to see him, long of leg and lithe of limb on the raking chestnut mare, and hear his cheery voice drawing those great woods. And as I listen to his view halloa I feel a thrill run through me, and in fancy I see them striding down the broad grass ride, while the hounds fly to him from every side, and with an "over, over, over, over," which simply make one shiver, he cheers them over the ride, while they swing to the right and crash into the covert with a glorious burst of music like a chime of silver bells. It is odd how these things remain in one's heart.

 Colonel J. Anstruther-Thomson.

"Wire and silence" will be the end of hunting, so he says; he being my father whom on all things venatic I firmly believe.

I suppose hardly one "hunting" woman out of every hundred who go out, ever know how many couple of hounds there are out, or think of counting them while the Master sits outside the covert blowing them to him. Yet this is interesting in itself, and if you know the hounds personally all the more so, as you watch them come tumbling through the fence by ones and twos and go smiling up to their huntsman's side, with a satisfied expression as if they were saying "here I am anyhow."


Hunting in the provinces has that great advantage over the shires, that you have fewer people out, and consequently you really can take an interest in the hound work and watch what they are doing, and when they run you can keep your eye on them all through, and ride to them, whereas in a fashionable country you get cramped up at a corner of a covert with three or four hundred people hemming you in, behind a narrow gateway may be, hardly wide enough for one horse to get through at a time. Your horse probably gets frightened in the thick of the fray, and tries to go backwards instead of forwards, the man's horse in front of you has his ears back and a ribbon in his tail, while those behind keep cramming on with cries of "Get on, do, or else let me come," so by the time you have sniggled yourself through this turmoil, hounds have slipped away and are out of sight. You may then ride for all you are worth, but you probably will never see the hounds again until they kill, or at any rate check. So you must e'en be content with galloping in the wake of somebody else's back, and trust to luck that he is going the right way, but it is dull work compared to picking your own places and using your own head to get to hounds the shortest way.

Of course the country in the shires makes up for almost anything, and to stride away over the pasture lands of Leicestershire or Pytchleydom, is truly the realisation of the "Happy Hunting Grounds." After you have once learned to find your way over a cramped country, intersected with lime and mortar walls and barbed wire, in Scotland, or after you have scaled the heights and fathomed the depths of the banks and drains in Ireland, then to go down for a hunt in the shires is a holiday worthy of the name. "Call this a ditch?" you exclaim inwardly as you flick over an English fence, after encountering those gruesome dykes in Meath. True, I only hunted in Meath one season, but my private verdict at the end of the time was, "a splendid education, but an awful experience as far as the fences are concerned." But then I do not like a ditch I cannot see the bottom of, especially when it has sheer cut-out sides which every person in front of you makes bigger and bigger. I also have a vivid recollection of seeing several top hats (nothing else) wandering up and down on the level of the ground, as other brave souls went at those ditches and cleared them and their contents, human, equine and all. This was on a pleasant spot in Meath, known as the "Bush Farm," and I don't mind saying that for appalling fences I have never met its equal, and devoutly trust I may never come in contact with its superior, unless I am mounted either on a bird or a balloon. But for sport it was undefeated, and the beautiful old turf was a pleasure to ride on. A great blessing too it is having no ridge and furrow, for really sometimes in England, the Bay of Biscay "is jokes" compared to the ground you ride over. The continued galloping up and down is so hard on horses, and though of course one knows the dodge of taking them slantways, still it is not half such fun as swinging away over smooth grass.

One thing about Ireland—and when I say Ireland, I am thinking only of the county Meath, for I have never hunted with any other pack over there, barring one day in Kildare—is that a pony can get over it. It will creep about and jump like a cat, and cross the country as it never could in England. Then, too, people do not seem to hurt themselves so often when they fall over there, and that no doubt is because they ride slowly at their fences, but then how one misses the gates. It is almost impossible to believe at first that there really are not any, but the cruel fact is proved time after time, till at last you are forced to own that it is only too true.

Scotland, some years ago, before so much wire crept in, was as good a school as need be to teach anyone how to get to hounds. You sometimes had to crawl and creep, and sometimes to jump a bit of timber standing, perhaps uphill in a corner, or an awkward place under a tree, with generally a wire somewhere through it or standing handy by, and it is a great thing to learn where there are difficulties, for it teaches you to use your head, which is as important out hunting as it is in daily life. Yet how few people seem to hunt with their heads. As long as they can gallop and jump in sight of someone else's coat tails, there are many who seem to be quite content, and will assure you they enjoy their hunting immensely.

But this is not the real way.

To use your own judgment, to have a quick eye to hounds, and as they turn and swing to cut off the corners, to save your horse by choosing the weak places in the fences and the best going in the fields, this is the science of riding to hounds. Yet very few know how to do it, and fewer still have the gift of being able to make a horse gallop. In a crowded country where everything depends on your getting a start much also depends on this.

To be strong on a horse is given to few, to ride light to very few, and yet to be a really good horsewoman one ought to be both. It is pretty to see a really good man or woman riding to hounds. How they keep flitting along to one side of the pack, never seeming in a hurry, but always moving on, down the furrows and over the gaps, and those who try to catch them will find they are always in front and generally clean.

One great thing to learn, and especially I think for a woman, is to go quietly and not to splash. One hates to see the women of a hunt always on the gallop, going from covert to covert across the fields. It looks so much better, and is so much wiser to trot quietly over them than to go helter skelter past everybody else, probably squelching muddy water over them as you go, and incurring the condemnation of the opposite sex, who, if they are sportsmen of the right sort, will seldom be seen bustling between times.

Not only to ride your horse quietly, but to be quiet yourself is also an advantage. I shall never forget once in Leicestershire, after an almost blank day, the whole field was drawn up to one side of a small spinney by the road, and all our hopes of retrieving the day lay in our getting a fox away from the far corner of the wood. All who understood the importance of keeping quiet were dumb, and we could not help feeling a little bit bored by one good lady, who in strident tones gave an exhaustive history of her aluminium watch. Her listener would evidently have gladly cut her short had his manners been less good, and the rest of us wished heartily that both she and her watch were at the bottom of the sea. Poor lady, she hunted with the greatest regularity several days a week, but she had never learned the why of things out hunting.

Then there are what may be called the "let me come" women—those who have to gallop at their fences because they dare not go at them slower, and if anybody happens to be before them think it necessary to shout. I know, of course, that opinions differ as to riding fast or slow at a fence, though personally I hold to the latter, and cannot help thinking that people who always ride at them fast are afraid to do so any slower. Certain it is that a horse will jump a place more surely and more cleverly if you give him time to see what he is going at, and most of them can jump very much bigger places even standing than people generally give them credit for. If you take a pull to steady your horse when you are a little distance from your fence, you will probably arrive at the other side far more collectedly, and be striding away again over the next field, before others who allow their horses to gallop on right up to the fence are near you. They are going too fast to notice the grip before they arrive at it, and consequently their horse takes off from the wrong leg and lands like a star-fish in the next field, then stumbles, pecks, and recovers again before he is once more set in motion. All this takes time and tires the horse, moreover should the luckless animal thus ridden fail to recover from the stumble and peck, he will give his rider a far worse fall than if he had gone at it slower.

"Hands" of course have everything to do with the niceties of riding, and "hands" cannot be taught. But, after all, thinking has a great deal to do with good riding, and if people would but remember that horses are not machines, that they do feel and their poor mouths are sensitive, it would go far towards improving their horsemanship and hands. I am sure that half the falls we get are due to our own faulty riding, though we all know how we say if our horse falls with us he is a stupid brute for doing it, yet if the same mishap should occur while a groom is on his back, it is then he who gets that title for letting him down. We read sometimes about people "lifting" their horses, but I do not know what that means. One must trust them to a great extent, and any interference at the critical moment is most likely to land them head over heels.

I remember hearing a well-known coper say to a friend of mine who could ride a runaway horse without being even pulled, "Ah, but then you've got the fingers." I once tried to explain to my sister that she must "carry her own hands," and she laughed at me for telling her to try and make them be like souflés. "Anything will pull if you pull at it," I have often been told, but it is not easy to be like a souflé when you are going forty thousand miles a minute, skew-ways on at a double wire fence with a river in between.

How women long ago could possibly ride across country without a third pommel is a mystery to me. Yet we are told they went well. I cannot credit their having been able to ride anything but patent safety horses, for one needs all the strength the third pommel gives to steer an awkward horse along, though of course one's knee should hang below it in the ordinary way of riding. I believe the great tip in women's riding is to ride off the right leg. So much strength is to be got out of pressing the leg against the saddle flap, and it is noticeable what a much prettier seat those have who rise in trotting off the right thigh than others who laboriously rise out of the stirrup.

(Property of Mrs. Burn.)

Another thing that often strikes me is how few women carry their stirrup foot in the right place. The proper position for the left foot is to hang in a straight line from the knee, with the foot easy in the stirrup, not pressed against it, but home in it I think, though I see many who only touch it with their toes. It is pitiful to ride behind a woman and see the sole of her foot sticking up at the back, yet some find they get their grip in this way, so they tell me, the grip which should come from the pressure I mentioned before, of the right leg against the saddle flap.

A well-known woman to hounds was once pointed out to me as a wonder on a horse. So she was, very good; but if she had ridden with a spur she would have been killed long before, for she rode with her toe out and her heel pressed against her horse's ribs. Why many women have not broken their necks before now I do not know. Those who ride with a loose rein, for instance. I once saw a gallant girl galloping hard across a heavy plough, with her reins hung over one finger. It may have been smart, it certainly was brave, but the sad thing was it showed her ignorance so patently that one pitied her from the heart, and her horse still more, for had he not been one of the cleverest in England he must have tumbled her head over heels.

Women out hunting should take their chance with the rest, and never trade on the chivalry of the opposite sex, for this is what makes them unpopular in the hunting field.

If they are not brave enough to take their own place at a fence, they must be content to wait their turn at the gap or gate. If they are wise they will keep on the very outside of the crowd in a gateway, as they will pass through quicker like that than if they go straight into the mass of struggling humanity, which will probably jam them out the more they try to get in front.

If you hunt, be ready to help other people, "and do unto all men as you would they should do unto you."

Don't let a loose horse gallop past you, because you happen to be a woman, but catch him. Always do what is wanted promptly. If the Master says "hold hard," or only holds up his hand, "stop." It would be very bad form for a woman to lead the way on such an occasion by going on, as the Master cannot so well tell her what is in his heart, as he probably would if the delinquent were a man. If you should make a mistake and earn a reproof, hold your tongue, and remember an M.F.H.'s life is not a happy one, and there is more to worry and aggravate him every hour of every hunting day, than his field ever dreams of. So instead of feeling angry at his speaking to you, be sorry that you have deserved it. Remember too that most people out hunting are exactly like a flock of sheep, so if you show the way over a seedfield for instance, or by unnecessarily jumping fences when hounds are not running, your example is very likely to be followed, and the result will be damage done and consequent trouble.

Women are more generally accused of riding jealous than men, but real good sportsmen of either sex will never think of such a thing. Of course being "alone with the hounds" is a pleasure that cannot be denied, and there is an uncontrollable feeling of joy when one happens to be among the favoured few who get well away. But that is more because it gives you a better chance of being with hounds, and more room to ride, than when you are surrounded by hundreds of people hustling and bustling all over the place. Live and let live, is just as sound a maxim out hunting as elsewhere.

Always make way for the huntsman at a gate, over a gap, or wherever it may be. Let him pass, for it is his proper place to be with his hounds. Always too, wait for dismounted men. If anyone has to get off to open a gate or break down an impracticable place, cut a wire, or for whatever cause it may be, pull up and wait till he is on again. For remember no horse will stand still to be mounted while others are galloping past him, though strange to say few people seem to think of that. It is rather hard on a man after letting you through a gap or gate to see you gallop away, leaving him to struggle with his impatient horse which assuredly will give him little chance of getting on again in a hurry. Possibly you might be able to help him by holding his horse's head till he is up. There are so many little things like this that can be done quietly, by a woman being quick to see what is wanted, and just being helpful without being officious.

If you arrive first at a gate, open it, and swing it back for the others, that is to say, if you are sure you won't make a mess of it, and only keep the whole crowd waiting while you fumble helplessly between your whip and the latch. If you think you cannot open it, do not try, but pull back and let somebody else do it for you, and so save time. No one will thank you for it if you get in the way, and then only fumble.

It always distresses me to hear men saying, as alas, they often do, and very often I fear with every excuse, "a woman of course," or, "a lady as usual," when a hound has been kicked or a man jumped on. It is so unnecessary, for why should not a woman use her brains as much as anyone else out hunting.

I remember once hearing of a lady, who had not much experience, and was mounted on a kicking horse. She stood among the crowd in a gateway with her horse kicking viciously at everybody near, till at last an exasperated man could bear it no longer, and remonstrated, saying, "Really, Mrs. Smith, do you know your horse is kicking most dangerously?" "Oh, yes," she replied with an innocent smile, "I know, but I assure you I don't mind." Such innocence is sweet, but out hunting it is as well to remember to turn your horse's heels to the hedge, and his head to the hounds when they are coming past you, and if your horse kicks to keep out of the crowd. For the sake of all other women who hunt, do not risk their reputation by doing a stupid thing, or not doing a kindly action whenever you get the chance, and try never to give anyone an excuse for wishing that women should not come out hunting. That warning shout of "seeds," or "young grass," in an agonised tone from the Master himself, is too often unheeded by the hard riding woman who has not taken in the fact, that in her anxiety to "show them all the way," she is careering alone across a newly-sown field, while the rest of the people have gone round on purpose to avoid doing damage to the land. It is extraordinary how few people take such a state of things in, but it is as well to know young grass or sown wheat when you see it, and having seen, to avoid riding over it as much as possible, also to shut the gates behind you if you can, and in all ways to try to keep friendly with the farmers, for on them depends the continuance of hunting.

Now a word on the disagreeable subject of falling and getting into difficulties. In the latter case I hold with the words of Solomon, who said, "Their strength shall be in sitting still," and he generally talked sense, though perhaps he was not thinking of hunting when he made the remark. Anyhow, the best thing under difficulties is to keep your head and sit still. Take your foot out of the stirrup, so that you may get clear away as soon as opportunity offers and good sense dictates. A good thing is to kick your foot free of the stirrip before you get into the mess, if you think it at all likely to occur. It is well to be as free as possible, and not to meddle with your horse's head, for he will probably be as keen to set himself straight again as you are, if he only gets the liberty to do so.

One can but speak from experience, and my own is this, that since I learned to ride slow at my fences, I have not had one-third of the falls I used to get before. By riding slow, I mean taking a pull about three or four lengths from the fence, and getting your horse to go steady and look. When once you are over, you can go striding away again as fast as you like, and so not lose your "pride of place." Indeed you are far more likely to keep it in that way, than if you gallop over your fences, for before long the over will relapse into through, and then it will be only a question of time how soon you will measure your length on the ground.

Of course one is bound to fall sometimes, however good the horse, however good the horsewoman. Blind fences, wire, a wide place on the far side, or the sun low so that it catches your horse's eyes, are all pretty well bound to knock you over, and then the main thing is to fall clear. Nowadays we are mercifully seldom hung up, thanks to our safety skirts and safety stirrups, without both of which no woman should, in my opinion, be allowed to hunt. It is wise to minimise the dangers of hunting as much as possible, and I think that in one's clothes and saddlery for hunting, everything should be as plain and as safe as possible.

(Property of Lady Gerard.)

I believe myself in Champion and Wilton's safety stirrup, and dislike hunting on a saddle without it, though some people "crab" them, and say they come off at the wrong moment. If indeed this does happen, the stirrups must require mending, or else the movement of the rider has caused the leather flap which protects the bar to rise, which of course will set the stirrup leather free. But this is obviously not the stirrup's fault. I also like the arrangement on the off flap, so that you can tighten your own girths, for it is nonsense to say that women's girths should "never need tightening." They need it far more than men's as a rule, and if you can pull them up a hole or two after a gallop, yourself, it is a great convenience, and much better than making some unfortunate man, or his groom, fumble about at a buckle covered with mud below the horse's body, as on other saddles.

As for the safety habits, I believe in the apron skirt, for in that you must fall clear. I have tried several so-called safety habits, and have been hung up both on the near and the off side, but since I took to the apron I have had no more danglings. Of course the drawback to the apron is its appearance off the saddle, when it is certainly too scanty to be becoming. I have, however, overcome that difficulty by having an extra "modesty," made of the very thinnest serge, which I always carry under the near flap of my saddle, so that it does not show, and yet when I get off to ease my horse's back, I can put it on and feel quite independent and happy. I therefore commend this plan to others, as being far handier than buttoning the extra covering inside their habit skirt, and much nicer than going without altogether.

Women, as a rule, are not particular enough about the way they put their boots on. Though they would be very much surprised if they saw a man out hunting with the tags of his boots sticking out, they seem to forget that anything wrong in the way they are put together, is sure to be noticed, and that it is only when our clothes are right that they attract no attention. One should always study, therefore, to be neat and clean-looking beyond everything.

I know many men assert that no woman should ever wear a spur. Of course they are chivalrous enough to add, because women should never ride a horse that needs one. Such a state of things would indeed be delightful, but as there are some in the world still, who would rather go out on anything than not go out at all, and that "anything" is as often as not a refusing brute of a hireling, as cunning as a monkey, I cannot agree with the opinion. In saying this, however, please note I do not mean by a spur, that horrible sort of a dagger which works with a spring, and is commonly sold as a "lady's spur," for of all the dangerous and cruel inventions, that is about the worst. I mean the ordinary small man's spur, with the rowels blunted, and of course this should only be worn by those who know how to use it, never by a beginner, or indeed by any but a really fine horsewoman, for if the foot is not carried in the right position you are sure to touch your horse with it unwittingly, and if you make a mistake you will probably have to pay for it. If your horse is very hot and eager, too, you will be better without it.

One of the most useful things for a woman to learn, is to be able to get on her horse off the ground by herself. If you cannot do this, you are so utterly dependent on the kindness of the long-suffering man. It is very easy to learn, if you have any spring in your body. You simply put your left foot in the stirrup, catch hold of the cantle of your saddle with your left hand, and the pommel and reins in your right, and up you go. Be careful, however, not to knock up the flap over the stirrup bar, if it be a safety, in doing this, or out it will come, and down you will flop again. Of course the main thing is, that your horse should stand still and allow you to mount. A horse is generally so tactless about this, he will fidget and dance and never give you a chance, but, by taking the off reins up short in your left hand, you have at least so much control over his curvetting, that by pulling his head away, you make him turn his body and saddle towards you. But mind in doing this he does not trample on your toes, which he is very likely to do.

Of course you should always try to get your horse on lower ground than yourself, and if he is still too high, you must let down the stirrup until you can reach it. Always try and sandwich your horse between yourself and a fence or house, so that he cannot revolve round and round, as they are so fond of doing at the critical moment. Try, also, not to tickle or kick him with your toe, after it is in the stirrup, as that will probably induce him to kick you off before you are safely on.

It is really a marvel how few men can jump a woman on to her horse properly, and how few women go up as they should. The operation is quite easy, if only the man can be persuaded to stand still and merely give his hand a little heave upwards. The majority of men who do not know, no sooner feel the foot on their hand than they count hard and run backwards towards the horse's head, carrying the unfortunate woman's foot with them. Thus, instead of sending her up, dragging her down till the whole thing ends in a wild struggle, she clinging round the pommels with her chest, chin, and arms. Too degrading an exhibition. If the man will stand still and take it quietly, and if the woman will just spring off her right leg and straighten her left knee, she will arrive in her saddle gracefully and lightly, and the man will not have felt her weight at all. It is best to come to a thorough understanding with the man before you begin, as to when he expects you to spring. If this is to be when he counts three, or as soon as your foot is in his hand? Do not in any case allow him to have hold of the hem of your skirt with your foot. Unless this is free it will hold you down, and a sort of Jack-in-the-box-performance will begin. You spring and the man's hand remains inert, then he jerks up your left foot when you are standing stolidly on the right, and generally the end of all is that you arrive in a heap on your saddle, and finish by kicking the man in the face.

How to have a quick eye to hounds? Yes, how? But I do not know. It is a gift which few have, and most people have not. To keep looking out for the hounds in front and all round if you are not seeing them, and to keep your eye on the leading hounds if you are in that lucky position, to notice every turn and be quick to turn with them, to cut off the corners and go the shortest way, a sort of anticipation without anticipating, that is all I can say about it. Never ride exactly behind the hounds, as if they check you are thus sure to hustle them on over the line and incur the wrath of the huntsman besides spoiling your own sport and everybody else's. Ride either to one side or the other of the pack, down wind for choice, about forty yards in their wake, so as to give hounds plenty of room to swing or stop, should they come to a check.

As there is hardly one woman in fifty or a hundred who can go her own line and pick her way all through a run—or perhaps it would be more courteous to say I do not know many who, if put down in a country on an ordinary hunter alone with the hounds, could find their way into and out of ten fields in succession; it is as well for most women to have a pilot. First, though, ascertain that the man is willing to accept this onerous position. Then be careful to give him room, not to ride in his pocket or get in his way, and above all things to give him time at his fences to land or fall without jumping on him.


When you have once chosen your pilot, obey him. If at a gate or in a crowd, or for any other reason, even if you do not understand it, he should want you to go first, Go! Nip through quickly and quietly, and don't keep others waiting whatever you do. Take your turn whenever it comes, and take every chance that offers without hanging back, which hinders other people, and without hustling, which annoys them. In fact, if after you have achieved being quiet out hunting you succeed in being quick, you will have begun to grasp the situation.

It is as well for your own comfort and that of other people to ride sane horses as far as in you lies. I once had a ride on an insane one, and it was far from satisfactory. It was perfectly immaterial to that horse whether he arrived at his fence with his head or his tail foremost. Now it is not a pleasant sensation to waltz round and round, or to find yourself bounding backward towards an impenetrable black bullfinch and at the last moment to whip round and swish through or over as chance befalls. It was rather like having a hunt on a wild cat, for I never knew where or how he intended either to take off or land, but he would not fall, though the bridle behind his ears was a mass of mud and grass, after one double distilled peck into a boggy field.

Of course a woman has not half the strength on a phlegmatic horse that a man has to "gar them gang," as we say in the North. A man can squeeze a half-hearted one over a fence, where a woman would be simply powerless to do anything, and I think the worst sort of a horse a woman can ride is a refuser. It is bad for her in every way, for body, temper, and nerve. One can forgive a horse everything if he will but try, but a sulky or funking brute, who grows more and more slack as he nears each fence until he collapses at the brink, is too high a trial, especially when the fight which must come generally ends in rearing, which is of all things most dangerous for a woman.

I once had a racehorse given me, which had been spoiled in training, with the temper simply of a fiend. In racing, he never would try, but always shut up just when he ought to have won with ease, for to give the devil his due—and he was one—he could gallop. That horse out hunting was simply purgatory; he could jump like a stag, which was the most irritating part of the whole thing, and sometimes he would gallop and jump with the best for a few fields, then all of a sudden collapse, stop, dig in his toes, and that was the end of my hunt, for no power on earth after that would induce him to go forwards. Backwards he would go all round the field, with intervals of rearing. I saw him fall backwards twice in one day, when one of the whippers-in was riding him, because he refused to go through an open gate.

Riding a refuser does I think teach one to be strong on a horse; but is it worth it? You can always acquire strength to a certain degree by riding different horses, which is a far more agreeable form of education, and much more interesting than always sticking to two or three of your own. For a beginner, of course, it is necessary she should above all things have confidence in her horse that he will carry her safely, so that when she finds one she had better stick to him. A made hunter in the prime of life with nice manners, easy paces, and good temper is the horse for her, for he will carry her safely without fatigue, and for that there is nothing like the action of a thoroughbred, whose low, slinking stride hardly makes one rise. A woman should not ride too big a horse for her size, as a great stride is very tiring, especially when hacking on the roads. One of the greatest luxuries is a smooth hack, and if you wish to keep warm on your way to the meet, then, instead of driving, to canter along the grassy sides of our English roads on a thoroughbred polo pony, is one of the most delightful sensations in life.

The ideal hunter would be neither too young nor too old. For the young one will be too brave, if he is bold by nature and ridden by a keen beginner, he will with his rider probably come to grief through want of discrimination. The old hunter will fall short, in the sense of being too cunning to jump one inch bigger than he need; moreover when he falls he will not pick himself up as quickly as he might. Therefore if, when riding him he falls, you do not happen to be "top side" your peril will be prolonged, though mercifully horses are mostly kind and really try not to tread on one or hurt one if they can avoid it.

It is more than foolish ever to jump a tired horse, it is unfair, for it he is fond of hunting, horses mostly are, he will jump as long as he can, so if, after a long run he refuses a place, take the hint and go home.

No one knows better than I the lonely feeling of being obliged to pull up in the middle of a good run because one's horse is beat, "while the merry chase goes heedless sweeping by." But if you have only one horse out, it is hopeless to compete with more fashionable souls who are on their fresh second horses, so it is really wiser to make the best of a bad job, and though you feel it hard, go home. Your horse will come out again the oftener, too, and you can enjoy a hunt but little, if you know you are asking more of your horse than you ought. A tired horse, too, makes a tired rider, and that makes a sore back, and then—where are you? Talking of going home and tired horses, reminds me that if you are at all far from home it is best to put your horse in a public, or some friendly stable on the way, and give him a drink of gruel, for this will freshen him up and make your ride home all the pleasanter. Perhaps it would be as well to mention how the gruel should be made, in case you should ever have to do it yourself. Thus, place two double-handfulls of oatmeal in a bucket, pour boiling water over it and stir until it becomes a thick cream; then pour cold water till cool enough for the horse to drink, which will be when it is about blood heat. Should your horse be very done, add a pint of ale or a little gin, to revive him.

The ride home is now shorn of some of its terrors, by the saddles which let you sit downhill. What a boon these are, for one used to suffer anguish, jogging for miles on the old-fashioned saddle whose pommels rose higher than the seat, so that your knee was almost under your chin, and the consequence was a pain between the shoulder blades, which made you long for rest. Oh! those long jogs home. Miles and miles at hounds' pace, on a rough or tired horse. How I used to pull up and walk, and then gallop to catch up my father, he jogging even on, even on, all the time. I can hear him now answering my complaints with, "nonsense, child; it rests one all the way."

(From a picture by Basil Nightingale, in the possession of Lady Theodora Guest.)

Perhaps I am a Sybarite, but I do like to drive both to and from hunting, and to have a second horse out completes my joy. An open cart with a polo pony to drive, is to me better than all the broughams in Christantee. To drive on in the morning through the soft damp air that smells like hunting, with hopes running high for the sport to come, seeing the tiniest second horseman jogging on with the biggest of horses, everything makes one feel the joy of life. And when the day is over, to slide off your horse and send him home, and turn in yourself to a bright fire, and tea and poached eggs, at some little Inn by the way, is most comforting. Then you wrap yourself up in your fur coat and woolly gloves, and tuck yourself in to the rugs, and bowl away home in the twilight, with the stars twinkling above you, and the blackbird chuckling his good-night, while the pony trots his best in the anticipation of oats to come. A pleasant sense of healthy tiredness is upon you, which serves to make you appreciate the comforts of your drive, as you sit there cosy and warm, dreaming of the happy day that is done.