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Taken altogether this has by no means proved a favorable winter for hunting. It is true there has not been a long frost, but there have been many interruptions of a week or ten days' duration which are more disadvantageous to hounds than cessations of a more lengthened period less frequently repeated. From want of work they lose their wind: let them have ever so much exercise on the road, it is not equal to hunting. In a great measure horses have an advantage over hounds, as in this respect they may be kept at work on a straw bed, so that at the termination of a frost a good gallop or two sets all to rights.
Report assigns to the Atherstone Hounds the merit of having had the best season of any pack in the Midland Counties. However, they have been established for many years, and that is a very considerable advantage. Another thing in their favor, they have not had those crowds of horsemen to encounter which many others have. The multitude have been attracted by the Quorn and the Pytchley : the Atherstone have gained by the loss, if such a paradoxical expression can be admitted.
It would be invidious to form comparisons relative to the merits of the different packs with which I have been hunting : at all events I have no desire to select the trifling imperfections which I
have witnessed. No gratification can arise from such a course either to my readers or myself; and the man who makes a practice of expressing dissatisfaction at everything which he meets with is a discontented mortal, who never promotes happiness for himself or society.
The sport which Sir Thomas Boughey's hounds have had has been by no means commensurate with their appearance, or the general business-like character of the appointments by which they are attended. Various reasons are alleged for this deficiency, the general opinion appearing to be that the hounds are too lusty. In some degree this may be the case ; yet I must acknowledge that on no occasion have I witnessed their ever being in distress from want of wind. Other causes, however, may reasonably be assigned, which time perchance may remedy. This much I will venture to assert, that there need not be a better looking pack of hounds as regards equality of size, power, and symmetry; and it is not their faults that they have not been more fortunate.
To the eye the Worcestershire do not look quite so level as might be desired; but there is one great difficulty to be encountered, that of procuring walks ; consequently Mr. Candler is dependent upon drafts from other kennels (Lord Segrave's principally) to keep up his complement. They are exceedingly
good hunting hounds, and they run well together. Several good runs have fallen to their share, although upon the whole they have not been so lucky as they were the preceding winter.
It has been intimated to me that I have fallen into many errors respecting these hounds and country, and especially the Sportsmen who reside in it. I must observe, that, if my sentences are to be disjointed for the sake of animadversion, and the meaning thereby totally subverted for the purpose of criticism, it must be done from some other motive than that of correcting mistakes. In uoticing the constant attendants upon the various Hunts which I have been with during the
season, I have not confined myself to the hard-riding fraternity alone, which I know has occasionally been misinterpreted. I thought many Gentlemen were entitled to a compliment for their zeal in promoting sport by such means as they had under their control ; in the character of Sportsmen, and not of hard-riders, therefore, they have been mentioned. In my introduction, in the first page of the January Number, I fully explained my intentions, and when I observe that my remarks are intended to apply to the Tour throughout, it is inconsistent to detach the one Tour from the other.
The Warwickshire have been well attended this year. They are a magnificent style of hound: however, I cannot pass over one fault, which is their being too apt to run mute : beyond that there is but little else to complain of; at the same time, it is in my estimation a very great defect. This leads to the notice of one or two errors in the printing and punctuation of the Warwickshire Tour, which makes the reading of it unintelligible. In making a remark that the Warwickshire hounds sometimes ran mute (page 358), the passage should run thus :-“ There are hounds to be found who can go fast enough with a scent to burst the best fox that ever wore a brush, and yet not run mute. In a woodland country mute hounds are of very little use; but in the country which the Warwickshire hounds hunt it may not be of so much importance.” In the same page, a few lines further on, after stating that the Warwickshire hounds are kept at Stratford-on-Avon, a full stop should have been introduced, and then read, “ According to an agreement with the Members of the Warwickshire Hunt, Mr. Hellier hunts the woodlands.” In the next page, the word killed is substituted for kicked, but the error is too palpable to need comment.
Mr. Bradley's Stag-hounds have had an excellent season, and every compliment that could be suggested by the landowners around Leamington has been paid to him. A dinner was given by the farmers at Southam, and every demonstration of respect was evinced upon the occasion.
The commencement of the season appears to have been by no means auspicious for newly formed establishments. Mr. Hellier has had many difficulties to contend with : he has gallantly persevered, and overcome them. In the first place, he had a pack of hounds to form, in a strong woodland country, where many of the foxes had been destroyed, and the farmers were not disposed, from the treatment which they had experienced from a predecessor of Mr. Hellier, to shew him much courtesy. The Warrickshire farniers are a very straightforward independent set of fellows, and they had got a stranger amongst them--one, however, who, by an equally straight-forward line of conduct, was not long before he became a great favorite with them ; and they have unanimously promised to preserve for him, which they are sure to do most strictly. Whatever qualifications a community
ride themselves upon, they of course admire in an individual. Mi. Hellier has acquired friends by his sportsmanlike behaviour. The latter part of the season he has had some capital runs, the foxes having been driven from other countries into his woodlands, which till then had been repeatedly drawn blank-a most disheartening prospect at the commencement both for Master and hounds. Another season
great things may be expected from him. No man can shew more anxiety to promote sport, and he exhibits infinitely more knowledge of hounds and hunting than the generality of those who have only had one season's practice. I venture to predict that he will attain a very high rank as a Master of Hounds.
It has already been observed, that everything is conducted with much liberality and good taste by Lord Chesterfield. There remains to say but little more respecting his hounds. They have had some excellent runs since I left Northampton, which have in a great measure made up for the less fortunate days which they encountered before Christmas.-Derry has had a bad fall, and damaged his collar-bone, but I was happy to hear that he was doing well.
From Northampton I steered my course to Melton, for the purpose of attending Croxton Park Races, but did not send any hunters there. I was, however, by the kindness of a Nobleman who has had a large stud there all the winter, mounted one day with the Belvoir hounds. It was a shocking bad scenting day, and although several foxes were found, about ten minutes with either of them was the extent of the burst: the moment that a cast was to be made it was all up, the scent was so dreadfully bad. However, my object in mentioning this is to introduce a remark upon condition, a subject which I have the greatest respect for. It would be the height of ingratitude, after the kindness which I experienced in getting a mount, to offer a word of disapprobation relative to the horse which I rode, therefore the owner's name must not be introduced. A more perfect fencer I could not desire, nor a better goer, or a more pleasant horse in every respect; and, to conclude, he was thorough-bred: but he was too fat; he was not able to go two miles at little better than half speed without shewing symptoms of want of work. I observed the same of many other horses that were out. In a fast country, horses, to be really fit to go with hounds, should be fit to race. Hunters do not require to be drawn quite so fine as a race-horse, but it should be remembered, that appearance in the race-horse is produced by the preparation of the day previous to his running, and his being set over night.
To account for the variations of scent has puzzled many wiser heads than mine, therefore I shall not presume to descant upon it: however, one thing appears certain, that the southern and western borders of this Island are more highly favored in that respect than the Midland Counties : generally speaking, the scent is best near the seashore. This certainly was a bad scenting season till after January. The month of March, which is usually identified by dry north-east winds, was at the commencement cold and frosty, succeeded by a fall of snow, which, being dispelled by about the 12th, left the country unusually deep; consequently the latter part of the month was more than usually favorable for fox-hunting, and many good runs were seen.
It appears to me, that, generally speaking, fences are stronger than formerly. I think it may be accounted for by their becoming so by age and the additional pains bestowed upon their preservation : I have no doubt this is the case in Leicestershire and Northamptonshire.
A general fault with most huntsmen of the present day is, their not giving their hounds an opportunity of making their own cast. The
moment they come to a check, they are lifted : it spoils hounds more than anything. It may be inquired, with a crowd of horsemen pressing upon them at the moment, what is to be done? A huntsman's first endeavor should be to stop the horsemen, and obtain room for his hounds to make their own cast : then, if they cannot hit the scent, is the proper time for him to assist them : it is from this cause that so many packs of hounds which hunt out-of-the-way countries where few persons attend them, have so much sport.
The various bridles that have been from time to time invented to ride hunters in would almost create a belief that one might be found to suit any horse, or, in other words, in which every horse would ride pleasantly. The secundo-bit has many friends, and may be a good one; but I could never find that it possessed any superiority over a common curb and snaffle, which, after all, I believe to be the best. Pelhams, of which there are many varieties, are fancied by some, but I never liked them. After all, it is more the hand of the rider that ought to be consulted than the mouth of the horse. I have frequently remarked, that when a horse changes masters, he is ridden in a different bridle, one person declaring he will not go with one description of bit, whilst the other pronounces it as the only one that suits him. The first object to be accomplished is to get a horse's head into a proper place, and then he is easily restrained: if he carries it too high, it must be brought down : for this purpose martingales are pretty nearly exploded in the field; the hand will effect all that is necessary if it be brought low enough, and the reins held on each side of the shoulder. If a horse bores his head down, it is more easily got in place by raising the hand. Some few hunters may be ridden in snaffles, but there are very few that really ride pleasantly in them: when they are used, they should lie as loosely as possible in the horse's mouth, the head part being of such a length as just to keep it from dropping out of the mouth. It is a common thing to see it drawn up so high that it causes the horse to carry his head in the air, when of course all command of him is lost.
A nose-band with a bit which has a port to it is a good thing for a hard-puller and one that carries his head too high: the port acts by pressing against the roof of the mouth. If the horse is enabled to open his jaws, as a matter of course he relieves himself from that pressure: the nose-band confining the jaws enables the port of the bit to perform its office. As a matter of course, a nose-band is of no use with a Pelham, or any bit which has not a port.
I must now bring my Tour to a conclusion. The joys of the Chase are over for the season; the hunters are consigned to summer quarters, in general in a good loose box--not many, it is to be hoped, to the pasture-field, to be tormented by flies and bloated with grass. Their owners are dispersed to various places, to enjoy the less invigorating sports of the summer. Whatever may be their respective destinations, I now wish them all health, happiness, and prosperity, with renewed zeal for the approach of next November. If my researches have afforded any amusement to my brother Sportsmen, my exertions will be most amply repaid, and I shall endeavour next year to offer something more interesting from the pen of
STEEPLE CHASES.-GENTLEMEN Riders.
Beccles, March 15.-Sweepstakes of 3 sovs. each, with a Cup in specie, was contested neck and neck by Mr. Chason's Coroner (F. Thurston) and Mr. Pierson's Lawsuit (Land), and won by the former by a neck; Mr. Glasspole's St. Michael third, Mr. H. Grimmer's The Rector fourth, and Mr. A. Tomson's Dinmont fifth. Mr. Land claims the Stakes, Coroner, St. Michael, and Dinmont having gone the wrong side of a flag.--A second Sweepstakes of 3 sovs. each, with a Purse added, was won by Mr. Land's Jim Crow_his only opponent, Mr. T. Saul's Dragoon, having fallen soon after starting, and could never recover his lost ground.
Nottingham, March 18,- This chase, a Sweepstakes of 5 sovs. each, with 50 added, came off three miles from Nottingham on the Ollerton road, distance under three miles, with nothing that could be called a fence, all plough, and, though light land, very deep from the continued rain of the three preceding days. It was won by Mr. Butler's Stranger (Guy), named by Mr. Burgess, beating Mr. Wesley's Neptune (Owner), Mr. Whittaker's Silk-stockings (Walker), Mr. Rowland's Exchange (Owner), Mr. Rushton's Rob Roy (Owner), Mr. Willoughby's Topthorn (Whitworth), and Mr. Cartedge na. Rushcliffe (Wilmot). -Stranger was first by two lengths a-head of Neptune, Silk-stockings about the same distance behind him, with Exchange close at him, and the freshest of the lot. The three others were considerably astern, and it appeared a good race for the last place; but about half a mile from home, Rushcliffe ceased to rise at his fences, gallopped through three, and fell heavily at the fourth, not above two feet high, where he laid for some minutes. Stranger was pulled up lame.
The Scott Cup, March 18.- This chase took place about seven miles from York-a Sweepstakes of 5 gs. cach, with a Cup given by Mr. Scott, for horses of the Fifth Dragoons, three miles.--Eight horses started, cleared seven fences well, but all got into the Old Foss, a brook ten yards wide, and full to the brink, not one attempting to go
Several more misadventures happened, for nearly all the horses got into the Hessy beck; but Mr. Sutton, on Colonel Sir Maxwell's Wallace, spying an easier fence at the bottom of the field, prudently went thither, and, after clearing it, got a mile a-head of the others, leaving them all in their glory, and arrived at the winning-flag some minutes before the second horse, Major the Hon. J. Scarlett's Appleton (Captain Rush). The others, not placed, were Captain King's br. g. by Waverley, Captain Hovenden's Salt-fish, Mr. Whittaker's Spotless, Captain Mead's La Tuerta, Capt. Bolton's Manfred, and Dr. Carnegy's Lady Jane.-Mr. Hogg, on Manfred, had an ugly fall at a five-barred gate, which the horse carried away, and made off, leaving his rider on his back on the road-side ; he was stunned, but in a few minutes recovered, and being picked up by a friend in a gig, he saw more of the race than perhaps he would otherwise have done, as his horse was dead beat when he refused the gate.
Boston, March 19.-Mr. Clayworth's Wild Rose (Cartwright) beat Mr. Soulby's Flora (Owner), Mr. Colley's Newman Noggs, and Mr.