Ours was one of many opening meets to take place last Saturday and, like other hunts, the Chiddingfold, Leconfield and Cowdray kept to certain timeless traditions. It was held in front of Petworth House, summer’s last hurrah bathing us in warm sunshine. Shortly before 2pm came another of the traditions: ‘That Hedge’. There had been much talk at the meet of who had fallen last season and the list of other casualties over the years who have made their sorry way to A&E, so, when my nine-year-old son Rufus looked pleadingly at me for the nod to attempt it, I demurred and indicated the long way round.
As at the Charge of the Light Brigade, somehow, this message didn’t get through and the callow equivalent of Lord Cardigan lined up his 11hh2in pony Harry Potter and, yes, charged. The crowd up on the hill had already been thrilled by several spectacular tumbles, but they were as amazed as the Russian guns must have been. They oohed as the diminutive combination leapt into the air and aahed as they landed, stumbling in the gaping ditch on the lower ground. Hands were raised to gaping mouths as Rufus was thrown up Harry Potter’s neck, but he defied logic and gravity by clinging on. He gathered the reins and galloped on with their cheers ringing in his ears.