I have had the privilege of spending a few days in the saddle hunting with the North Kerry Harriers, a friendly and welcoming club. The days out have been adrenalin fueled and there have been plenty of conversations on how great it is to be out in the hunting field for the 2022/23 season.
It is very refreshing to see all the vital elements of a well run club come together to organise some great days out.
Not just confined to the hunting field, some members took part in the North Tipp Hunt Challenge in December 2022. Crossing the often tricky terrain of the Kerry countryside obviously paid off – as they had some achievements definitely worth mentioning.
Whip, Eabha Trant came first in the Junior Riders section.
And their team “Cute Kerry Hoors” made up of Huntsman David Trant, Gerry Mangan, Simon Russell and Shannon O Mahoney came an impressive third in the team section!
I am incredibly grateful to their secretary, Shannon, for taking the time to answer a few questions. I think the following truly captures the ethos and atmosphere of the North Kerry Harriers.
- Could you start off with a little history/backgroud behind the club?
North Kerry Harriers were founded in 2002. A number of our founding members originated from the Kingdom Hunt Club, it came about as Kerry has a lot of country to offer being 4807 km2. We hunt all of the North Kerry area incorporating boundering Limerick parishes such as Glin, Athea and Abbeyfeale also. Since our establishment we have hosted charity rides, hunt chases, childrens meets and point to point racing in Ballybunion & Tralee.
- You have recently started the 2022 / 23 season – how has that been? (Are members enthusiastic to be back in the saddle etc?)
Our season so far has been brilliant, we have seen a number of new members of all ages join our club, and of course our usual gang! I think everyone that hunts is eager for the season to commence, and it never seems to last long enough!!
- What kind of work has gone on in the background in preparation for this season?
We have our agm annually in which we discussed financial aspects of the club, how we are going to pay expenses for keeping our hounds, who is going to ‘open’ each meet, and we compile a list of meet dates for the season ahead so people can plan. We have a lot of work to do when it comes to ensuring everyone has the relevant documentation required and submitted prior to hunting and following this up where necessary. We also host an annual point to point horse racing event each year which has its own preparations.
- The NKH are very active on social media, having recently set up a tiktoc account. Do you think overall being active and positive on social media has given the club a boost with new supporters / members? Could other clubs be doing more on social media to improve the public’s perception and gain support?
Yes, we are very active on social media, I think because we want to show the public what our club is all about, that we are normal people from all backgrounds and walks of life. Unfortunately sometimes the public can have the perception that hunting is an elitist group however, we are just normal people like everyone else. I think some clubs tend not to post on social media for fear of backlash against hunting, however I personally don’t feel this benefits clubs as the more people who are involved and understand hunting the more likely they are to get involved both through participation and build relationships with the local community. As not only is it an activity that many enjoy but there are huge economical benefits to it through businesses such as production & sales of equines both nationally and internationally, farriers, equine dentists, equine physios, local bars, restaurants and hotels.
- On a similar note, could the hunting community in general take more steps to be more welcoming / grow their membership?
We host a number of intro to hunting days, children’s meets and, in conjunction with the local Kingdom pony club, ‘try hunting’ days in order to welcome people to our club and give them an idea what to expect for the season ahead. Without young people participating, we as a club don’t have a future, therefore they are very important to us and it’s very important to us that they are supported and encouraged as it’s not just for the here and now it’s for the longevity of our club.
- Along with the challenges surrounding insurance in the equestrian industry in general – has there been any other obstacles recently that the NKH have had to overcome? Insurance issues in the equine sector has obviously been a huge consideration recently, we really had to look at the funding of our the club in order to cover the costs of new insurance premiums, along with this we completed risk assessments in order to reduce and eliminate risks where necessary.
- Covid obviously was a huge barrier for us, during lockdowns and limited travel however once restrictions were lifted we were very lucky to have an outdoor pursuit and which was quite easy to maintain social distancing.
A few years ago our support from young people had dropped back perhaps because we weren’t doing enough at the time to introduce and support them to the field so this is a huge element to the planning and running of our club now.
- Can you give us a brief plan for the future of the club? (IE Grow more members, sustain good relations with landowners etc.) Our biggest aim within the club is to maintain our club for future generations to enjoy, followed by maintaining the great relationship we have with our farmers. We are very lucky a lot of our members come from farming backgrounds and understand the importance of requesting access to land, and returning it to the condition we first receive it in by fencing correctly, and listening to the landowners requests of what access we have etc.
- Finally, what would be your message to the wider equestrian community or public who may not “get” the idea of hunting?
I always recommend people to try something once. If you don’t enjoy it or like it, that’s completely fair and you don’t have to do it again. However, until you participate in something or educate yourself about it, especially through participation, you can never really understand it. It’s a bit like managers. that have never had experience actually working in a company, you have to understand the unseen ins and outs of something to really be able to understand it.
Quick fire questions:
For anyone who would like to give hunting a go – what are your top tips?
Ensure both you and your horse are confident and comfortable in all gaits, have schooled cross country and have ridden out with other horses, and have a knowledge of your horses behaviour in these situations.
Let the field masters know it’s your first time so they can advise and assist you throughout the day.
Make yourself familiar with hunt etiquette, Ie. To always thank landowners and people you meet along the way, try to limit traffic disruption when on the road and thank drivers for their patience. To respect your huntsman and most especially the hounds who provide our day out, Always keep an eye out for hounds and give way to them by facing your horse towards them to ensure your horse doesn’t become spooked or injure them. And of course in the current climate ensure you have all relevant paperwork such as your public liability insurance and a signed and solicitor witnessed waiver in order before participating.
Favourite hunting memory?
Most enjoyable thing you get personally from hunting. (The horses, people, the craic, the buzz etc.) The most enjoyable part for me personally is seeing the bonds developed between people of all ages our youngest rider is 8 and our oldest is in his mid-70s and to see them chatting and enjoying each other’s company, doing the thing they both enjoy the most makes my heart sing! I also love being able to welcome day members to our club to show them our country (as all hunting country varies from county to county from stonewalls, banks, ditches, hedges etc)