I was annoyed last week. What’s new you ask?! I had a fresh pony who tried to dump me numerous times on Sunday. He’s feeling a deep injustice at this continuous monotonous exercise at home. I know he’s wondering when he will be trotting up the ramp of the trailer heading off, so am I to be honest. I’ve been working on his fitness, or at least trying over the last few weeks. You would be forgiven though if you saw some of his “party piece” last weekend and thought I was winding him up for a spin around Aintree! So I think we have basic fitness fairly well covered. This story is going somewhere, I promise….
Hunt opening meets and fun rides have made a welcome return to many equestrian lives in the last few weeks. I have yet to get out this season, so in an effort to get my fix I am living through what photos, reels, videos etc. I can get my hands on. All featuring horses, the autumnal countryside and a few hounds for good measure. Whilst I clearly am living for this, I am shocked at what I am seeing published on social media. Only this time last year practically every club was at a standstill. However, a quick scroll through your phone and you would think there had been no issues at all.
With the precarious insurance problems I and many others have been spreading the word about, I really wasn’t sure how hunt clubs would or even if they would publish photos of days out. Clubs and photographers seem to have resorted back to “how it was.” With reams and reams of photos – or as I call them “going going gone” photos. So photos taken in a succession of a horse and rider jumping anything from an open drain, gate, clear ditch, etc.
Just to go back, I call these “going going gone” because if a rider unfortunately falls – the photos are literally of them falling. I have been victim to this myself. To be honest, we had a good laugh afterwards. Thankfully, I got up again, more or less un-injured (except for pride – as usual!) And in cases like this it is usually funny, but I am unsure an insurance company may see it as such. I really think we have to step away from posting absolutely every single image of the day on social media afterwards. I can fully understand if you are present yourself and know the horse and rider were Ok afterwards, it may not seem such a big deal. But how is the general public or again an insurance company to know this?
What really annoyed me was Sunday night, scrolling through social media, I saw an album of a hunt that took place over the weekend. They are not local at all to me, so I was delighted to have a look and a nosey in general. Now If you can picture two old cars, parked bonnet to bonnet in a field, yes ? Now picture horses jumping over these. Anger and frustration does not even go there. I am writing this the following Tuesday because honestly I could have cried with anger before now. Where do I even start? Blatant disregard to horse and rider safety, published on Facebook for the whole world and his dog to see?! When I think of the events canceled, the riding schools struggling with the ever rising insurance costs and the hunt clubs that have simply folded due to the crippling insurance prices, looking at these photos is just a slap in the face.
Not to mention the time and effort gone into putting an actual insurance policy in place for people to get back onto the hunting field. I think making an absolutely stupid decision to jump your horse over something so risky is a poor way to repay all those involved in making the insurance for hunting a reality. And I’m thinking of the insurance companies I have been ringing for the past year. Why would they even bother when this is what they are seeing online?
I could go on a rant, tell you how I am working a full-time job to pay for the equestrian side of my life. Yet the one activity I long to do I can’t, meanwhile there are a select few jumping cars for the craic?! I could tell you how I took annual leave from said job in August just gone. I “set up shop” in our conservatory with two phones and a laptop that’s on its last legs. I phoned/emailed/harassed every insurance company I could think of and contacted anyone I thought could help. I could tell you that and so much more. But I don’t believe a personal pity party is the way forward.
Not to toot my own horn, I have been at this game a long time. I know all too well the adrenaline you get during a hunt. I have jumped things I wouldn’t have even considered at home, such is the thrill and atmosphere of being out.
However, when I say “things” I mean a dirty-looking drain or an actual man-made jump higher than my usual “comfort zone.” Not the bonnet of a car, for feck sake!
I also know how you can come across tricky obstacles while out hunting. It’s certainly not all plain sailing. Boggy ground and crumbling ditches are just a flavor of what can be encountered. In those instances, it is just usually doing your best to navigate across safely. And once again, photos of such do not need to be published online.
On that subject, I have plenty of photos scattered on my own social media of myself and my wonder pony. Once upon a time, the thought of jumping anything bigger than a cross pole would fill me with dread. So looking back on what I have done has always been a confidence boost for me. I am definitely not saying to cease taking photos of hunts altogether, just be more selective. And certainly more selective of what obstacles horse and rider jump.
I feel some clubs are very active on social media and are definitely “getting it right.” Really lovely reels, TikToks and action shots are showcasing the hunting community very well. The narrative definitely needs to be changed. I think the public needs to know hunting is not wildlife and foxes being mauled. They need to know the hard work and comradery that goes on in the background and the effort people put into making days out a success. Insurance companies certainly don’t need anymore ammunition to raise costs or simply refuse to issue policies.
This new insurance policy covering most hunt clubs is totally uncharted waters for everyone involved. This insurance is untested and all it’s going to take is one accident, one claim to throw everything up in the air once again. I’m not sure the message is hitting home with some people.
Similar to how we decide to portray our lives on social media, we are faced with the opportunity to now showcase what is often a welcome addition to rural life. I fear if there is not a swift turnaround on this, the hunting community may be at a standstill once again.