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New Forest Horse Show Inter Hunt Relay


2018/09/04












By Cary Hart

Every year at the end of July the New Forest and Hampshire County Show is held in Hampshire in the United Kingdom. This year’s show was July 24-26, 2018 at New Park, Brockenhurst. The New Forest Agricultural Show Society was founded in 1920, and the first New Forest and Hampshire County Show was held in 1921 as a small one day local event at Bartley Cross.

Today the New Forest Horse Show is an annual three day agricultural show that attracts around 95,000 visitors each year. The Show is rated amongst the top ten agricultural Shows in the country that hosts many events and activities.  A visit from Her Majesty the Queen and His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh in 2012 boosted the profile of the Show to its highest level yet.  

Show jumping is a major feature, with international classes held throughout the three days. There is a full range of equestrian classes, with a multitude of breeds and riding styles included – from Arabs and Anglo-Arabs to Miniatures, Mountain and Moorland ponies, Connemaras, Dales, Dartmoor, Exmoor, Shetlands, Welsh, Cob, and New Forest ponies to Irish Draught, World Breeds, and British Rare Breeds. There are in hand, as well as riding classes, including sidesaddle. There are driving classes, coaching, heavy horse driving, horn blowing competitions, and donkey classes.

There are classes for ex-race horses, the Atkinson Action Horses Stunt Display Team, Side Saddle Concours D’Elegance, and a New Forest Polo Display.

There are other livestock competitions including cattle and sheep, a poultry section, rabbits, cage birds, honey bees, ferret races, and booths of crafts and homemade food stuffs. There are demonstrations of dog training. There is an art pavilion with exhibits from both amateur and professional artists; blacksmithing with wrought ironwork; flower arranging, a women’s institute, and a variety of award winning vegetables found in the Vegetable Marquee.

There is an old time farming demonstration with a multitude of tractors on display. This year’s tractor display celebrated 60 years of Massey Ferguson tractors, which joined the usual variety of 1900s tractors which helped produce food throughout the First and Second World Wars. There were also stationery engines that did everything from powering milking machines to lighting and pumping before modern-day electricity. With ‘Grandfather’s Shed’ full of yester year tools and displays of old milking equipment, saws and more, there was a lot to see and to learn about. Then there is the Farmhouse Kitchen where local corn is milled and ground to flour to be baked into bread and cakes.

This year I was offered the opportunity to sponsor the Inter Hunt Relay class on behalf of Oak Grove Hunt. I jumped at the chance, as I have always enjoyed watching the hunt relays. They are fast paced and fun to watch!

The Inter Hunt Relay is a class that has four teams from different hunts with four riders on each team. This year riders came from the New Forest Hounds, The Wilton Hunt, and The Avon Vale Hunt. Riders take turns carrying the hunt whip across a variety of obstacles. This year there was a small coop and a post and rail to a set of flags that the horses and riders had to weave through. Next was stopping at the Stirrup Cup and taking a drink, followed by walking over a bridge. Then they had to jump a roll top and two verticals before turning towards home and jumping the bullfinch.  This type of fence has a solid base with several feet of brush protruding out of the top, and the jump can be up to six feet high. The horse is supposed to jump through the brush, rather than over it.

As the announcer said each day, “What are the rules, you ask? There are no rules.” Well, there kind of are rules. The horses and riders lose 5 seconds for anything that the judges deem as not completing a task or taking a rail down. So, for examples, not walking over the bridge or not drinking the Stirrup Cup loses your team 5 seconds. The team that wins is the fastest team over their two runs – so time is of importance.

The competition starts with two teams vying against each other running on parallel tracks in the arena. Then the second set of teams run. The slowest two teams then compete for third and fourth place, while the fastest two teams compete for first and second.

What you don’t see in this article is the cheating! You may know that in most competitions you are not allowed to show your horse the obstacles first. That did not stop the teams from walking over the bridge or through the flags on their way to the starting point!  Everyone was well aware of the attempts to get an advantage before the class, and it was enjoyed as part of the fun of the class.

The actual relay was fantastic and a great way to watch teamwork – from the team members cheering each other on to teammates taking over the run when one rider’s horse refused to go over the bridge to riders giving each other leads over the bullfinch.

I was also asked to greet the Huntsmen and Masters who paraded their hounds before the relay. Michael Woodhouse is the Huntsman of the New Forest Hounds; Will Hudson is the Huntsman for The Wilton Hunt; and Oli Thompson is Huntsman for the Avon Vale Hunt. Find out more about each of these hunts at their websites:

www.newforesthounds.co.uk, http://www.wilton-hunt.co.uk, and http://avonvalehunt.co.uk.

For me it was great to be an official sponsor in the Sponsor’s Tent for tea and cakes, and share my love of hunting in the U.S. with a show steward who hunts with the Royal Artillery Hunt. She asked lots of great questions about how we hunt in the U.S. and was a bit surprised to find out that it is much the same as the way they hunt in the U.K. Find more information about the Royal Artillery Hunt at: www.rahsc.co.uk .

The weather was around 85 degrees, and it was a miracle they weren’t all passed out from the heat! But those of us from the South enjoyed the cool spell, compared to what our summers in July usually feel like.

All and all it was a great three days and I enjoyed meeting the Masters of Foxhounds of several of the area hunts and their hounds! Find full information about the show at: www.newforestshow.co.uk. If you want to attend, next year’s show is July 20-August 1, 2019. I have managed to make it to many of the shows since my first time in 2002.

Top Shots Photography was the official photographer for the event. See more photos from the New Forest Show on these web pages: https://www.topshots.org.uk/Gallery/#/Year/2018 . Click on the photo albums from the New Forest Show. This album has photos from the Inter Hunt Relay: https://www.topshots.org.uk/Gallery/#/Album/5b5c4c36141ad15b418d8767

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