Dressing-up is not everyone’s cup of tea but it’s something that, occasionally, we have to do whether we like it or not. Personally, I’m not a great fan of it and prefer to dress with Comfort rather than Convention as my mentor. But, as with everything, there are exceptions to the rule and where country sports are concerned I’m a real stickler for tradition, which brings me nicely if not a little protractedly to my tale.
The ‘Doting Owner’ of the pony that lives in the paddock had planned to go hunting on the next meet. This was something she hadn’t done for a while and consequently there was much frenzied scurrying, searching and indeed hunting around for all the trappings and paraphernalia that are essential to the well turned-out pony and rider. On the afternoon before the meet, the tack was polished and oiled beyond recognition and the said pony was clipped, scrubbed, generally de-matted and then re- plaited; its hooves were burnished till they glowed and its teeth were polished to a Hollywood smile. Finally, without disturbing a hair, it was carefully tucked–up in its nice warm stable and that, I thought, would be that until the next day; alas how callow could I be, how stupid to imagine that a peaceful and relaxed evening lay ahead. Oh no! Riding boots were polished and bulled to parade ground standard; shirt, stock and jodhpurs were washed and ironed; hat, waistcoat and hunting jacket were duly brushed and stock-pin, flask, crop and watch were laid out in preparation of the big day. And then, thank goodness, to bed.
But not for long! At some ungodly hour the ‘Doting Owner’ was up and off to the stable to administer to the spoilt pony’s needs which, no sooner done, she returned to see to her own. A bath, hair up and netted, make-up on, stock tied and pinned, jodhs, waistcoat and jacket on and, I have to say, she looked like a million dollars.
Before I was out of bed she had gone to saddle-up, an early start was called for. It would take a good hour to hack across the Forest to where the hounds were due to meet and she was determined to be punctual. I arrived in the yard in time to help her mount the pony and after the usual farewells she rode off in the direction of Boldrewood.
About thirty minutes later my fading hearing told me that someone was calling me and, to my amazement, there were the ‘Doting Owner’ and the pony heading for the stable yard. Fearing the worst, I hurried down the garden and arrived to find her dismounted.
‘’Just look at Me.’’ she wailed.
I did just that and, silly me, I thought she looked fine.
‘’Just look at my feet.’’ she wailed again.
I looked down as instructed. Oh dear! Poor girl! Where the beautifully polished riding boots should have been was a pair of disreputable and filthy wellies. In her haste to get to the event she had forgotten to change her footwear. But change them she did and off she set, once again. She never did make the meet nor did she find the hounds, but she had a good four-hour ride which she thoroughly enjoyed; even more so in the knowledge that both she and the spoilt pony were impeccably turned–out.
You see the important thing is that it doesn’t matter what state you are in after a day on the Forest. In fact the amount of Forest that you have on or about your person at the end of the day is usually directly proportional to the amount of fun you’ve had! It’s how you appear at the start of the day that matters; it shows that you care for your sport and have respect for its traditions. Go on! Have some fun! Get muddy!