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Hunting Sketches Anthony Trollope

How to Ride to Hounds

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It is possible he may have gone on your side of the wood; but much more probable that he should have taken the other. He loves not that crowd that has been abusing him, and steals away from some silent distant corner. You, who are a beginner, hear nothing of his going; and when you rush off, as you will do with others, you will hardly know at first why the rush is made. But some one with older eyes and more experienced ears has seen signs and heard sounds, and knows that the fox is away. Then, my friend, you have your place to win, and it may be that the distance shall be too great to allow of your winning it. Nothing but experience will guide you safely through these difficulties.

In drawing forests or woodlands your course is much clearer. There is no question, then, of standing still and waiting with patience, tobacco, and chaff for the coming start. The area to be drawn is too large to admit of waiting, and your only duty is to stay as close to the hounds as your ears and eyes will permit, remembering always that your ears should serve you much more often than your eyes. And in woodland hunting that which you thus see and hear is likely to be your amusement for the day. There is "ample room and verge enough" to run a fox down without any visit to the open country, and by degrees, as a true love of hunting comes upon you in place of a love of riding, you will learn to think that a day among the woodlands is a day not badly spent. At first, when after an hour and a half the fox has been hunted to his death, or has succeeded in finding some friendly hole, you will be wondering when the fun is going to begin. Ah me! how often have I gone through all the fun, have seen the fun finished, and then have wondered when it was going to begin; and that, too, in other things besides hunting !

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But at present the fun shall not be finished, and we will go back to the wood from which the fox is just breaking. You, my pupil, shall have been patient, and your patience shall be rewarded by a good start. On the present occasion I will give you the exquisite delight of knowing that you are there, at the spot, as the hounds come out of the covert. Your success, or want of success, throughout the run will depend on the way in which you may now select to go over the three or four first fields. It is not difficult to keep with hounds if you can get well away with them, and be with them when they settle to their running. In a long and fast run your horse may, of course, fail you. That must depend on his power and his condition. But, presuming your horse to be able to go, keeping with hounds is not difficult when you are once free from the thick throng of the riders. And that thick throng soon makes itself thin. The difficulty is in the start, and you will almost be offended when I suggest to you what those difficulties are, and suggest also that such as they are even they may overcome you. You have to choose your line of riding. Do not let your horse choose it for you instead of choosing it for yourself. He will probably make such attempts, and it is not at all improbable that you should let him have his way. Your horse will be as anxious to go as you are, but his anxiety will carry him after some other special horse on which he has fixed his eyes. The rider of that horse may not be the guide that you would select. But some human guide you must select. Not at first will you, not at first does any man, choose for himself with serene precision of confident judgment the line which he will take. You will be flurried, anxious, self-diffident, conscious of your own ignorance, and desirous of a leader. Many of those men who are with you will have objects at heart very different from your object. Some will ride for certain points, thinking that they can foretell the run of the fox. They may be right; but you, in your new ambition, are not solicitous to ride away to some other covert because the fox may, perchance, be going there. Some are thinking of the roads. Others are remembering that brook which is before them, and riding wide for a ford. With none such, as I presume, do you wish to place yourself. Let the hounds be your mark; and if, as may often be the case, you cannot see them, then see the huntsman; or, if you cannot see him, follow, at any rate, some one who does. If you can even do this as a beginner, you will not do badly.

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Hunting Sketches
Anthony Trollope

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