…is complete and I’m delighted to report that Abbey was impeccably behaved.

I put ‘hunting’ because a) it was hound exercise and b) the Farmers Bloodhounds hunt ‘the clean boot’ not foxes.  It’s still fast and furious; today we covered around 15miles in about 1.5 hours and I have to say, I loved every moment of it.

The Farmers Bloodhounds lived up to their reputation of being a friendly bunch.  A gentleman called David on a rather large coloured gelding introduced me to lots of the regulars and the masters who welcomed me and encouraged me to enjoy the  day.

Abbey was great from the start.  We arrived later than I wanted so I ended up getting myself dressed and throwing her tack on in less than 10 mins.  I haven’t tried to do this inside the box and despite being excited and nosey about what was happening outside, Abbey was obedient and polite as I manoeuvred her backwards, forwards, left and right, whizzing around her getting all the buckles done up.

As the other horses and riders gathered I had to find a pen and sign my disclaimer (I did try and be organised but the printer wouldn’t play ball last night!). So Abbey came off the ramp, walked through a throng of excited dogs, horses and people and stood patiently while I signed flappy bits of paper.

As soon as I got on the hunt moved off and so did we, trotting through three fields of stubble before we came to the first fence.  I was reminded of the Father Ted joke as I approached the rails….it got substantially bigger the closer I got and although Abbey felt willing, I circled away and went and joined the non-jumping group.

That was where I stayed for the next hour – the adrenaline kick of galloping with 40 or so horses being plently for me.  I’d like to say I had full control at all points but when you’re surrounded by horses cantering fast, it’s their instinct to keep up with the herd and not be at the back.

If I chose from the beginning of a canter, that I was going to keep Abbey back I could (and I did test it a couple of times) but it wasn’t pleasurable and  it was much more fun to let her go with the others!

Having wimped out the first fence, a gentleman reassured me that there was a very inviting line of fences towards the end.  Sure enough, about 45 mins from home we approached what looked like a grid of small fences made up of two or three telegraph poles stacked on top of each other.

What I didn’t know is that there were more fences around the corner and that they increased in size!  Abbey flew all the poles, and the tyres and the barrels, and the barrels with poles on top, and the barrels with tyres and poles on top…she would have,  no doubt, cleared the massive tractor tyres too but given we’ve rarely jumped 2’9″ at home and I’m pretty sure that the barrels with tyres and poles on top must have been 3’6″ I pulled her out and cantered with the non-jumpers on a track that ran alongside the line of fences.

I will never forget that feeling of speed and power as Abbey ate up that line of jumps.  And who knew she had such a massive jump on her – that last one she flew like she was just taking an extra extra large stride.

After today my confidence in us both has grown immeasurably – I feel like, given a couple of years, we could take on Badminton (well, perhaps not, but a local BE80, definately!).

Abbey also crossed a bridge over a road, jumped another ditch, had dogs running around her feet, got sandwiched in between some massive horses without lifting a hoof and stood still when the hunt did. I am so proud of her and how she behaved.  We will definately be keeping our eyes peeled for hound exercise near us next year!