Friday 16th of October 2020
The Hedge Hopper

Full throttle…and emergency stop – the ups and downs of hunting life

January bought some great changes, for myself and my business – progress was in the air and New Year certainly meant turning over a new leaf, writes hedge hopping artist, Sophie Harden. A beautiful new studio based at Culworth Grounds Estate Office has given me a much-needed push to make my artwork take on a more professional stance.

It has also been my chance to secure my sanity – saving myself from staring at the same four walls at home for often 24 hours straight. Now surrounded by likeminded people and having an ‘office buzz’, the move has been a breath of fresh air. Not to mention the distraction of my horse being just next door!

On the hunting front the beginning of January bought with it good scent and still relatively dry conditions. With Otto on flying form we had two excellent Wednesdays with the Pytchley scaling some pretty sizable hedges, gates and rails. The hounds were working well, not deterring off trails laid and hunting for sometimes 3 or so miles at a time. This gave way to some brilliant hunting, crossing some testing country and strengthening our newly formed partnership together.

To keep a bit of diversity in Otto’s career, I entered an arena eventing challenge at Aston le Walls, although a little wide-eyed to see cross country jumps covered in fake snow and tinsel, we jumped a lovely double clear and came 2nd. Part of my prize was a complimentary lesson with Nigel Taylor, a fabulous opportunity to gain a bit of pre-eventing training, to get him listening and morphing into the potential eventer I hope he might become. Unsurprisingly the feedback from Nigel was that we were both very well established XC, but SJ needs SOME fine tuning! Something to work on back at home…

Sophie Buckley and I had planned to visit my old hunting pack The South Shropshire at the end of January. With a relatively long journey to my mother’s house, where the horses were stabled we headed out for a pre-hunting supper kindly hosted by Camilla Corrie, Master of the South Shropshire. Talk was in the air of the demanding country we would be crossing the next day, all of which seemed pretty daunting. The Ledbury Hounds were visiting and with them bought many Ledbury subscribers, which worked well as there were a lot of familiar faces and safe bottoms to follow on the day.

The morning although a little frozen, thawed to a lovely day and good ground. Everyone was a little shocked to be faced with the first jump being a hedge off the road, however this was just the start of things to come. Within the first 15 minutes we had jumped 3 hedges and a gate. Having all convened on the road, I had the dreaded comment ‘gosh already in the wars!? ‘I looked down in horror to see the front of Otto’s fetlock was badly cut with a huge upturned flap hanging open. I had to abandon ship, leave poor Sophie and take Otto to be patched up at the nearest vets.

From here on in the FOMO (fear of missing out) set in and with pictures and videos of the day being circulated on social media tormenting me, the same thoughts rolled around in my head, the if onlys and if I hadn’t gone there – was it from the gate or those rocks going through that yard, or that bit of wire in the hedge? Whatever it was my season flying on Otto was certainly over and I needed to face facts, crack on and look at the bigger picture. With some expert advice from Walnut Hill Vets, manuka honey and a lot of TLC I was hopeful for a quick recovery. 

Bored on box rest

Having a break from constantly planning the next hunting trip or which meets to go to next gave me a chance to sit back and make a plan for my business and future career as an artist. With Summer around the corner and exhibition events booking up, I decided to get a wiggle on and put rather a lot of money where my mouth is.

With the fields drying and signs that spring is certainly in the air, Otto has done two weeks on the walker and had his first day in the field. So hopefully in time we can look to getting out and about before too long…Watch this space!

To find out more about the exhibition events I will be attending over the summer please see the below link –

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