SUNDAY, January 30 was a momentous day for the Donegal Harriers, as they were once again able to get out on horseback to follow hounds. It has been a long and arduous battle for the hunts of Ireland to secure insurance, with few underwriters willing to take on the challenge of accepting the risk posed by the 26 counties since Brexit removed the UK from the portfolio.
A hardworking sub-committee, of which Donegal Harrier’s Rosemary Fisher was a pivotal member, succeeded in bringing one underwriter to the table and a deal was thrashed out. The new policy, which is only available to the Ward Union Stag Hounds and to clubs affiliated to either the Irish Master Harriers Association or the Irish Master Foxhounds Association, indemnifies land owners over whose land the hunt passes. An absolutely crucial protection for the farmers, without whom the hunts could not survive.
With insurance safely in place, Robert and David Canning kindly invited the Harriers to hold their opening meet on Ballinacross Farm, Nixons Corner. Eager members gathered for the essential stirrup cup, while Rosemary, Treasa Kelly and Sean Mooney sorted the start of season paperwork.
It was great to see the young and the not so young keen to get out. Young Abbie-Rose McGeady was in flying form on her vintage chestnut, alongside her friend Amelia Bennett. Abbie mixes hunting with competing at the top level in show jumping, having jumped at the RDS last summer. Another show jumper taking a break from the rigours of the arena was Shane McCloskey, who accompanied Derry’s Zara Starkey for her first run out with the Donegals.
The value of the hunting field for educating both rider and horse cannot be over-emphasised. It is good for the brain, as well as the body, when tackled in a responsible way. With just a short season available this year, it is safe to say that every opportunity to cross the country will be savoured by those fortunate enough to get out.
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