GETTING horses fit for hunting today is very different from when I was growing up in the west of Ireland in the 1950s and ‘60s. Hunting days were much longer then, and horses were mainly hacked at a walk and a trot to meets often five to 20 miles away, as the majority of hunt followers had no horseboxes. We would leave usually at 8am in the morning riding one horse and leading two more each side, and often arrive home 12 hours later in the dark after a hard day’s hunting, so hunters had to be extremely fit and able to hunt two or three days a week.

I talked with Bill Bourns who used to have responsibility for the Galway Blazers hunt horses. Their fitness regime started the week after the Dublin Horses Show so that they would be fit for the opening meet on the second week of October.