ANY day hunting in Wicklow - the Garden of Ireland - is special. If you like jumping, the Bray Harriers is a must as you will cross beautiful countryside and experience every type of natural fence that you can imagine.
But on the day to have some of Ireland’s top horse producers in the field was very special. I have seen Jane Bradbury light up the main arena of the Dublin Horse Show where she has such a fine record, especially when claiming the ‘Olympics of showing’, the Supreme Hunter Championship in 2014 aboard her and Daphne Tierney’s Broomfield Excelsior but she can also cross natural country with similar style.
Richard Sheane and his wife Georgina are top producers of eventing horses in the world, all marketed under their Cooley prefix. A highlight for them was the back-to-back wins by Cooley Master Class in the five-star Land Rover Kentucky in 2018 and 2019 with British Olympian Oliver Townend on board.
Their client list is a ‘who’s who’ in eventing, with over a 100 horses on the farm, they cater for most budgets. I had visited some of their USA customers, American Olympic eventer Boyd Martin, and Australian international Ryan Woods, and both admired Richard’s eye for a good horse, remarking that it was a pleasure to do business with him.
Ryan purchased a number of horses from Richard, got lost on one occasion and ended up in a pub, and thought a good stable name for the horse would be Jameson! Jessie Law is one of Richard’s riders, and he was out hunting another Cooley novice on the day with the Bray Harriers.
John Crowley was at the meet with his son John. John is better known to visitors to the Dublin Horse Show as the Chief Steward of the showing classes for over 12 years and an RDS steward for over 30 years. He farms in Ashford with his brother Ger who is also a harness maker.
Their sport is carriage driving and they have taken horse teams to the World Championships. Chairman of the hunt, Eamonn Holmes, is the Chief Steward of the RDS Simmonscourt warm-up area.
Pam Chapman is another seasoned show ring campaigner out at the meet. The Chapmans have won nearly everything to be won in Dublin including a remarkable double, the Supreme Hunter Championship of the Dublin Horse Show in 1979 with Zatopec with George on board, and the Reserve Champion in the same year with Billy Connors on board Grenadier.
To address the hunt insurance issue, the hunt held a waiver-signing night with a solicitor present. Despite what has been already published, hunt insurance, I understand, is far from fully resolved as some packs are still stood down as the new policy is considered too expensive, and apparently does not provide Employers’ Liability for employed hunt staff ‘when mounted’.
Master and huntsman
John Wilding is the sole master which is a big responsibility, and he farms locally at Roseanna House and hosts Pony Club, horse trials and hunt events on his farm. Former master Brian Sutton, who owns Enniskerry Equestrian Centre, rode as tail rider to make ensure land remained stock-proof.
Huntsman Philip Lazenby previously hunted the Wicklow Foxhounds and is a well-known hound breeder with a successful record at hound shows. He also produces hunters and young eventers. It is very much a family affair as his daughters Deena and Shauna both whip-in. Deena’s fiancée Patrick McGlynn also serves as a whipper-in.
Both girls are getting married this year, with Shauna marrying Wexford hurler Niall Breen. Their mother Ella was following by car. Some of Philip’s current hunters will be for sale soon, including his seasoned hunt horse Hector by Grange Bouncer, and Deena’s hunter Diagio as they have replacement stock coming on.
Laying the artificial drag lines were Shawna Watters and Cathy Fisher and they brought hounds and followers over some challenging country. Ellie Sheane (9) is a talent and totally at ease even over the widest ditches on her pony Spot. Her mother Georgina followed by car with her seven-year-old daughter Hope. Two other young riders, Sophie Gleeson and Conor Fanning, impressed taking the cross-country obstacles in their stride.
Hunting also were Jessie Law, Conor Fanning, Liam O’Connor, Galwayman Michael Freeley, Mary Fenlon, Suhaila Binchy, Ailish McGee, honorary secretary Gillian Hughes and Rita Holmes. Following also was honorary treasurer Mairead Watters and Alan Dignam, while Sarah McGee was the pathfinder and at all the best jumping spots. Photographer Gabby Harding keeps the hunt Facebook site up to date, and has featured regularly in The Irish Field with some fine action shots. His wife Zelda, who normally hunts, was working on the day.
The drag layers, Shawna Watters and Cathy Fisher, left early followed by the huntsman and hounds to the first line which was over tillage in Mooney’s. The first ditch was a yawner, but all negotiated it safely as hounds screamed away on the line through the woods with a succession of uprights to negotiate also.
The next line was hosted by William Freeman and his family, owners of the Bel-Air Hotel and Stables, on their 200-acre farm. The yard is well-known for its hunters and livery with lessons, cross-country and mock hunts run by Noni, Saranne and Maggie. Here the hounds screamed away over a line of cross-country fences with a stone wall on the hill, the highest point on the farm looking down on the film set of The Vikings, across the valley in Tottenham’s.
Next was a drop off the road in Donal Kelly’s who used to hunt the pack in Norrie Magee’s day. Another nasty bank and ditch off the road in Nicky Bowen’s saw many stretched, and where Michael Freeley’s horse landed short and lost his hind legs on landing. However, Michael was quickly back in the saddle.
There was fence after fence through the woods owned by racehorse trainer Danny Miley of Devils Glen Equestrian Centre as the drag layers pushed on and the followers had to move up a gear. Miley also has a smashing cross-country course and gallop that can be rented out.
Monduff Farm was the last line in Von Teichman’s. They milk 120 Holstein-Frisians crosses with robotic milking machines. The amount of feed is decided by automatically scanning the bar code on each cow’s collar depending on the cow’s milk yield. The lanes between pastures are carpeted and they are on grass for most of the year.
The followers finished this line jumping an up bank onto the avenue where young Arthur Sheane was there to hack his father Richard’s hunter back to the meet.
The Bray Harriers are a fun pack to follow, very hospitable, and where you will be treated to magnificent countryside and challenging terrain.