WOW!! 2020 and everyone’s life has taken a dramatic change and so we all need to adapt to new ways of doing things. How has that affected Bloodhounding and the 2020/21 hunt season?
From booking your place, all the way through to loading up and going home after a day’s bloodhounding many things have had to change.
In this article we look at one pack in particular, one of our local packs, The Readyfield Bloodhounds, but this also translates across many packs across the country, and how they have managed activities since the end of the first lockdown.
How have The Readyfield planned for COVID Safe Meets?
Hunt Master, Graham Smith said “We started our summer season with a series of fun rides, our Summer Ambles. This gave us a really good idea of the logistics required to operate within Government guidelines and in a way that made people feel safe. Each meet required jockeys to pre-book and pre-pay with groups of 6 going out at a time with 15 minute intervals between each group.” He continued “It required a lot more setting up as the route needed to be sign-posted for the jockeys to follow and the signage needed checking on the morning of the meet to make sure none had been removed or changed. Every attendee, both mounted and on foot and including hunt staff and stewards, had to complete a track and trace form and these were kept for 21 days before being destroyed. Nominated stewards were on hand to ensure social distancing rules were obeyed.”
These pre-season fun rides gave us The Readyfield a great head start when they came to planning and preparing for their hound exercises and the start of the hunting season.
During the gap between these summer rides and hound exercise they were able to adapt these measures and introduce new ways in preparedness for hound exercise and the full hunting season. It also gave them the opportunity to talk to other packs who are members of their governing body the MDBA (The Master of Drag and Bloodhound Association) to share their experiences and share methodologies. This sharing experience has proved invaluable!
Added Graham “We now have a system in place that means we are doing everything we can reasonably do to comply with the legislation and give everyone a safe, fun, compliant day bloodhounding. During our set-up days we look at how we ensure compliance on the day of the meet; bottle necks such as gateways, road crossings etc and change the lines accordingly.”
Each meet under the tier system is limited to jockeys and attendees from only that tier; i.e. if the meet is in Nottinghamshire then only jockeys can attend who live in Nottinghamshire. This has meant shuffling the meet card to try and accommodate as many people as possible as their ‘Country’ covers Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire and South Yorkshire.
“For each meet, our Compliance Officer completes an event delivery plan and a risk assessment. This allows us to ensure we have covered as many mitigations as possible such as gates used by members of the public, road crossings etc. Each jockey has to pre-book and can pay via bank transfer or on the day; payment on the day is placed in a sealed box and left for the required 3 days. Every attendee has to complete a track and trace form and this is used to cross check against post codes eligible to attend the meet in question.” said Graham.
There are signs at every meet reminding attendees of their responsibilities regarding social distancing, not sharing food or drink, groups of 6 (whilst not mounted and moving) and leaving the meet in a timely manner.
Before leaving the ‘Meet’ The Readyfield Bloodhounds jumping field master Andy Brown delivers his welcome speech, introduces the stewards and, whilst making it jovial and welcoming, he reminds the field of their responsibilities and the required behaviours during the meet. They have mounted and foot following stewards who are there to ensure that during the day everyone abides by the rules and these are introduced at the start of the day.
So how does that translate to the mounted field?
The honest answer to that is that you won’t be affected adversely; NO you won’t be allowed to share hip flasks, NO you won’t be allowed to socialise in groups of more than six before or after the meet, NO there won’t be food or drinks served before or after the meet and you will need to leave the meet as soon as you can after the meet has ended.
BUT!!!! You ARE allowed to have an amazing, exciting, adrenalin pumping day!!!! The thrill of bloodhounding hasn’t changed one iota.
The real differences happen behind the scenes by the team and how they manage the day and they are fortunate to have a dedicated team at the Readyfield!
They offer both jumping and optional jumping fields each with their own field master so……. Imagine the sound of the hounds, the sound of the horse’s hooves, the feeling of your horse locking on to the jump ahead, being in the optional jumping field and owning bragging rights when you pop THAT jump!
Oh, and please do spare a thought for their fantastic “quarry” – (the runners) Jack and Steve. They and the hounds do all the hard work, running for miles in all weather and ground conditions only to be repaid at the end of the day with copious amounts of hound slobber.
Bloodhounding is a wonderful experience and The Readyfield Bloodhounds would encourage anyone who hasn’t tried it to do so. There are packs across the country and a quick look at the Master of Drag and Bloodhounds web site will give you more information on your local pack. Let’s hope that the country will be filled with the sound of ‘speakin’ bloodhounds on Sunday 6th of December.
For more information, visit www.mdbassociation.com
Photos courtesy of www.mlgphotography.co.uk