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The Man Who Hunts And Never Jumps
by [?]

The British public who do not hunt believe too much in the jumping of those who do. It is thought by many among the laity that the hunting man is always in the air, making clear flights over five-barred gates, six-foot walls, and double posts and rails, at none of which would the average hunting man any more think of riding than he would at a small house. We used to hear much of the Galway Blazers, and it was supposed that in County Galway a stiff-built wall six feet high was the sort of thing that you customarily met from field to field when hunting in that comfortable county. Such little impediments were the ordinary food of a real Blazer, who was supposed to add another foot of stonework and a sod of turf when desirous of making himself conspicuous in his moments of splendid ambition. Twenty years ago I rode in Galway now and then, and I found the six-foot walls all shorn of their glory, and that men whose necks were of any value were very anxious to have some preliminary knowledge of the nature of the fabric, whether for instance it might be solid or built of loose stones, before they trusted themselves to an encounter with a wall of four feet and a half. And here, in England, history, that nursing mother of fiction, has given hunting men honours which they here never fairly earned. The traditional five-barred gate is, as a rule, used by hunting men as it was intended to be used by the world at large; that is to say, they open it; and the double posts and rails which look so very pretty in the sporting pictures, are thought to be very ugly things whenever an idea of riding at them presents itself. It is well that mothers should know, mothers full of fear for their boys who are beginning, that the necessary jumping of the hunting field is not after all of so very tremendous a nature; and it may be well also to explain to them and to others that many men hunt with great satisfaction to themselves who never by any chance commit themselves to the peril of a jump, either big or little.

And there is much excellent good sense in the mode of riding adopted by such gentlemen. Some men ride for hunting, some for jumping, and some for exercise; some, no doubt, for all three of these things. Given a man with a desire for the latter, no taste for the second, and some partiality for the first, and he cannot do better than ride in the manner I am describing. He may be sure that he will not find himself alone; and he may be sure also that he will incur none of that ridicule which the non-hunting man is disposed to think must be attached to such a pursuit. But the man who hunts and never jumps, who deliberately makes up his mind that he will amuse himself after that fashion, must always remember his resolve, and be true to the conduct which he has laid down for himself. He must jump not at all. He must not jump a little, when some spurt or spirit may move him, or he will infallibly find himself in trouble. There was an old Duke of Beaufort who was a keen and practical sportsman, a master of hounds, and a known Nimrod on the face of the earth; but he was a man who hunted and never jumped. His experience was perfect, and he was always true to his resolution. Nothing ever tempted him to cross the smallest fence. He used to say of a neighbour of his, who was not so constant, “Jones is an ass. Look at him now. There he is, and he can’t get out. Jones doesn’t like jumping, but he jumps a little, and I see him pounded every day. I never jump at all, and I’m always free to go where I like.” The Duke was certainly right, and Jones was certainly wrong. To get into a field, and then to have no way of getting out of it, is very uncomfortable. As long as you are on the road you have a way open before you to every spot on the world’s surface, open, or capable of being opened; or even if incapable of being opened, not positively detrimental to you as long as you are on the right side. But that feeling of a prison under the open air is very terrible, and is rendered almost agonizing by the prisoner’s consciousness that his position is the result of his own imprudent temerity, of an audacity which falls short of any efficacious purpose. When hounds are running, the hunting man should always, at any rate, be able to ride on, to ride in some direction, even though it be in a wrong direction. He can then flatter himself that he is riding wide and making a line for himself. But to be entrapped into a field without any power of getting out of it; to see the red backs of the forward men becoming smaller and smaller in the distance, till the last speck disappears over some hedge; to see the fence before you and know that it is too much for you; to ride round and round in an agony of despair which is by no means mute, and at last to give sixpence to some boy to conduct you back into the road; that is wretched: that is real unhappiness. I am, therefore, very persistent in my advice to the man who purposes to hunt without jumping. Let him not jump at all. To jump, but only to jump a little, is fatal. Let him think of Jones.