The Field|June 2020
That was certainly the case for Hugo Busby, who hunted the RAC beagles before showing fine sport in Dorset as Master and huntsman of the Portman in the 1990s. “After nine seasons I reached a stage where I wanted to be able to put my hand in my pocket and buy a round of drinks, but I didn’t have the financial wherewithal to do so; I had lived off the generosity and favours of others for too long,” he remembers.
Despite the all-consuming involvement in the chase that is the huntsman’s lot, Busby decided straight away that he would hang up his hunting boots at the same time as his horn. “I’m either doing it or not doing it,” he says. “I’m no good at hovering around on the fringes irritating others, so I just stopped altogether and went to London to explore various projects.” He later set up an auctioneering firm in Bridport (Busby) and is now married with four children. “I’m not sure I would want to be married to an MFH,” he chuckles. “At least not at the level we did it. The hunting would have to be very good to get me back on a horse. I still miss it but haven’t seen a hound for five seasons. I do have a pipe dream to return one day, but sometimes the memory is better than the dream.”
Martyn Lee, who hunted the Oakley, Taunton Vale, and Cattistock from the late 1970s to early 1990s, also cites financial reasons for giving up in his prime. “I was so broke by the finish of my hunting career that I had to change direction completely and ended up managing West Country pubs. My mother [the late and legendary Sally Lee] bought the White Horse in the heart of hunting Exmoor in her late sixties and reasoned that running a pub was the same as having friends to stay, except that you charge them. And that’s how I got into pubs. I pretty much gave up hunting overnight; it was either front or nothing for me, and I didn’t want to be cocktail partying at the back. There are enough ex-Masters putting in their two-penny worth of say without me being there, too. But I still miss my hounds.”
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