Top dog
Horse & Hound|November 26, 2020
From bulldogs going schooling to whippets chasing the racehorses up the gallops, there is no end of tricks a yard dog can get up to. Camilla Swift tracks down a few characters from across the country
Camilla Swift

IT is a truth universally acknowledged that where there are horses, there will be dogs not far away. Well, perhaps that’s not exactly how the quote goes. But it’s certainly true. Horses and hounds – as the title of this magazine suggests – go hand in hand.

But are there certain breeds that horsey types are more drawn to? As with everything, the fashions change.

“Border terriers used to be the must-have eventing dog, but you don’t see quite so many now,” says Rebecca Harvie, who runs Munstead Horse Trials near Godalming, Surrey. “Dachshunds – mini and standard – seem to be the trendy dog now. Labs are still quite popular, as are Weimaraners, vizslas, and ridgebacks. We also see quite a lot of tiny dogs and masses of poodle crosses – but the poodle crosses seem to be more with the spectators than the competitors.''

Dachshunds and terriers of all types do have a distinct advantage if you’re on the road a lot, as many horsey people are: their size.

“I’ve always had Jack Russells; they’re handy as they’re a good size for shows and clean in the truck, as they’re short-haired”, explains eventer Zac Heydon. “Jack Russells used to be the most popular dog at events, but nowadays you see all sorts.”

Speaking of “all sorts” takes us to the Fox-Pitts’ yard, where both William and his wife, racing presenter Alice Plunkett, have traditionally had lurchers. However, three years ago, as she was arriving at Aintree to cover the Grand National for ITV, she received a call from her husband.

“Will rang me, and said, ‘The children have seen an advert for some puppies in the hunt magazine, can we get one?’” she recalls. “I said, ‘What are you talking about? The children are two and four – of course, they haven’t been reading a magazine!’

“I was just driving into Aintree for one of the biggest days of the year for me, so I wasn’t quite paying attention. What had really happened was that Will had already bought one of these puppies and had it at home, but wanted me to say that we could get one.”

The puppy in question was Dizzy, a Jackahuahua – a Jack Russell cross Chihuahua.

“She does get a few raised eyebrows when she comes to shows as she isn’t your classic pedigree,” Alice continues. “But she goes to bed with the girls and comes out riding with me – she’s very cool.”

The Fox-Pitts also have a Labrador, Tilly, whom they bought for their second son from Sam Albert.

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