Having first mounted a pony at the age of eight, riding and hunting have always been a part of Michael Clayton’s life.
Now the 78-year-old author and journalist, whose career included editing Horse and Hound magazine, has written “A Short History of Foxhunting” with artist and former Master of Foxhounds Alastair Jackson.
Intended to “inform, entertain and enhance” the sport, the book traces its origins from 1066 to the Hunting Act of 2004 – which banned hunting of wild mammals with dogs in England and Wales – to the present day.
Mr Clayton, from Morcott, believes some of those who opposed the sport meant well, but the protesters were mistaken because the result has harmed the fox.
He said: “Hunts did not operate during the breeding season. Nowadays foxes are shot or trapped throughout the year, so there are far fewer foxes in some areas of the countryside.”
Rutland, he says, benefitted in the past from foxhunting: “People used to come to the area from all over the world,” he said. “Oakham was full of stables which brought in a lot of money. All the small woodlands were planted as fox coverts. Other wildlife lived in these coverts which was good for ecology.”
The book will be launched at the Countryside Alliance stand at the horse trials today (Thursday).
Mr Clayton said: “There is a strong link between hunting and Burghley Horse Trials. Cross-country riding, and steeplechasing, grew out of fox hunting.”
A Short History of Foxhunting is published by Merlin Unwin Books and costs £14.99.