James Delingpole

My new affair is thrilling, expensive — and might just break my neck

It’s at times like this that you regret some of the choices you made earlier in your life

25 October 2014

9:00 AM

25 October 2014

9:00 AM

I have fallen in love with an unsuitable male. My wife isn’t totally happy about this relationship because she recognises how dangerous it is. The problem with Eddie is that his vices are my vices. He’s reckless, an adrenaline junkie who likes always to be up front. Really, a most unsuitable companion for a skinny, breakable family man fast approaching 50.

And did I mention how expensive he is? It’s as bad as having a high-class mistress or a serious cocaine habit, but I’m powerless to resist. I love hunting. I love my mount Eddie Stobart. When I’m riding to hounds, all my worldly cares vanish. It makes me feel like I’ve finally discovered the point of existence. Tragic, isn’t it?

It’s tragic because I know I could quite easily die — or worse. And also because I can’t afford it. A day out with my local hunt, with hireling, will set you back around £300. But really, if you want to get any good at it — which I do, so as to improve my chances of not breaking my neck — you want to be going out at least twice a week. It’s at times like this that you learn seriously to regret those early career choices. If I’d gone into the City and made my fortune, maybe I could have retired early and spent the rest of my days doing what I was really born to do: being a Master of Foxhounds, of course.

The thing I like about hunting is — well, lots of things, actually. But definitely it starts with the horse. I’ve never hitherto thought of myself as a particularly horsey person. As a child I found the local hunt set desperately intimidating. There was a hunting family down the road from us who I always got the impression seriously looked down on Delingpoles. We were just jumped-up Midlands industrialists. They were proper country folk. This hurt. And maybe that’s where it all started. I wanted to show that we were just as good as them.


Still, it would be years before I got the horse bug. I had lessons over the years — at school and later in my university vacations, when I was taught by James Hewitt’s sister Caroline and lusted, fruitlessly, after her stable girls. But the horses were just a means to an end rather than the thing itself: big, intractable, scary beasts with kicking feet and biting mouths and heads that kept yanking sharply forwards so that the reins cut into the tender bits between your frozen fingers.

This is often the way with riding-school horses. Bored and desensitised by having to indulge far too many novices, they rarely do what you want, because they just can’t be arsed. And it’s always your fault, supposedly. You’re not kicking hard enough. But you can’t kick any harder because your leg muscles have collapsed. It’s no wonder so many boys (girls are different: for girls, horses aren’t poor man’s motorbikes but surrogate boyfriends) give up riding before they get any good at it.

Hence my current pash for Eddie Stobart. Because he used to be the Master’s mount, he knows exactly what he likes and where he wants to be: where the action is. So there’s definitely no need for the whip, and barely any need for any leg. You think ‘trot’ and he trots. You think ‘canter’ and he’s already there. For the first time in my life, thanks to Eddie, I feel like I can actually ride — like they do in the movies when they gallop off into the distance; like they did in the 18th century where, spiritually, I think I most belong.

This bond you have with your mount is one of the best things about hunting. His life is in your hands, your life on his hooves, so for the duration of the hunt you’re in this one together, looking out for each other (and scary rear ends with red ribbons on the tails, and rabbit holes, and low branches and wire…). Better than that, though, you and this alien creature with whom you have next to nothing genetically in common are suddenly on exactly the same trip. Imagine! It’s like becoming a centaur.

And all the other nutcases with you on the hunt — they’re on the same trip too. An impossibly intense one. Everything becomes so heightened and vivid — the sights, the sounds, the terror, the exhilaration, the narrow scrapes — that it’s like being in a dogfight: even years after the event, you remember every detail as though it were yesterday.

So now you begin to appreciate the scale of the problem. What the hell do I do? I’m thinking of maybe crowdfunding a project called Mister Delingpole’s Sporting Tour, where I ask donors to sponsor me for a season (or three), and at the end we emerge with a thrilling book written by hunting’s greatest ambassador since Roger Scruton. Well-wishers might be tempted to stump up because they like me or they like hunting, or both; ill-wishers have an even stronger incentive because it will dramatically improve the chances of my getting killed.

Or am I just too old for this shit? Is that what the gods are trying to tell me: that life is about coming to terms with your limitations, accepting your lot and realising that some dreams have to remain just dreams?

I don’t know, I really don’t know. But by God, I do know I love hunting.

You might disagree with half of it, but you’ll enjoy reading all of it. Try your first 10 weeks for just $10


Show comments
  • rtj1211

    If you’ve got £100,000 to spare, there’s folks out there claiming they have audited trading accounts which will turn that sum into a handsome retirement within two years.

    Suggest you check a few of them out……

  • Precambrian

    I find myself in the odd position of on one hand opposing the hunting ban whilst on the other having no personal interest in hurtling around the countryside on an unpredictable creature that has (in my experience) a tendency to regard me as a chew toy.

    • The Masked Marvel

      Yes, but you’re not a paid contrarian like Dellers.

    • Claire Wright

      Our master estimated that for every mounted follower with our pack there were another 10 following on foot, car, bicycle or quad bike. Add to that the foot packs such as beagles, bassets and minkhounds – there is no need to half kill yourself on a horse to oppose the hunting ban.

  • foxoles

    ‘ I’m thinking of maybe crowdfunding a project called Mister Delingpole’s Sporting Tour, where I ask donors to sponsor me for a season (or three), and at the end we emerge with a thrilling book written by hunting’s greatest ambassador since Roger Scruton. ‘

    This! ^ ^ Do it!

  • Al Bowlly

    When I was very young I rode a horse (a very docile pony, to be honest) for about ten minutes, mostly at a walk, and the experience so terrified me that I have never been tempted to repeat it. Each to his own, I suppose.

    • balance_and_reason

      Thanks for sharing Al….

      • Al Bowlly

        You are welcome….

    • Chris Morriss

      I’m sure nearly all horses are just over the edge of madness. (Apart from Suffolks, who are the most powerful, yet gentle beasts).

  • RightBurke

    Thank you James.
    That piece brought real tears to my eyes.
    I too am a family man getting too fragile and much too close to 50.
    I haven’t hunted for 10 years – work, marriage, children and lack of cash have all got in the way – but reading your piece brought back those days of flying across old turf with the beat of my wonderful old horse’s heart thundering through me and my forlorn pursuit of an impossibly beautiful girl I couldn’t keep up with in the field or in life.
    Think not now of your the snobbish hunting neighbours of your youth – when you are on that horse hard after a pack in full tongue you are the king of the whole world Mr Delingpole – and, even better, you know it too!
    The sensible Right Burke says to me “stick to your memories greying man and live them through your wonderful daughter”, but the devil in me says “get a horse, drink deep of the port as in the old days and then kick on hard for my very life” What should I do? And is it OK to hurl quotes from both the King James Bible and Ayn Rand during a long run??

    • Fenton!

      King James is boresville; I’d prefer Plato or Trollope (a great hunting rider) or even Hugh Trevor-Roper (who kept a horse and rode to hounds); leave Ayn Rand to the smaller minds that are ideally suited for the tiny closet of ‘libertarianism’ (I speak as a classical liberal, which is far better grounded and more sophisticated.)

    • Christian

      Throw caution to the wind and ride the wave. God knows there’ll be time enough for regret and stilly silence

  • Fenton!

    for girls, horses aren’t poor man’s motorbikes but surrogate boyfriends

    That’s probably the cleverest thing you’ve ever said, even if the thought behind it is far from original (how’s that for a back-handed compliment?).

    I love the thought of a horsey life except that it seems totally impractical where I live. We don’t do hunting here, and anyway I have moral qualms about eating bacon (I do it for the fat, as I’m low-carbing — plus I adore the flavour, but what’s that against an animal’s happiness?). It’s hot and sometimes it’s hotter than Hades: who wants to be on horseback in that? And where I am going to go on someone else’s horse? To what purpose would I ride? I’ve discovered that I am something of an instrumentalist. I don’t mean that I play an instrument (apart from my voice and the scoring program on my computer). I mean that the skill has to have a bigger end or purpose in sight. I went to a day job instead of learning watercolours because learning watercolours would have been like something else unmentionable whereas earning my pay was getting the job done. I can’t be frivolous unless I can be serious. I can’t go to a subtropical stud farm and ride around a big oval at a boring trot with feet sweating in my boots and head sweating in my helmet to no purpose.

    THAT is the true virtue of a hunt: it’s not the end of the fox, poor blighter (I loved my English fox and called him Pickles). It’s the purpose of going on a horse in the first place.

    Eventually I shall just have to move back to England.

  • Conway

    This is often the way with riding-school horses. Bored and desensitised
    by having to indulge far too many novices, they rarely do what you want,
    because they just can’t be arsed. And it’s always your fault,
    supposedly. You’re not kicking hard enough.
    ” Don’t kick, squeeze. My riding school horse will go in an outline, work connected and generally do very good dressage movements provided I get them right. He also copes with novices.

  • Ahobz

    Surely a motorbike is a poor man’s horse, not the other way round? Compare the costs of running a motorbike with that of running horse.

    • JabbaTheCat

      A motorcycle, especially an off road one, is a cross between a horse and an aeroplane, most exhilarating…

      • Christian

        Very good metaphor

    • Christian

      He’s referring to the experience. I’ve tried both and the motorbike is bliss, much as I enjoy horses

  • Rifleman1853

    “Or am I just too old for this shit? Is that what the gods are trying to tell me: that life is about coming to terms with your limitations, accepting your lot and realising that some dreams have to remain just dreams?”

    No, James – and this is the voice of experience. I once had a ‘burned into your memory banks forever’ ride on a big chestnut Thoroughbred called Indian. I think his breeding was by Adrenaline, out of Nitrous Oxide, by Turbocharger. That was over 30 years ago – yet I can still give you a frame by frame description of every moment.

    What the gods are telling you, RIGHT NOW, is this:

    “Listen, Delingpole – if you don’t get your sorry butt out there, RIGHT NOW, on Eddie, pull out all the stops, ride him on washing line reins, and have the time of your life, we will lay a lifelong curse on you, as follows; every day of your life, you will wake up and wonder –

    “What would it have been like if I HAD done it?”

    And you will never, ever know . . . “

  • Thanks to Dr Brave for restoring my broken relationship.

    Hello Friends all over the world this is my testimony about the good work of a man who helping me roster my broken relationship and marriage and my name is Wendy Streeter I’m from Florida,USA, i was married to my husband for 4 years we were living happily together for this years and not until he traveled to Italy for a business trip where he met this girl and since then he hate me and the kids and love her only. so when my husband came back from the trip he said he does not want to see me and my kids again so he drove us out of the house and he was now going to Italy to see that other woman. so i and my kids were now so frustrated and i was just staying with my mum and i was not be treating good because my mother got married to another man after my father death so the man she got married to was not treating her well, i and my kids where so confuse and i was searching for a way to get my husband back home because i love and cherish him so much so one day as i was browsing on my computer i saw a testimony about this spell caster Dr.Brave testimonies shared on the internet by a lady and it impress me so much i also think of give it a try. At first i was scared but when i think of what me and my kids are passing through so i contact him and he told me to stay calm for just 24 hours that my husband shall come back to me and to my best surprise i received a call from my husband on the second day asking after the kids and i called Dr.Brave and he said your problems are solved my child. so this was how i get my family back after a long stress of brake up by an evil lady so with all this help from Dr.Brave , i want you all on this forum to join me to say a huge thanks to Dr.Brave and i will also advice for any one in such or similar problems or any kind of problems should also contact him his email is bravespellcaster@gmail.com he is the solution to all your problems and predicaments in life. once again his email address is bravespellcaster@gmail.com,or kindly visit he Website: http://enchantedscents.tripod.com/lovespell/Thanks.

  • disqus_JXTaH3N9kU

    “Hence my current pash for Eddie Stobart.”

    Pash ?

    I thought it was impossible for Delingpole to become more irritating. I was obviously wrong.

  • Joolz Bijoux

    I had an amazing experience recently out hunting of somehow managing to get in front of the field – and the hounds – and chased a fox all the way from King Arthurs stone at the top of Cefyn Bryn on Gower into a farmyard where he managed to escape (much to my delight). My horse leaping across sinkholes and flying over anything that got in the way. Later that day, cantering along the Bryn on my way home I looked across the Bristol channel and to the Quantocks – such breathtaking views. My horse and I were joined by a herd of wild ponies who galloped alongside us …a few minutes later I was washing off mud from my horse legs in the sea as I watched the sun begin to set…you are never too old to hunt – my horse and I have a combined age of 78! Do we look like we are acting our age?

  • How I was able to get my husband back from those home breaker

    Am Linda Henrik i was married to my husband for 5 years we were living happily together for this years and not until he traveled to England for a business trip where he met this girl and since then he hate me and the kids and love her only. so when my husband came back from the trip he said he does not want to see me and my kids again so he drove us out of the house and he was now going to Italy to see that other woman. so i and my kids were now so frustrated and i was just staying with my mum and i was not be treating good because my mother got married to another man after my father death so the man she got married to was not treating her well, i and my kids where so confuse and i was searching for a way to get my husband back home because i love and cherish him so much so one day as i was browsing on my computer i saw a testimony about this spell caster Dr Brave testimonies shared on the internet by a lady and it impress me so much i also think of give it a try. At first i was scared but when i think of what meand my kids are passing through so i contact him and he told me to stay calm for just 48 hours that my husband shall come back to me and to my best surprise i received a call from my husband on the second day asking after the kids and i called Dr Brave and he said your problems are solved my child. so this was how i get my family back after a long stress of brake up by an evil lady so with all this help from Dr Brave , i want you all on this forum to join me to say a huge thanks to Dr Brave , and i will also advice for any one in such or similar problems or any kind of problems should also contact him his email is )(bravespellcaster@gmail.com)he is the solution to all your problems and predicaments in life. once again his email address is (bravespellcaster@gmail.com,or kindly visit he Website: http://enchantedscents.tripod.com/lovespell/)

    HE IS SPECIALIZE IN THE THE FOLLOWING SPELL.

    (1) If you want your ex back.
    (2) If you want to be promoted in your office.
    (3) If you want a child.
    (4) If you want to be rich.
    (5) If you need financial assistance.
    (6) if you want to stop your divorce.
    (7) if you want to divorce your husband.
    (8) if you want your wishes to be granted.
    (9) Pregnancy spell to conceive baby
    (10) Stop your marriage or relationship from breaking apart.
    (11) if you have any sickness like ( H I V ), (CANCER) or (lunatics) any sickness.
    (12) If you want to play lottery and win .
    once again make sure you contact him if you have any problem he will help you. his email address is (bravespellcaster@gmail.com,or kindly visit he Website: http://enchantedscents.tripod.com/lovespell/) contact him immediately;;;

  • Jane Martinsford

    James – I’ve welcomed you and BB as a breath of fresh air – and for sure we’ve needed one in the UK media for some time, but I have to say, I’m unsettled by this article. Sure, it’s your personal hobby, and I’ve no objection to horse riding, but it’s your bloodlust that makes me uncomfortable … how do you reconcile this with civilised behaviour and the moral high ground? I eat meat and would probably be able to wring a chicken’s neck if I were a farmer, but I wouldn’t enjoy doing it. I could probably shoot a fox if I had a chicken shed and caught one in it. Likewise I could probably pull the plug on a life support machine for someone with no hope who was suffering horribly, or machine gun down a group of jihadists, but I wouldn’t enjoy doing it … and therein lies the difference … Surely bloodlust, is bloodlust?

    • jamesdelingpole

      bloodlust?

    • Christian

      Delingpole only rides a horse. You by contrast have just killed a chicken, a fox, lovely Muslims, a terminal patient

  • trace9

    So that’s one creature that leaves large dollops of sh*te behind it, being ridden by another.. Twofer!

  • Mnestheus

    How delightful to see Delingpole doing something intellectually respectable ! It’s a wonderful change from his delinquent attempt to do to science what the League Against Cruel Sports did to the Quorn.

  • Christian

    Possibly the best thing I’ve read by mr delingpole. We can all empathise with he who stands before the road not taken.

Close