Pastimes: Lord Moore's love of trail hunting
In her occasional series, Rosamund Urwin meets up with parliamentarians to discuss how they unwind away from Westminster. Here, Lord Moore describes his love of trail hunting
For Lord Moore, the appeal of trail hunting lies both in the adrenaline rush and the contemplation of the English countryside. The former editor of the Daily Telegraph and the Spectator who joined the House of Lords in 2020, switched to the sport after the hunting of animals with hounds was banned in 2004. Trail-hunting, in which the pack follow the scent of animal urine from a rag, sprang up as the legal – if still controversial – alternative.
“I love the scenery,” says Moore. “You’re in country you wouldn’t normally see, and seeing it at greater height. And there’s an element of danger because of jumping and possibly falling. You also do it for a long time – perhaps you meet at 11 and carry on until it’s dark – so you’re very well-exercised, and you see the landscape in all its lights.”
Suddenly my saddle spun round and I fell off
It is also something to occupy the time during the long, cold winter. “You see all the lovely things about winter; the best thing to do with bad weather is to be out in it,” he adds.
Now 66, Moore learnt to ride as a child, joining the Pony Club and helping break in a Dartmoor pony called Snipe. He was nine when he went to his first fox hunt, or “meet”, it was not a success - but he was so eager to start, he didn’t check the girth, which keeps the saddle secure. “Snipe was extremely excitable and the girth became loose straight away,” he recalls. “Suddenly my saddle spun round and I fell off.” Luckily, he was uninjured.
He adds that it is not uncommon for horses to get excited or agitated due to the presence of so many animals and riders: “There’s an element of Jean-Paul Sartre’s ‘hell is other people’ in hunting, or rather ‘hell is other horses and people’. If one of them kicks or bucks, that will tend to have a ripple effect.” Moore has fallen nearly 100 times; there is a longer drop now as his current horse, Biggles, stands at 17.3 hands compared with Snipe’s 11.2 h.
After a hiatus caused by his career, he returned to hunting when he moved back to the country aged almost 40. Moore says another benefit of his sport is the social side and that it has become a more equal pastime. “You meet people of all ages and classes,” he says. “Shooting has always been dominated by men, but in hunting for the past 100 years, women have taken as much part as men.”
Critics argue that trail hunting acts as a smokescreen for fox hunting, and the sport still attracts protesters. They argue that the hounds still pick up the scent of foxes, and sometimes kill them. “We used to get a lot of ‘antis’ before the ban, and they were trying to stop you hunting,” Moore says. “Now, paradoxically, they come because they want to catch you hunting, because they think falsely – you’ll be hunting live quarry. They’ve very hostile en masse.”
As with hunting, Moore is always determined to speak his mind, however unpopular his view may be. In the Lords, he is most interested in the debates around freedom of speech and says he judges carefully when to intervene: “I noticed that the people who are good in the Lords are not the people who speak about everything; they’re people who know what they’re talking about.”
He does not believe the Lords needs reform. “All discussion of reform of the Lords is ridiculous, because it’s a displacement discussion – you have to work out what you want the Commons to be before you come up with any ideas for the Lords,” he says. “I like the Lords for being lord-like: weak in direct power, polite, measured, good-natured, thoughtful and deliberative rather than hostile.”
Rosamund Urwin is a journalist with The Sunday Times.
Get the inside track on what MPs and Peers are talking about. Sign up to The House's morning email for the latest insight and reaction from Parliamentarians, policy-makers and organisations.