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40 years in the saddle

In charge of the hounds: Hunt veteran Dave Ferriman. [PHOTO: Georgia Nelson]
In charge of the hounds: Hunt veteran Dave Ferriman.
[PHOTO: Georgia Nelson]

Sitting on top of his towering bay horse, surrounded in a cloud of smoke from his pipe, Dave Ferriman does not look like your average Kiwi bloke.

His red coat is patched at the elbows and has torn cuffs, the result of hours in the saddle chasing hares across the Canterbury Plains.

Ferriman, known by his friends as “Ferret”, has had one career his whole life. He has just celebrated his 40th year as the Christchurch Hunt’s huntsman.

The huntsman is in charge of the hounds and controlling the hunt. His job is integral to the success of a hunt.

Although he has worked at the hunt for four decades, you’d think he has never had to work a day in his life. He doesn’t describe being a huntsman as a job.

“Doing what I do with the horses and hounds has been the passion of my life. I’m paid to do a sport I enjoy,” he said.

On a beautiful mid winter day with the Southern Alps as a backdrop, it is easy to be convinced that Ferriman has the best job in the world. But it is not all pipe smoking, gin drinking and galloping across the countryside.

Ferriman works more hours than most, up at dawn and out till dusk tending to the hounds, exercising the hunt horses and clerking at Riccarton and Addington racecourse.

At 63, he is one of the oldest in the field, but that doesn’t seem to be slowing him down. When asked if he would be good for another 40 years he laughs.

“I’d be the oldest bastard out there in the country. But while I’m still healthy and enjoy what I’m doing I’ll carry on,” he said.

_Georgia Nelson for The Selwyn Times