To say that Natalie Wales is a busy woman is an understatement. In addition to her position as Honorary Whipper Into Huntsman Reg Spreadborough and the easily recognizable pack of ring-necked American Foxhounds of Orange County, she runs a successful training and sales business, where she focuses on developing horses for eventing and hunting. And because that is clearly not enough to do, Natalie does triple duty as a jump jockey riding in the Virginia Point to Point Circuit, where she earned the Leading Lady Rider title in 2010. A wicked person to have on your Hunter Pace Team (especially fast time division), the perpetually friendly and hardworking Brit took a few moments to share her experiences with e-Covertside.
e-Covertside: How did you become involved with hunting?
Natalie: I got into hunting through riding. I grew up eventing in Europe- we mostly lived in Scotland, but spent quite a few years in Holland, and then I went to university at Warwickshire College in England. I took a year out during uni and worked for the master of Warwickshire Hunt. Since moving to the states eleven and a half years ago, I have hunted here in Virginia, and with Aiken and Cheshire. This will be my third season as an honorary whipper in for Orange County.
e-Covertside: How has your varied equine background assisted you while hunting?
Natalie: Well, the flatwork for one thing, helps for control, and my eye is better developed for the jumping part of it all.
e-Covertside: What are some of your favorite aspects of this pack and of the organization itself?
Natalie: There are so many! I have a ton of respect for Reg and he has taught me a tremendous amount. I had never whipped in before, and you always see people doing it without really knowing what goes into it. Reg’s hound work is phenomenal, he has great control of the pack and they respond so well to him. Among many things, he has taught me how to be in the right place at the right time and how to listen. His discipline and work ethic is fantastic, and he is a great rider, too.
The beautiful country we hunt is incredibly special. Reg, Josh, and Jason before him, do so much to maintain the territory and a great pack of hounds. We have super masters and strong community involvement. Loss of territory to development is a big issue, and we are lucky to have a lot of land in conservation easement due to our generous landowners. We have rolling countryside that is open, and in terms of getting around and being where we need to be, we can keep up with hounds because of this. The nature of the country also provides plenty of healthy foxes to show us good days of sport!
e-Covertside: Do you have any items you never hunt without?
Natalie: My hunt whip for sure- the master at Warwickshire drilled into me that one should never, ever hunt without their whip! So my whip. And a hairnet.
e-Covertside: How did you become involved with racing?
Natalie: Hunting sort of sets you up for the point to points. You’re quite often traveling at speed and sometimes you have to jump whatever is in your way. For instance, I was whipping in off a green horse when I hadn’t been at it very long, hounds were flying towards a big, bare stone wall; Reg went over it, Jason went over it, I thought “Oh my God! Should I go? I have to go!” Then I went. In the end, I was given a hunt horse who was too much for its owner, so I thought let’s hunt him and see what happens. Then I galloped him over at (steeplechase trainer) Richard Valentine’s and thought let’s give racing a try and it has gone well!