A Marlborough company which runs training courses for people working with horses and other animals has run its first successful one specifically for people working in hunting.

However by offering NVQs for hunt employees, Haddon Training has been accused by anti-hunt campaigners of harking back to the dark ages.

Haddon Training in Pelham Court, Marlborough, has Govern-ment backing for the new National Vocation Qualification and has recently been given a clean bill of health by Ofsted inspectors.

It provides work-based learning for people working with horses and advertises its new course for hunt apprentices on its website.

Eight apprentices from all over the UK spent two days on the inaugural course held at Lambourn, learning about the care of horses and hounds but discussing challenges facing the sport.

Capt Ian Farquhar, Master of the Beaufort Hunt, gave a talk on how to show and judge hounds and the course even included a horn-blowing contest.

Haddon said the course was proving popular with young hunt workers. Its founder Chris Hewlett said: “We are certain that part of the future of all forms of hunting will rely upon training, education and qualifications for staff coming into the industry as well as maintaining animal welfare standards at the highest levels.

“It is important for all hunt kennels to actively promote the education of future generations of hunt staff and, although this has never been a requirement in the past, it is important for the hunting fraternity to embrace training opportunities that will advance their careers.

“Hunting has a future if it keeps abreast of 21st century education and welfare standards.”

However the anti-hunting lobby headed by the League Against Cruel Sports has slammed the Government for supporting what they see as pro-hunting training when hunting foxes or deer with more than two hounds was made illegal in 2005.

League spokesman Steve Taylor said: “This is a qualification rooted in the past – what will be next, an NVQ in slavery?”