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Belle Meade Hunt

bellemeade

The Belle Meade Hunt was whelped by a group of horsemen who had been meeting for regular trail rides. Their usual route from Stagecoach Road took them to the Rock Dam and finally to the Boy Scout Cabin, where they often stayed for a cookout and sometimes an overnight and homeward ride in the morning. These are familiar landmarks to anyone who has visited and enjoyed the hunting at Belle Meade.

The organizational meeting to establish the hunt was held in August of 1966 at the home of James E. Wilson, Jr in Thomson, Georgia at the behest of William Preston Smith. Mr. Smith suggested the name Belle Meade after his family home in Virginia and suggested that Confederate Cavalry yellow be adopted as the hunt’s colors. Mr. Smith also designed the Hunt’s emblem. Mr. Wilson was elected president.

Website: http://bellemeadehounds.com/

david and ashley twiggsDavid and Ashley Twiggs

“It’s not often that one’s business and personal passions come together into a single opportunity,” says David Twiggs, the man selected to replace Dennis Foster as the new Executive Director of the MFHA. Dennis will retire on April 1, 2017.

David Twiggs’ business career has flowered from a passion for the successful integration of sporting activities into rural economies and, with an eye for conservation, developing them into widely recognized destinations and living space. He is currently Chief Operating Officer of the 26,000-acre Hot Springs Village in Arkansas, the largest planned sporting community in the country.

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People

david and ashley twiggsDavid and Ashley Twiggs

“It’s not often that one’s business and personal passions come together into a single opportunity,” says David Twiggs, the man selected to replace Dennis Foster as the new Executive Director of the MFHA. Dennis will retire on April 1, 2017.

David Twiggs’ business career has flowered from a passion for the successful integration of sporting activities into rural economies and, with an eye for conservation, developing them into widely recognized destinations and living space. He is currently Chief Operating Officer of the 26,000-acre Hot Springs Village in Arkansas, the largest planned sporting community in the country.

In just three years David has reshaped this forty-year-old gated community—still hewing to the old model of sport and retirement—into his own new vision for what today’s families seek for pleasure and living in the modern era. In an interview related to his Hot Springs experience, David said. “I want to build community—not just a community. This is about people and their lives—not just real estate.” The MFHA is counting on David’s love for sport combined with his concept of the modern family and the times to promote foxhunting in this new millennium.

cecesalem twigg.houndsCeCe and Salem Twiggs, winning the Pack Class at the Carolinas Hound Show for the Belle Meade Hunt.

Foxhunting is a personal passion for David, wife Ashley (both North Carolinians), and daughters Salem and CeCe. David sees the challenges of his new job with the MFHA as an exercise requiring vision and concepts parallel to those he applied in his former business. He intends to put a happy face on foxhunting wherever it thrives and increase its appeal to modern families and communities.

Before taking the helm at Hot Springs Village, David was CEO of Savannah Lakes Village, a planned community of sporting enthusiasts—golf, tennis, angling, and other outdoor activities—in western South Carolina. Savannah Lakes Village fronts on three large lakes linked by the Savannah River. While in South Carolina for those eight years, David and his family hunted with the Belle Meade Hunt (GA). They cheerfully contributed to the myriad efforts in keeping up the hunting country and in helping to provide the fabled Belle Meade hospitality that is required of all members. Belle Meade Master Epp Wilson is high on the whole family.

“David would work a full day in the office, come home, climb onto the Belle Meade tractor, and go out to mow trails. One time he had a flat tire, and instead of calling me he jacked up the tractor, changed the tire, and finished the job. He’s a doer, not a talker!

“David also whips-in to me, and he’ll often stay out late into the night looking for lost hounds. We expect this from all our whips, but few actually do it! He also volunteered to head up the Tally Ho Wagon Committee for our Opening Meets, and anyone who has seen our Opening Meets knows what a huge deal that is!”

I’ve been there, and it’s a very "huge deal." Serving as Wagon Master, David was responsible for the hospitality and safety of more than four hundred paying guests throughout a daylong fund raising celebration for the hunt.

“Ashley Twiggs has been helping with our Hunt Ball,” Epp added. “She even introduced and ran a new fund raiser—a silent auction—that’s been very successful.”

Both David and Ashley are strong advocates for bringing juniors along in the hunt As hard as it is for Epp to lose valuable hunt members like the Twiggs, he’s happy for our sport.

“I was thrilled when I heard that David was selected to be the next Executive Director of the MFHA,” he said. “I can’t think of anybody with a better balance of ability, temperament, and passion for the sport than he has. He has strong marketing skills, and believes that foxhunting has a powerful story to tell. He wants to sell the sizzle, not just the steak, and will develop a strong presence on social media, where the juniors—and the future—are.”

According to the MFHA, “David will serve along with Dennis Foster for a three-month transition period, before assuming sole responsibility for the position on April 1, 2017. David's mission will include growing the sport and the MFHA Subscribing Membership, supporting existing hunts, and increasing our financial base and endowment.”

The MFHA news release also credits David for a deep knowledge of land conservation issues. While in Arkansas he developed a rod-and-gun club, a magazine, and an outdoor tourism promotion company. He is the author of the book, Destination Communities (2015), which promotes the creation of sustainable outdoor-based destinations for leisure and living. The book advocates fostering authentic sporting subcultures with common interests in preserving the nature of place to stimulate sustainable economic development. It warns about using formulaic development models, and outlines how to build places that celebrate and protect the existing natural and cultural resources of a region. David often speaks to groups to promote rural economic development strategies that are sensitive to the unique natural and cultural elements of place.

"We are extremely excited to have someone with David's many skills and enthusiasm take a leadership position in our sport," said MFHA President Jack van Nagell. "David brings a passion for sport, deep knowledge of land and hunting issues, and a keen sense of marketing and development to help the sport of mounted hunting grow."

David becomes only the fourth person to manage the MFHA office since the association was established in 1907. Joe Jones was the man in charge in Boston from 1907 until his retirement in 1973. John Glass from Lincoln, Massachusetts served as Clerk and Keeper of the Stud Book in Boston and remained on the job through the move to Virginia, retiring in 1995. Dennis Foster became Executive Director in 1995 and will have served for twenty-two years upon his retirement. Each man in the succession expanded the duties of the office as each era brought new technology, new needs, and, especially recently, as the MFHA expanded its outreach to foxhunters.

For more than three hundred years, foxhunting has adapted to changing times. Every age has introduced new hurdles and new opportunities. Today, much of the world communicates in ways not even imagined a short fifteen years ago. David Twiggs comes to the office in fast-changing times, but he comes with a background in synch with the times. The future of foxhunting is a mission for which David will soon be largely responsible, and we wish him success in his new role.

Posted November 12, 2016

jnafhc claire goff.betsy parkerClaire Goff riding Miss Congeniality was judged 1st Field Champion, 13 and over, of the 2016 Junior North American Field Hunter Championships at the finals hosted by the Iroquois Hunt. With Claire are (l-r) Dr. Jack van Nagell, MFH, host, and President of the MFHA; Marion Chungo, organizer; Douglas Wise-Stuart, MFH, Old Dominion Hounds, and co-founder of the event; Cathy Murphy, daughter of the late Pat Murphy, longtime Iroquois huntsman ; and Cindy Goff, Claire's grandmother and former member of the Iroquois field. And the cute dog is Bert! /  Betsy Burke Parker photo 

Junior foxhunters and their parents traveled from thirteen states to Lexington, Kentucky, where the Iroquois Hunt hosted the finals of the 2016 Junior North American Field Hunter Championships. Thirty-three hunts participated over the course of the informal season by holding qualifying meets from which the finalists were chosen by mounted judges. In thirteen years, the program has grown steadily in participation and geographically from its modest start involving a few hunts in Virginia.

The program is succeeding because it’s purpose rises above just competition. Founders Douglas Wise, MFH, Old Dominion Hounds (VA) and Iona Pillion from the Blue Ridge Hunt (VA) had a larger dream: bring children to new hunting countries, broaden their hunting perspectives, and open their eyes to the fact that these hunting countries don’t just happen to be there for them by chance, but have been nurtured and conserved for the perpetuation of wildlife, open space, and for those who treasure the natural world.

“We want these kids to know what a conservation easement is,” said Marion Chungo, one of the organizers.

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Juniors

jnafhc claire goff.betsy parkerClaire Goff riding Miss Congeniality was judged 1st Field Champion, 13 and over, of the 2016 Junior North American Field Hunter Championships at the finals hosted by the Iroquois Hunt. With Claire are (l-r) Dr. Jack van Nagell, MFH, host, and President of the MFHA; Marion Chungo, organizer; Douglas Wise-Stuart, MFH, Old Dominion Hounds, and co-founder of the event; Cathy Murphy, daughter of the late Pat Murphy, longtime Iroquois huntsman ; and Cindy Goff, Claire's grandmother and former member of the Iroquois field. And the cute dog is Bert! /  Betsy Burke Parker photo

Junior foxhunters and their parents traveled from thirteen states to Lexington, Kentucky, where the Iroquois Hunt hosted the finals of the 2016 Junior North American Field Hunter Championships. Thirty-three hunts participated over the course of the informal season by holding qualifying meets from which the finalists were chosen by mounted judges. In thirteen years, the program has grown steadily in participation and geographically from its modest start involving a few hunts in Virginia.

The program is succeeding because it’s purpose rises above just competition. Founders Douglas Wise, MFH, Old Dominion Hounds (VA) and Iona Pillion from the Blue Ridge Hunt (VA) had a larger dream: bring children to new hunting countries, broaden their hunting perspectives, and open their eyes to the fact that these hunting countries don’t just happen to be there for them by chance, but have been nurtured and conserved for the perpetuation of wildlife, open space, and for those who treasure the natural world.

“We want these kids to know what a conservation easement is,” said Marion Chungo, one of the organizers.

JNAFHC2016 HilltoppersTop4Hilltopper Division Champion is (2nd from left) Mary Katherine Leveridge of the Iroquois Hunt riding Rio. With Mary Katherine are (l-r) Samantha Homeyer, Old Dominion Hounds; Reserve Champion Cian Yorba, Woodford Hounds; and Grayson Yorba, Woodford Hounds. /  Betsy Burke Parker photo

So, the juniors—more and more of them each year—have fun...and learn. Nineteen-year-old Rachel Wilkoski was one of them until a year ago when she graduated from the junior ranks. She and her family are members of Mr. Stewart’s Cheshire Foxhounds and the Radnor Hunt, both in Pennsylvania. Rachel writes:

“I competed in the  Junior North American Field Hunter Championships for nine years, qualifying and attending the championship every year. Throughout those nine years, I qualified on six different horses and had four different mounts for the championships. This year I was asked to judge the JNAFHC and went to Lexington, Kentucky in that capacity.

“I believe that the JNAFHC is extremely important to the future of foxhunting. This competition teaches our juniors how to become successful foxhunters in all aspects of the sport. It is a big confidence booster. It is so important to allow juniors to have the opportunity to showcase not only their riding, but also their knowledge of hunting, the countryside, the hounds, and hunting etiquette. I think it really is wonderful to step away from the idea that juniors should ride in the back of the field and essentially be seen and not heard. It is so much easier for a junior to be invested and interested in the hounds and the sport of foxhunting when their presence in the hunt field is celebrated and not seen as an inconvenience. In a matter of years, our juniors of today, will be tomorrow’s landowners, subscribers, Masters and hunt staff, but today we need to make it fun for them so that they are still interested in being there tomorrow. I wholeheartedly believe the JNAFHC is the way to do that.

“It is so crucial for juniors to travel to different hunts and watch how different packs work. It is so valuable for them to not only diversify their riding in different country, but also to be able to identify different hound breeds and hunting style. The reason we hunt is because of the hounds, and it is so vital for kids to be able to identify the type of hound in each pack and their traits that will help them successfully navigate the countryside and hunt the quarry properly.

“I grew up hunting with Wes Bennett at the now-disbanded Pickering Hunt. Our country was small and was being overtaken by suburbia I saw how easily natural habitat can be lost, and I understand the importance of land conservation.

“Pickering was a Penn-Marydel pack. I loved watching hounds with such a great voice work every inch of what limited cover they had. As I competed in the JNAFHC I was also able to watch different types of hounds hunt differently. Even though I am a Penn-Marydel girl at heart, I still very much appreciate a big, fast English hound running open country. The JNAFHC really gave me that opportunity to experience hunting everywhere, and that is invaluable to me.

“Being able to fly down to Lexington and judge the JNAFHC was an extremely gratifying experience. After nine years of being on the other side, it was a great feeling to be able to give back to an event that has given me so much. Even though I was judging, it was still such a great learning experience. I had so much fun and met so many great people.

“I was fortunate enough to borrow a fabulous horse for hunting on Saturday and go coyote hunting for the first time, something I have wanted to do for a very long time. It was tough judging all those kids because all of them were kids I would want to hunt with, and they were riding ponies and horses that I would keep in my own barn! I really would like to thank Marion Chungo for giving me the opportunity this year of judging three qualifying meets and the finals, even though I am young and not that far removed from the competition. I want to see the JNAFHC grow and continue so that these kids can continue hunting and become better horsemen, better houndsmen and keep the sport going. I really hope to see these competitors become judges as well, as they age out. Juniors are the future of foxhunting and the future starts with the JNAFHC.”

jnafhcWinner of the whip cracking contest is (center of hay bale) Lee Dozier, Belle Meade Hunt, who can crack his whip equally with both hands! With Lee (right) is runner-up whip cracker Kenley Batts, Red Mountain Foxhounds, who, the next day, was judged 1st Field Champion, 12 and under. Henry Nylen (left) was third.  /  David Traxler photo

It’s surely an arduous task for parents and juniors from far-flung states to gear-up, load-up, and truck themselves and their horses to the finals, but the Iroquois hunt members and Masters—Jerry Miller, Jack van Nagell, and Lilla Mason—gave the juniors a busy and fun-filled experience.

Belle Mead Master Gary Wilkes wrote, “The Iroquois Hunt  honored these juniors by offering the most spectacular parties with wonderful food, dancing, horn blowing contest, whip cracking contest, tours of Thoroughbred farms, stabling at the Kentucky Horse Park, and families staying at wonderful homes.

“Saturday morning, juniors, judges, and members were treated to hunt at Foxtrot Farm, one of Iroquois' hunt fixtures and also where the Field Hunter championship would be held the next day. Foxtrot is a beautiful tobacco and cattle farm with rolling hills, nice coverts, and plenty of open fields and pastures. Jumps were mostly coops and some wide stone walls.

"The farm had several huge, black tobacco barns filled with tobacco plants hanging to be cured. The aroma of the curing leaves filled the air with a pleasant fragrance."

jnafhc.ainsley colgan.Betsy ParkerAinsley Colgan, Old Dominion Hounds was judged Best Turned Out and was 1st Field Reserve Champion, 12 and under. /  Betsy Burke Parker photo

It was announced that the Belle Meade Hunt would host the JNAFHC next year in Thomson, Georgia. If any hunt in the country can successfully follow a weekend of fun as that staged by the Iroquois, it is the Belle Meade!

Here are the results of the 2016 Junior North American Field Hunter Championships:

First Field—13 And Over
Champion Claire Goff - Iroquois Hunt - Miss Congeniality
Reserve Champion - Ashley Johnson - Iroquois Hunt - AJ
3rd - Allison Nicely - Loudoun Fairfax Hunt - Meadow Fox Jubilation
4th - Emma Bittle - Farmington Hunt - Finny
5th - Josa Comstock – Fox River Valley Hounds – El Dorado
6th - Carissa Duncan - Live Oak Hounds - Hootie
7th - Isabelle Powers - Midland Fox Hounds - Bandit
8th - Abigail Murphy - Midland Fox Hounds - Brave Prospect
9th - Ashleigh Currier - Belle Meade Hunt - Luna
10th - Kathleen Maloney - Iroquois Hunt - Millstone

First Field—12 & Under
Champion - Kenley Batts - Red Mountain Foxhounds - Brooks
Reserve Champion - Ainsley Colgan - Old Dominion Hounds - Empress Hermione
3rd -  Sophie Bell - Old Dominion Hounds - Magical Trail
4th - Gabby Sacco - Live Oak Hounds - Rosie
5th - Lydia Eifler - Long Run Hounds - Bugsy
6th - Sarah Leannarda - Carrollton Hounds - PL Zadie
7th - Tate Northrop -  Long Run Hounds - Rudy
8th - Gavin Sacco - Live Oak Hounds - Toffee
9th - Neilly Dozier - Belle Meade Hunt - Kachina
10th - Emalaine Cooper - Belle Meade Hunt - Chance

Hilltoppers
Champion - Mary Katherine Leveridge - Iroquois Hunt - Rio
Reserve Champion - Cian Yorba - Woodford Hounds - Clines Holly Freckle
3rd - Trey Batts - Red Mountain Foxhounds - April Blessing
4th - Grayson Yorba - Woodford Hounds – Gunsmoke
5th - Madison Elliot - Moore County Hounds - Sydney
6th - Bella Hodge - Woodford Hounds - Alexie
7th - Alden Yorba - Woodford Hounds - Prince Leonardo
8th - Lee Dozier - Belle Meade Hunt - Sweet Pea
9th - Liza Sautter - Woodford Hounds - Maisie
10th - Samantha Homeyer - Old Dominion Hounds - Point Blanc

Spirit Award
Miss Cooper Batts, Red Mountain Hounds

Best Turned Out
Miss Ainsley Colgan - Old Dominion

Horn Blowing Winner
Liza Sautter - Woodford

Whip Cracking Winner (32 participants)
Lee Dozier - Belle Meade

jnafhc.liza sautterLiza Sautter, who hunts with both Iroquois and Woodford, won the Horn Blowing contest. /  David Traxler photo

The Junior North American Field Hunter Championships competition is designed for Junior riders, eighteen years old and younger, on fox-hunting ponies or appropriate hunt horses. The emphasis is on the junior rider and their pony or horse. The foxhunting mounts and their proper turnout is important, but suitability of mount for the young rider is of utmost importance. It is the organizers’ goal that the children—the future of our hunts—will come out for a great day of hunting, meet new friends, see new country, realize how important our countryside is, and do their best to protect it for their future generations.

Posted November 14, 2016

 

 

 

 

 

 

Epp Wilson, MFH wrote this piece for members of the Belle Meade Hunt (GA). Foxhunting Life subscriber Howard Benson suggested that Epp’s recommendations deserve wider distribution. We agree. What follows is a sympathetic, timely, and heartfelt message as only Epp can deliver it!

epp and hounds crop.gianniniMaster and huntsman Epp Wilson and the Belle Meade hounds / Lauren Giannini photo

The hound-roading or exercise season is a good time to bring out green horses—or horses otherwise not used to hunting and hounds bolting out of the bushes and dashing at them from behind.

It is a lot easier for green horses to process surprises now, while we are just exercising hounds than it is when we are hunting, and their minds are already overwhelmed with the mental challenges of a coyote chase. Frequently the inexperienced horse is already at wit’s end during a coyote run, so, of course, he is more likely to kick a hound.

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