Foxhunting Life with Horse and Hound



Scottish National Party Delays Attempt to Relax Hunting Ban


In a reversal of expectations, the Scottish National Party (SNP) has threatened to oppose the pro-hunting effort to relax a key provision of the Hunting Act in England. The SNP move appears to doom chances of passage.

As Foxhunting Life reported last week, British Prime Minister David Cameron, a former foxhunter, decided not to test the Hunting Act with a free vote in Parliament for a total reversal—an effort that would consume much Parliamentary time with questionable chance of success—but to attempt a statutory change instead. Cameron's proposal would relax a key provision of the Act and consume only ninety minutes of Parliamentary time before a vote.

Pro-hunting factions believed they had a chance of success, having been assured by SNP Leader Nicola Sturgeon that the party would refrain from voting since it was an English issue. However, pressure from the party's anti-hunting constituents in Scotland persuaded SNP MPs to announce their readiness to participate in the vote and defeat the bill. The SNP reversal is somewhat surprising in that the statutory change sought by Cameron would, if passed, bring the foxhunting laws in England more in line with those in Scotland.

In the wake of the SNP turnabout, Cameron will delay this week's planned introduction of his proposal to amend the Hunting Act. The ramifications of pursuing his original course now transcend the relatively unimportant (to most) subject of foxhunting and enter the more explosive realm of Scottish independence. If Cameron goes ahead with the vote, and if SNP MPs vote with the Labour Party as threatened, a new precedent of SNP votes on purely English matters will be set, and renewed pressure could arise on fragile Scottish-English unity.  

Read more details in The Guardian article by Rowena Mason and Libby Brooks and the more recent AP report.

Posted July 14, 2015
Updated July 15, 2015

Cleveland Bay Day in Maryland to Hack, School, Visit


Cleveland Bays and their owners will have a day together to trail ride, school over fences cross country or in a large sand ring, or on the flat in a dressage arena, or just hang out and chat with other Cleveland bay enthusiasts.

The event will be held Sunday, July 19, 2015 at Woodstock Equestrian Park, Route 28, Poolesville, Maryland, starting at 9:00 am with lunch at about noon. Arrive when you can, and stay as long as you like. The event is free, but you are asked to bring a dish and your own beverage for the potluck lunch.

There is a water complex, some small ditches, and a selection of varied cross-country jumps with the majority at beginner novice or novice level. If you plan to school cross country, please bring a protective vest.

The wooded trails are even suitable for carriages. Non-Cleveland Bay horses and friends are welcome as well.

Woodstock Equestrian Park is just slightly beyond the intersection of Route 28 and Route 109, heading toward Dickerson. Ample trailer parking is available.

For more information or to RSVP, contact Marcia Brody (

Posted July 13, 2015

A Plan to Modify England's Hunting Act


With Prime Minister David Cameron now leading a majority government, pro-hunting Conservatives are looking to him to make good on his pledge to bring a free vote to the floor in Parliament to repeal the despised Hunting Act of 2002. Despite his majority, however, Cameron is loath to risk a free vote. Too many members of his own party, not to mention the Liberal opposition, have pledged to oppose him on the issue. But the natives are restless, and he must do something.

A potential solution has been announced that would, rather than produce a protracted battle for repeal, require only a statutory change in the existing law. This approach would involve only ninety minutes of debate as opposed to weeks.

The proposal, if passed, will make it legal once again to use a full pack—as many hounds as deemed necessary for wildlife management—to flush a fox to a gun, rather than the current limit of only two hounds. This, pro-hunters will argue, will help farmers who need predation control and will also help sick and mangy foxes to a speedier and kinder demise. Such a change will also bring the English Hunting Act more in line with Scottish law, thus rendering the plan less objectionable to members of the Scottish National Party than would an outright attempt to reverse the Act.

Cameron’s plan is to put the idea to the Conservative party this week. If approved, the statutory instrument could be debated in Parliament as early as next week.

Click for more details in Melissa Kite’s article in The Spectator.

Posted July 8, 2015

Rachel Gray, Whipper-In, Former Jockey, Killed in Motorcycle Accident


rachel grayDouglas Lees photoRachel Lynne Gray, 31, died early Thursday morning, June 25, 2015, at the scene of a motorcycle accident around midnight.

Born in Warrenton, Virginia, Rachel was a skilled horsewoman. She whipped-in to her husband, Spencer Allen, huntsman of the Piedmont Fox Hounds (VA), and she was a former jockey at Charles Town and other racetracks.

She is survived by her parents—her father, Butch Gray, is a former Piedmont huntsman—three children, four sisters, and extended family and friends.

A celebration of her life will be held on Wednesday, July 1, 2015 at 12 pm at Trinity Episcopal Church in Upperville. Interment to follow at Bright View Cemetery, Warrenton, with a reception from 3-6 pm at Black Horse Inn.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to a Memorial Fund for the benefit of her children. Details to follow.

Click for more information provided by the Moser Funeral Home.

Posted June 29, 2015

Scientists Claim Thoroughbreds Are Running Faster


For the past thirty years, conventional wisdom has held that horses have attained their maximum speed. Now, researchers at the University of Exeter in England claim that racehorses are running faster.

Looking at data from more than 616,000 races run by more than 70,000 horses, these scientists have found the winning speeds greatly improved, particularly over the shorter distances.

The big question, according to a professor at Exeter is whether the improvement is a result of breeding or technical changes. In the early 1900s, the speed of horses improved when jockeys shortened their stirrups and got out of the saddle. Speed improved again in the 1970s and 1980s when jockeys shortened their stirrups still further.

How now to evaluate the effects of improved vet care, better draining of track surfaces, and hi-tech track surfaces that absorb energy from the horse’s footfalls and return a portion of that energy back to the horse in springiness?

Click for more details in the complete article.

Posted June 26, 2015

Cleveland Bays Bring Real Field Hunters to Upperville


If you want to see real field hunters at the Upperville Horse Show, the Cleveland Bay Hunter Division is for you. More than twenty-five percent of the entries in that division have seen service in the hunting field. Another twenty-five percent or so of the Cleveland Bay entries are still too young for the field, and will compete in the in-hand classes.

The Cleveland Bay Hunter Division will be held on Thursday afternoon in the Main Hunter Ring, immediately following the Adult Amateur Classic. The classes could begin as early as 1:30 pm.

There are about thirty entries in the division, eleven of those being purebreds. Anyone interested in the breed is encouraged to come, Upperville being the single most important showcase for the breed in North America.

The Cleveland Bay is said to be England’s oldest breed of horse. As the name suggests, the breed originated in the Cleveland region of the northeastern part of that country. Descendant mares of the so-called Chapman horses—pack horses bred by the monks at the monasteries in the Middle Ages—were crossed in the mid-seventeenth century with imported barb stallions for both pack and harness use. The Chapmans were the foundation mares of the Cleveland Bays.

In the eighteenth century, these useful Chapman-barb crosses were crossed with Thoroughbreds to increase their speed under harness. The resulting crosses became known as the Yorkshire Coach Horse—tall, elegant, and a favorite of royalty and the well-to-do. We know these horses today as the Cleveland Bay.

Always bay in color, the Cleveland Bay is intelligent, versatile, sensible, bold, and honest. Because it has a strong character coupled with a sensitive temperament, it can be ruined by insensitive handling early in its schooling.

The Cleveland Bay breeds true to type (reproduces with consistency), and with its good substance and free movement, makes an excellent cross with the Thoroughbred.

Cleveland Bay enthusiasts will host tailgate refreshments in the parking area immediately following the classes—a good opportunity for anyone interested in learning more about this breed to meet owners and breeders.

Posted June 3, 2015

Janet Hitchen Estate Sale Scheduled


Items from the estate of Janet Hitchen will be available for purchase at her home, 102 Tilthammer Mill Road, Boyce, Virginia 22626 from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm, Friday and Saturday, June 12 and 13, 2015. Items to be sold include garden art, birdhouses, metal art, old country worktable, hand painted screen, unique chests, chairs, tables, lamps, paintings, and, of course, Janet’s sporting photographs.

Posted June 1, 2015

Dr. Jock Tate Is New Master at Moore County


The Moore County Hounds (NC) has announced the appointment of Dr. Jock Tate as a new Master of the hunt. Jock, a veterinarian, has been a member of Moore County for more than a half century. He was awarded his colors back in 1959 by Pappy and Ginnie Moss, the hunt’s founders.

Jock is described as a consummate horseman who has been involved in equine activities both personally and professionally. On a personal level he has excelled in many areas, including receiving the AHSA high score second year hunter 1969, twenty-two championships or reserve championships, and in the 1970s he trained winning race horses. Professionally, he has spent his entire adult life dedicated to equine medicine. He began at the University of Pennsylvania where he was a surgery instructor and lecturer, and in 1982 he moved to NCSU College of Veterinary Medicine where he is a Full Professor. Over the years he has received numerous honors, published many papers, and successfully obtained grants for research in the field of equine medicine.

According to the hunt’s press release, Jock’s long history with and support of the Moore County Hounds, along with his dedication to the preservation of foxhunting and equine sports in general, make him an ideal choice for Master. Dr. Tate joins current Masters Dick Webb (1961), Mrs. Cameron Sadler (2003), Mrs. M. Nixon Ellis (2009), Michael Russell (2009), and David Carter (2014) in the Mastership.

Moore County hunts the fox and coyote with Penn-Marydel foxhounds mostly in the fabulous Walthour-Moss Foundation, a natural paradise for both wildlife and horsemen encompassing more than four thousand acres in the Sandhills of North Carolina and established by hunt founders Pappy and Ginnie Moss.

Posted May 17, 2015

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