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Norm Fine's Blog

Win or Lose, Some Good Has Emerged

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norman.karen.farnleySometimes good things eventually emerge from bad moments. Most people around the country don’t really dwell on animal welfare. Representatives of the small, vocal, and well-financed animal rights movement make their strident claims, and the media spreads their gospel. Those who live with animals are not as well organized or as well financed, and their voices—generally—aren’t as well heard. So it has been in New York City, where some good things—honest truths about animals—have finally emerged after a year of bad moments.

Under the guise of animal welfare, hungry real estate developers are seeking to put the carriage horses and their drivers out of business. They see money to be made in developing the horse stabling premises right there in the heart of the city. To that end they contributed large donations to Bill de Blasio’s mayoral campaign last year. It’s been a year of bad moments for truth about animals.

While the battle isn’t yet over, some amazingly beautiful and honest prose has been published in the responsible media setting the record straight on false claims of animal abuse that were initially so persuasive to a misinformed population. And that’s a good thing, because it so seldom happens.

On Monday this week, a New York Times editorial led with: “Here is something the New York City Council can do to end 2014 on a high note. It can vote down Mayor Bill de Blasio’s effort to abolish carriage horses.”

Ten Years of the Hunting Ban in England

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norm DSC0995Liz Callar photoIt’s been ten years now since England’s Hunting Act of 2004 was enacted by the Labour government, and neither side is satisfied, says Stephen Moss in The Guardian.

To give the briefest of recaps, here’s what the law allows. Two hounds may be used to flush a fox to a gun; a pack of hounds may be used to flush a fox to a bird of prey; and/or a pack of hounds may follow a drag.

Most hunts in England and Wales opt for the drag. The problem comes when hounds find the line of a live fox and switch from the drag. At that point, huntsman and staff are supposed to stop hounds. The huntsman says, Easier said than done. The hunt monitor with his video cam rolling says, Not only did you fail to try to stop hounds, you even encouraged your hounds! There’s the rub, and there’s the basis of most of the prosecutions in court. In the end, it all depends on the persuasiveness of the evidence.

Tony Blair, prime minister at the time of the bill’s passage, later wrote that his support of the legislation was a mistake. When David Cameron, a foxhunter himself, became prime minister, he promised a free vote in Parliament aimed at reversing the ban. However, he has not been able to get enough support within his own government’s coalition to give him the confidence to push for such a vote.

Beep-Beep...Attempting to Re-Establish Connection...

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nodh.klm

On Saturday of Opening Meet---traditionally the last Saturday in October for my hunt---the connection between me and you through Foxhunting Life was temporarily interrupted. Instead of coming home with hounds as I had planned, I detoured to the hospital. The good news is that, despite a fractured sacrum, everything is stable, and no surgery is necessary.

I am currently in rehab and making progress. I want to thank all who have called, emailed, and posted good wishes on Facebook. My heart is warmed by your messages.

Despite the week's hiccup in FHL's editorial schedule---now mostly behind us---we expect to maintain our usual twice-monthly e-mailings of FHL WEEK. My goal is to make this temporary stutter as brief as possible---perhaps even unnoticed by most of you!

Posted November 5, 2014

Thoughts on Field Hunter Competitions

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nafhc14.winnerA competent horse and rider, confidently and comfortably crossing the country: what we all aspire to! Laurie Ambrose and Stretch, winning the Theodora A. Randolph Field Hunter Championship in Virginia.  /  Douglas Lees photo

The recently held Theodora A. Randolph Field Hunter Championship in Virginia is a unique competition. It differs from the more usual one-day hunter trial in which foxhunters ride individually over a course of obstacles, often including lead-overs, trot fences, fast gallops, and hold-hards.

In the Theodora A. Randolph Championship format (see Susan Monticelli’s report in separate article), field hunters are observed by mounted judges for several days during a series of actual foxhunts behind different packs of foxhounds. The judges’ task during these hunts is to select those horse/rider combinations they wish to see in a final day of competition. The finals, held each year at Glenwood Park in Middleburg on the morning of the Virginia Fall Races, consist of a mock hunt following a Field Master over a course of obstacles, and then individual tests similar to those in a hunter trial for the final ten or so selected.

While some avid and capable foxhunters believe that foxhunting is not a competitive sport and decline to participate, and while I can appreciate and respect their view, I also see benefits from these competitions. From one aspect, it’s a great value. If you want a hunting holiday in Virginia, you get to hunt with four different packs for an entry fee of not much more than the cost of a single cap at some of these hunts. And parties all week to boot!

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Remembrance

Melvin Poe Dies at Home at Age Ninety-Four

Norman Fine

melvin.90thMelvin Poe at his ninetieth birthday celebration / Douglas Lees photoThe world of American foxhunting lost one of its best-loved and most highly respected personalities with the passing of huntsman Melvin Poe, age ninety-four, on Saturday September 13, 2014. That’s the sad news. The good news is that Melvin was able to ride his horse and hunt his hounds to the very last year of his life.

In foxhunting circles he was referred to simply as Melvin. Everyone knew who you were talking about. He’s been a fixture in North American foxhunting for more than sixty years and a celebrated legend for most of that time. He’s immortalized in a dramatic oil painting by Wally Nall; he made the cover of UK’s Horse and Hound in 1991; he starred in Tom Davenport’s 1979 foxhunting video documentary, Thoughts on Foxhunting, narrated by Alexander Mackay-Smith;  he was the subject for Peter Winant’s wonderful book, Foxhunting with Melvin Poe, The Derrydale Press, 2002; and in 2011 Melvin was inducted, along with his brother Albert, into the Huntsmen's Room at the Museum of Hounds and Hunting in Leesburg, Virginia.

Melvin grew up in the Virginia countryside. He was the boy to whom his friends turned to identify trees, birds, and animal tracks. His father, uncles, and brothers were all enthusiastic hound breeders and hunters. Melvin and his contemporaries represent a vanishing breed of countryman who knew the woodlands intimately and all that grew and thrived therein. And baseball! Melvin and his brothers loved baseball and participated in organized league play into their adult years.

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