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.
"I’d spent several minutes trying to describe my job as huntsman to a friend" recalled Ivan Dowling, the forty-two-year-old recently retired huntsman for Mr. Stewart’s Cheshire Foxhounds (PA). “The friend looked at me and said, ‘Ivan, you mean you’re the guy on the place mat?’”
Dowling cringed a bit and smiled, “Yea, that’s me.”
As we approach the 2016/2017 season, Foxhunting Life reports on recent huntsmen moves around the hunting countries.
Ivan Dowling has retired from hunting Mr. Stewart’s Cheshire Foxhounds (PA). After ten seasons (and before that as first whipper-in), this comes as a major change at Cheshire because the Irish-born Dowling was a key figure in implementing a bold, highly unusual, and successful hound breeding program there. With Dowling’s departure, Cheshire loses a professional whipper-in as well—Stephanie Boyer—who will wed Dowling in September.
Barry Magner is the new Cheshire huntsman. Irish-born Magner’s professional career includes whipping-in at the United Foxhounds (IRE) and a stint whipping-in in England. In the U.S., Magner whipped-in to the Howard County-Iron Bridge Hounds (MD) for a season and became huntsman there in 2007 upon Allen Forney's retirement. He came to Virginia as huntsman for the Middelburg Hunt where he remained for five years until leaving two years ago for Australia. Back in the U.S., Magner joined the Cheshire as professional whipper-in last season and was named huntsman upon Dowling’s retirement.
“I can’t take credit,” admits Midland huntsman Ken George, “because I didn’t breed him, but he’s one of a kind!”
A sober demon could be considered a contradiction in terms, but Ken describes Midland Striker 2015 as a foxhound possessing surprisingly contradictory traits. The handsome Crossbred dog hound was judged Grand Champion of Show at the tenth annual Southern Hound Show on April 9, 2016 at Live Oak Plantation in Monticello, Florida.
“The whole litter is fantastic,” continued Ken. “As an unentered hound last season, Striker was in on ten kills. He’s always right there.
Huntsmen sometimes worry about a first-year hound being too precocious. Often, by the second or third year, such hounds begin to think too much of themselves as individuals to fit in as good team members of the pack. Ken’s not worried about Striker in that way.
The Irish Hunter: An Exceptional Horse Across Any Country includes a portfolio of some five hundred photographic images taken at more than sixty hunts by photo/journalist Noel Mullins in his travels in Ireland and abroad over the last twenty years. More than two hundred of the images illustrate the exceptional jumping ability of this marvellous horse tackling a wide variety of natural cross country obstacles such as stone walls, ditches, hedges, streams, and double banks as well as man-made obstacles such as gates, concrete railings, metal barriers, wire, pallets, and even the bed post and church pew that one might occasionally come across hunting in the Irish countryside!
In hunting fields in North America, Mullins has photographed the Irish Hunter out with the Green Spring Valley, Genesee Valley, Orange County, Mr Stewart's Cheshire, Lowcountry, and Palm Beach Hounds.
In his Introduction the author looks at how horses originated in Ireland from wild horses 28,000 years ago to domesticated horses circa 2,400 BC, and some of the various breeds that graced the Irish countryside since, such as the Irish Hobby, the Garraun, Donegal, Cushendall, Rathlin, and the Kerry Bog Pony. Then there’s the Irish Draught Horse, the Connemara Pony and the Thoroughbred, whose offspring give rise to what we know today as the Irish Hunter, also known as the Irish Draught Cross and the Irish Sport Horse.