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spencer allen crop smallHuntsman Spencer Allen / Douglas Lees photo

Huntsman Spencer Allen has gone through a rocky time in the past couple of years. He’s been forced to consider other options for his future, but he knows in his heart what he loves the most—working with and hunting foxhounds. And this is why he’s so happy to be in Monticello, Florida at Marty and Daphne Wood’s unparalleled establishment as huntsman for the Live Oak Hounds.

After serving six years in the Marine Corps, including a tour in Iraq, Allen began as an amateur whipper-in at the Bull Run Hunt (VA). Two seasons later he turned professional and moved to the Piedmont Fox Hounds (VA), serving four seasons as first whipper-in to huntsman Richard Roberts. Allen found himself working with a talented and attractive whipper-in, Rachel Gray, who also happened to be the daughter of the previous huntsman, Butch Gray. Spencer and Rachel were married, and in 2010 Spencer was named huntsman at Piedmont. He hunted the Piedmont hounds for five seasons, showing excellent sport, but trouble followed.

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spencer allen crop smallHuntsman Spencer Allen / Douglas Lees photo

Huntsman Spencer Allen has gone through a rocky time in the past couple of years. He’s been forced to consider other options for his future, but he knows in his heart what he loves the most—working with and hunting foxhounds. And this is why he’s so happy to be in Monticello, Florida at Marty and Daphne Wood’s unparalleled establishment as huntsman for the Live Oak Hounds.

After serving six years in the Marine Corps, including a tour in Iraq, Allen began as an amateur whipper-in at the Bull Run Hunt (VA). Two seasons later he turned professional and moved to the Piedmont Fox Hounds (VA), serving four seasons as first whipper-in to huntsman Richard Roberts. Allen found himself working with a talented and attractive whipper-in, Rachel Gray, who also happened to be the daughter of the previous huntsman, Butch Gray. Spencer and Rachel were married, and in 2010 Spencer was named huntsman at Piedmont. He hunted the Piedmont hounds for five seasons, showing excellent sport, but trouble followed.

On June 25, 2015, Rachel, mother of three children, was killed in a motorcycle accident at the age of thirty-one. The Piedmont Masters had also decided to replace Allen as huntsman for the following season, so there he was without a job and without a mother for his children.

He went back to Bull Run for the 2015/2016 season as kennel huntsman under Charles Montgomery, who had been the longtime huntsman at the Live Oak Hounds. It was a long drive from Bull Run to be with his children, and it was a tough year for Allen. He considered other avenues for his life, but couldn’t shake his love for working with hounds.

“I came to realize with all my soul,” said Allen, “that this is all I want to do. However, I can’t do it if my kids might suffer.”

The circular connections in foxhunting are one of the queer things about our wonderful sport. In addition to the Charles Montgomery connection to Live Oak, the Piedmont Masters and the Woods at Live Oak are close, and Allen’s departure at Piedmont was accomplished with strong loyalty and respect remaining between both parties at separation. Also, Allen and the Woods had been in touch all through the latter half of his final season with Piedmont over another affair altogether that speaks further to Allen’s love for foxhounds.

It began with two young foxhounds from Live Oak becoming frightened and escaping their staff while at the Virginia Foxhound Show at Morven Park in Leesburg in 2014. One hound was soon recaptured, but the other, Live Oak Charter, embarked on an odyssey across two major highways and perhaps twenty miles as the crow flies, winding up finally in Orange County hunting territory in The Plains, Virginia. Charter was malnourished and hurt, but he wouldn’t allow himself to be approached by any humans. Spencer Allen took the lead in scouting the area where Charter had been seen, bringing food regularly, and updating a highly concerned Daphne Wood periodically. After nearly five months living off the country and on what Allen and other volunteers provided, Charter was finally captured, and, sitting with Allen in the back seat of the car, was taken to the vet for treatment.

Allen was hardly a stranger to Marty Wood then when they met for dinner at the MFHA Staff Seminar last April to discuss the future. As a result of that meeting, Allen finds himself at a foxhunting establishment unsurpassed by any in North America in terms of facilities, and working for a hunt notable for the capability and longevity of so many staff members. He expresses enthusiasm in a continuous stream that this reporter couldn’t keep up with.

“The Woods are very good with their staff,” Allen told me.

“I love the hunting country. It’s beautiful and so open. Being in the south, I was surprised at how open it is.

“The kennels are everything you could want—efficient and easy to work in. The whole operation runs like a well-oiled machine. Everyone has a clear role and knows just what they’re responsible for. And everyone is fully supportive of the other...helps each other. There’s a real family dynamic here. Being the new guy I wasn’t sure what to expect, but everyone has been nothing but supportive to me.”

“The hounds are wonderful, and they have been very, very well-handled for a long time by very, very good people. I’m following Charles Montgomery and Dale Barnett, who has been here for so many years. I have some big shoes to fill.”

Posted July 12, 2016

marty woodkleckcropC. Martin Wood, III, MFH / Nancy Kleck photoFoxhounds weren’t the only newsmakers at the Virginia Foxhound Show. A few people were worth noting as well!

Huntsmen’s Room
Three individuals were introduced for induction into the Huntsmen’s Room of the Museum of Hounds and Hunting in ceremonies on Saturday evening. Before dinner under the tent, Jake Carle, ex-MFH, spoke eloquently, reverently, and at the right times humorously about the three men who have hunted hounds with distinction for many years: C. Martin Wood, III, MFH, Live Oak Hounds (FL), G. Marvin Beeman, MFH, Arapaho Hunt (CO), and the late Jim Atkins who hunted hounds for the Piedmont Fox Hounds, Old Dominion Hounds, and the Warrenton Hunt, all in Virginia.

marvin beeman  jim atkins2
G. Marvin Beeman, MFH                    Huntsman Jim Atkins

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fort leavenworth vixenFort Leavenworth Vixen, Grand Champion of Show, handled by Stephanie Wilcox Carter, MFH and huntsman. Judge Vincent Tartaglia is standing (middle). /  Angela Fain photo

Last year was the boys’ year. This year the Crossbred female, Fort Leavenworth Vixen 2013, evened the score with her littermate Valor by winning the Grand Championship at the Central States Hound Show.

Vixen is a speckled, mostly white tricolor by Brazos Valley Baxter ‘08 out of Fort Leavenworth Piper ‘07. American and Crossbred bloodlines are predominantly from Fort Leavenworth Hunt (KS), Brazos Valley Hounds (TX), and the Piedmont Fox Hounds (VA). The most recent contribution of pure English blood to this lovely Crossbred was from the Arapahoe Hunt kennels (CO), three generations back.

Stephanie Wilcox Carter, MFH and huntsman of the Fort Leavenworth pack describes Vixen as conformationally correct, happy, and unflappable.

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myopia gammell.headdon.nature of light photogMyopia Gammell '12, a proud son of Potomac Jefferson '05, shown by huntsman Philip Headdon, was judged Grand Champion of the 2016 New England Hound Show. / Photo by Nature of Light Photography

Myopia Gammell 2012 is the second foxhound this season carrying the blood of the inimitable Potomac Jefferson to be named a Grand Champion of Show, this at the New England Hound Show held on Sunday, May 1, 2016.

Gammell was bred by now-retired huntsman Larry Pitts at Potomac, and drafted unentered to huntsman Tony Gammell at the Keswick Hunt (VA) in exchange for another breeding. Tony in turn drafted the still unentered pup to his pal, Brian Kiely, then huntsman at the Myopia Hunt (MA), who named the hound for Tony. Brian, of course, is now huntsman at Potomac, so that completes another circle, entirely!

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piedmont16.opentimber.portrait.leesAt the finish Dakota Slew (Mark Beecher up in solid blue cap) holds off Drift Society (Connor Hankin) for a third consecutive Open Timber win at Piedmont. /  Douglas Lees photo

The Open Timber course at Piedmont on Saturday, March 26th, was a happy hunting ground once again for Dakota Slew. Ridden this year by Mark Beecher, the brown gelding captured his third Open Timber Race in as many years over the Piedmont course for owner Magalen Bryant who took home the Rokeby Bowl yet again. He moved patiently up to first by the last fence and held off a hard challenge by Drift Society in the stretch to win by a neck. The Richard Valentine-trained Dakota Slew was the Leading Timber Horse in Virginia in 2015.

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