Fox Hunting Life with Horse and Hound

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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/

judith onparker the perfectJudith on Parker, the Perfect

With the close of the recent hunting season, I’m feeling the need for some deep reflection since I fell six times. That’s right—six times—this season! Read on, as I evaluate each fall and its root cause.

Fall # 1: I was behind Ken Trogden when he and his horse, Moseby, took a bad jump over the coop into Gentlemen’s Hill. Ken hit the ground on landing and broke his wrist. My horse, Parker, and I were landing after jumping the coop just as Ken hit the ground and his air vest deployed. Parker spun at the sight and sound. I almost stuck it but, in the end, had to bail. When I ask myself how this ride went, I can hear Barbara Lee, one of my riding instructors, in my head, “You were following too close!” Okay. Mea Culpa.
HORSE-0 RIDER-1

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Hunt Reports

judith onparker the perfectJudith on Parker, the Perfect

With the close of the recent hunting season, I’m feeling the need for some deep reflection since I fell six times. That’s right—six times—this season! Read on, as I evaluate each fall and its root cause.

Fall # 1: I was behind Ken Trogden when he and his horse, Moseby, took a bad jump over the coop into Gentlemen’s Hill. Ken hit the ground on landing and broke his wrist. My horse, Parker, and I were landing after jumping the coop just as Ken hit the ground and his air vest deployed. Parker spun at the sight and sound. I almost stuck it but, in the end, had to bail. When I ask myself how this ride went, I can hear Barbara Lee, one of my riding instructors, in my head, “You were following too close!” Okay. Mea Culpa.
HORSE-0 RIDER-1

Judith on Tucker by Allison HowellJudith on Tucker / Allison Howell photo

Fall # 2: My horse, Tucker, and I were jumping the middle coop in the fence line between the Puppy Pond and the BRK house, when Tucker paused mid-lift. Rather than push off with his back feet, he seemed to just drag them forward, into the coop. His mid-air pause rocked me forward slightly, and the abrupt halt from his hind feet crashing into the coop sent me forward over his shoulder and tumbling to the ground on the landing side of the coop. Tucker had to struggle a bit to get his back feet disentangled from the gaping holes he made in the base of the coop. He then kicked them over to join his front end and me on the landing side, at which point I examined him and found only minor scratches. I remounted and, with my friend Kayleigh Wilcher’s encouragement, took some easy coops next to make sure Tucker was alright. He was, so we rejoined the field and finished the hunt.

 

 

 

Kayleigh and others who witnessed our crash were as lost as I was for an explanation. One speculated that shadows confused Tucker. I’ve got nothing else, so I’ll go with that.
HORSE-0 RIDER-1 SHADOWS-1

Judith on HobbesJudith on Hobbes

Fall #3: I was hilltopping on my beloved Hobbes this day. Field Master Leonard Loudermilk stopped the group at the Gentleman’s Hill gate to wait for a road whip to open it for us to cross Stagecoach Road. Saundra Maxwell, car following that day, came along directly to open the gate. None of us, most especially Saundra and Hobbes, were aware that the gate was actually off the top hinge. Saundra had the gate open about one-quarter of the way when the top tilted inward and the gate fell to the earth, pulling poor Saundra down with it! As Saundra face-planted on top of the gate (ouch!), Hobbes spun and lunged as quick as a cat, leaving me mid-air. Eyewitness accounts from Ray Walters and Master Gary Wilkes describe my fall like this: I hung in mid-air briefly, just like Wile E. Coyote beyond a cliff’s edge, eyes blinking (“doink” “doink”) in confusion, then plummeted downward with legs spread-eagle skyward, into a fluffy patch of tall grass. They gave me a “10” and I gave Master Charlie Lewis another $20 cropper fee. Who’s to blame is a mystery to me.
HORSE-0 RIDER-1 SHADOWS-1 WHOEVER LEFT THE GATE OFF ITS HINGE-1

Fall #4: It was Hobbes’ turn in the rotation on this fateful day. Fairly early in the hunt we crossed a deep, V-shaped gully with boggy, slick mud on both sides, causing horses to slide down in and have to scramble out. Hobbes lunged up the far side then threw a huge buck when he reached the top. The lurch put me off balance, and the buck sent me careening—WHAM! My bell was rung.

Hobbes had never bucked like that before. I always expect him to do his little “rocking horse” bucks with the first gallop of a ride, but I had no reason to expect a bronco stunt like that! I had him checked out shortly thereafter and determined that pain in his withers was probably the reason why he bucked. So then I had his saddle checked. Saddle checked out fine but it was determined I was riding him in a half pad that was too small, thus creating pressure on his withers. So this fall was either a tack issue, or rider error for not knowing about said tack issue. I think I’ve suffered enough, so I’m going to blame this fall on the tack!
HORSE-0 RIDER-1 SHADOWS-1 WHOEVER LEFT THE GATE OFF ITS HINGE-1 TACK-1

 

Fall #5: My mare, Parker, is perfect. And by “perfect,” I mean she only has two flaws, which is as close to perfect as any horse can get. I mean, no horse has zero flaws, right? Parker’s flaws are 1) yanking the reins out of my hands and 2) she hates anything in her face. Parker will dodge to avoid branches, flying dirt, swishing tails, and anything of the sort that she views as a risk to her beautiful face. She is the easiest ride, except for the occasional dodging, and I generally know when to expect it and ride accordingly.

This fall happened when we were trotting up a trail in the vicinity of Deacon’s Coop and had to duck under some cedar limbs. I leaned down next to Parker’s neck. All she had to do was duck her head just a little bit and we both would have been clear of the limbs...but she didn’t. Instead, she stopped and spun away from the tree leaving me, once again, dangling mid-air like Wile E. Coyote, before dropping to the ground below. Ground riddled with cedar roots, by the way. So whose fault was this one? Well, it can’t be Parker’s fault, because she’s perfect, so I’m going to have to blame it on the low limbs.
HORSE-0 RIDER-1 SHADOWS-1 WHOEVER LEFT THE GATE OFF ITS HINGE-1 TACK-1 TREE LIMBS-1

 

Judith on Flyer with Epp Wilson MFH by Allison HowellJudith on Flyer with Epp Wilson, MFH / Allison Howell photo

Fall #6: I took ten days off between fall #4 and fall #5, because fall #4 gave me a concussion, a minor detail I failed to mention earlier. Fall #5 actually occurred during my first time back after said concussion...UGH! Fall #6 happened during my second time out after the concussion. Three consecutive rides with falls...double...no, triple UGH! This time I was on Flyer and, even though he’s a wonderful jumper, I rode with the hilltoppers in an effort to save myself from further injury. The chase took us out of the jumping country, so Master and huntsman (and husband) Epp Wilson invited me to ride up with him. I love riding in his pocket, so of course I accepted.

We came out of the woods in the vicinity of the Old Red Barn and turned left onto the firebreak road around the clear cut beyond Quaker Cemetery. We were galloping after hounds and came upon a tree that had fallen across the firebreak road. It was a dead cedar, with naked branches giving the obstacle substantial height and depth. Epp’s Trebajo sailed over it beautifully. My brain, perhaps still operating at less than full capacity due to the concussion, was looking for a way around. Flyer, however, had other plans, and absolutely rocketed up and over that tree, taking both a long and high line, steeplechase style. It happened so fast, or my brain was moving so slowly, or maybe both, that I got left behind. It was another Wile E. Coyote moment for me, and I’m putting this one on Epp. Ha ha! Just kidding.
HORSE-0 RIDER-2 SHADOWS-1 WHOEVER LEFT THE GATE OFF ITS HINGE-1 TACK-1 TREE LIMBS-1

I guess the adage, “It’s never the horse’s fault,” is true!

Posted March 23, 2020

BMHpt2020.staffhounds.howellComing through the pecan grove at the Larry Knox summer house / Allison Howell photo

Three foxhounds from the Shawnee Hounds (IL) finished among the overall top ten scorers (out of twenty-four hounds that completed the trials) propelling Shawnee to first place among the six other competing hunts. Following Shawnee, in order of finish, were Hillsboro Hounds (TN) second and Tennessee Valley Hunt (TN) third. Other competing hunts were Belle Meade Hunt (GA), Midland Foxhounds (GA), Mission Valley Hunt Club (KS), and Bull Run Hunt (VA). The trials were hosted by Belle Meade in their Thomson, Georgia country on January 17-18, 2020.

Shawnee supporters were ecstatic as the results were announced. Not bad for first-season huntsman Kalie Wallace! Shawnee Master and former huntsman Dr. Mark Smith, who has been the brains behind the hunt’s breeding program, handed the horn over to Kalie at the start of this season.

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wheel whip laura fullerTyler Johnson, Laura Fuller, and a "somewhat-official" hound truck

My daughter, Savannah, started riding with Belle Meade Hunt (GA) eight years ago at the age of twelve. I am not a rider. Yes, I have ridden (slowly, on a trail). Riding is her passion, not mine.

However, I am not a mom that wanted to just drop her kid off with a hug and a kiss and a “Have fun and be careful!” So, I started hitching rides with the kennelman in the old hound truck, or in the back of Unit One (another old pickup truck with not very comfortable tally-ho benches in the truck bed), or with pretty much anyone that would take pity and let me ride along.

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keesee 1Huntsman Johnny and whipper-in Lelani Gray with the Hillsboro Hounds  /   Kevin Keesee photo

Two weeks, 3,700 miles, eight hunting days, six different hunts, too many friends to count, one hellova good time....

What do you do when you are stuck in the cold winter weather of Northern Illinois and have not been hunting for two months? A road trip! Lucky for me, and all of us, foxhunting is a small but welcoming world. While there are a variety of ways to hunt, we all welcome fellow fox hunters to join us, and, as Jorrocks said, "Tell me a man's a fox-hunter, and I loves him at once."

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