Fox Hunting Life with Horse and Hound

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Blue Ridge Hunt

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The Blue Ridge Hunt was organized in 1888, but this gently rolling grassland in the Valley of the Shenandoah echoed to the music of hounds, the huntsman’s horn, and the rhythm of galloping horses long before that time. A youthful George Washington regularly followed the hounds of his friend and employer Thomas, sixth Lord Fairfax nearly three hundred years ago over the very same hills and fields and along the same twists and turns of the Shenandoah River as do the Blue Ridge hounds today.

Website:  www.blueridgehunt.org

jenny Irwin on Jan 7 20Selfie by hard riding Jenny Irwin, who rarely misses a day’s sport.

A winter storm blanketed the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia on a hunting day for the Blue Ridge Hunt. The gently falling snow quietly covered the drabness of the frost-killed rolling fields and bare trees. It also produced rosy cheeks and a soft, white covering upon those hardy souls who embraced the temporary beauty of a wintry day in the woods and fields.

Posted January 26, 2020

cb19Twelve of the seventeen Cleveland Bay purebreds and crosses pose at the annual Cleveland Bay reunion before Farnley house in White Post, Virginia.  /  Karen Kandra photo

Cleveland Bay owners, breeders, and fanciers were privileged to travel back in time to recreate the heyday of this handsome, versatile, yet endangered breed of equine on November 16, 2019. The reunion combined with a meeting of the Blue Ridge Hunt is so appropriate at Farnley Farm in White Post, Virginia.

In the 1930s and 1940s the late Alexander Mackay-Smith bred both pure Cleveland Bay horses and partbreds at Farnley for use as field hunters. He remains the only North American breeder to have exported a stallion back to the UK from whence the breed originated. His stallion, Farnley Exchange, still appears in the pedigrees of most Cleveland Bays living in the world today.

Mackay-Smith’s daughter, Hetty Mackay-Smith Abeles, and her family welcomed the Blue Ridge Hunt subscribers, guests, and seventeen purebred and partbred Cleveland Bays to Farnley for the annual event. Mackay-Smith was a Master of Blue Ridge in the mid-twentieth century. Mrs Abeles and her family continue to breed their well-known Farnley Ponies there, based on bloodlines started and proven as early as the 1930s.

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andy bozdan foot huntingAndy Bozdan hunting the Camargo foxhounds on foot over wet country.

The author, as we reported in our last issue, is the new huntsman at the Camargo Hunt (OH). During his career, Andy Bozdan has served as huntsman in England, Australia, and the U.S. Recently, he’s been whipping-in at the Blue Ridge Hunt (VA). Foxhunting Life asked Andy what it’s like to carry the horn again and be The Man in Front!

So, after a couple of seasons whipping-in to Graham Buston at Blue Ridge Hunt, I took up the horn again at the Carmargo Hunt in Kentucky and Ohio. I can remember one or two of my friends jokingly asking if I’d remember how to blow the horn, or get on the right side of the horse, etc. But it is, for sure, very different when you take on a pack and suddenly ... your it!

Everything becomes your responsibility, and very quickly you have to make decisions on the care of the hounds, how best to hunt the country, and plan ahead with a breeding program. To be honest I’ve been so busy since I arrived here that I have barely had time to stop and think!

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steve farrin.amwell valley.pa natl2013Huntsman Steve Farrin, parading Amwell Valley hounds at the Pennsylvania National Horse Show (2013).

It’s time for our annual report on the recent moves of huntsmen across North America. The huntsman is my hero. From the time we mount up and for the few hours that follow, it is he or she most directly responsible for the day’s sport. How the huntsman has bred, trained, deployed, and communicated with his troops—the hounds—has everything to do with the satisfaction of our day in the field.

The moves have been numerous this season, and, in a two cases, we have experienced whippers-in finally achieving their dream of a pack of their own to hunt. We’ll catch up with Alasdair Storer, Andrew Bozdan, Kathryn Butler, Stephen Farrin, Danny Kerr, Emily Melton, and Timothy Michel.

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canadian17.toronto north yorks blue ridge wentworthToronto and North York's Blue Ridge Wentworth 2015 (Mendip Farmers Wentworth 2011 ex Mendip Farmers Stylish 2011) is Grand Champion of Show -- again -- at Canadian Hound Show.  /   Denya Massey Clarke photo

The sixty-fifth annual Canadian Foxhound Show was hosted by the London Hunt (ON) on Saturday, June 8, 2019.

Giving the younger foxhounds a fighting chance for glory, Toronto and North York Hunt (ON) entered their Blue Ridge Wentworth 2015, a veteran of four seasons of hunting, only in the class for Stallion Hounds. That was enough for Wentworth, though. After winning that class, he vanquished all he met on his way to being judged Grand Champion of Show at Canada for the second time since 2017. This was his third Grand Championship since Bryn Mawr in 2016. Wentworth has an interesting history both in the field and on the flags.

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