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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Horses

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.

Blue Ridge Hunt Masters, staff, and hounds set the scene for a fantastic day of hunting through the fields at Farnley and neighboring properties. The Mid-Atlantic Cleveland Bay Network started its annual foxhunting reunion for Cleveland Bay horses in 2009 near Frederick, Maryland with the New Market–Middletown Valley Hounds. Each year, approximately twenty of these grand horses gather to celebrate their heritage. This year foxhunters traveled from Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina to participate. Nine of the Cleveland Bays were new to this annual celebration of the breed.

cb19.bustonsBlue Ridge huntsman Graham Buston and whipper-in Cheri Buston showed excellent sport to the field this day. / Karen Kandra photo

Cleveland Bays have been in America since the late 1700s when Lord Dunmore, the last Colonial Governor of Virginia, brought one of his Cleveland Bay horses from England. The year 1820 marked the first commercial importation of a Cleveland Bay stallion upon the arrival of Exile at John Carroll’s estate south of Frederick, Maryland. In the 1850s, Col. Dulany, MFH of the Piedmont Fox Hounds, imported his noted Cleveland Bay stallion Scrivington to Welbourne in Upperville, Virginia. Dulany inaugurated the Upperville Horse Show to showcase his offspring. The breed gained favor in the Mid-West and West through the later 1800s, and the celebrated “Buffalo Bill” Cody established a breeding program on his Scouts Nest Ranch in Nebraska in 1897. Mechanization of farming and WWI escalated the decline of the breed, and today fewer than 800 purebred Cleveland Bays remain in the world.

cb19visitorsSarah Kirk and Breanna Jewell traveled from the Genesee Valley Hunt (NY).  /  Karen Kandra photo

The Mid-Atlantic Cleveland Bay Network organizes a series of shows each summer, including a Cleveland Bay Division at the Upperville and Warrenton Horse Shows, and a dedicated Cleveland Bay Hunter Show as part of the Howard County (MD) Fair. The group also sponsors horses to appear at expos and other public displays. Click for additional information about the Cleveland Bay horse.

Posted December 23, 2019

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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