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

DSC 5816Photographs by Liz Callar

By the north-western banks of the Shenandoah River, just under the sweep of the Blue Ridge Mountains, huntsman Beth Opitz, MFH, Thornton Hill Hounds (VA) readies to move off to the first draw with her pack of Penn-Marydel foxhounds. Husband and Joint-Master Erwin Opitz (in scarlet) helps to keep the pack together.

The joint-meet at the southern-most end of the Blue Ridge Hunt country at Blue Ridge Master Jeff LeHew’s beautiful Shannon Hill fixture was held on Tuesday, December 4, 2018. It was new country for Thornton Hill’s Penn-Marydels, and a different experience for the Blue Ridge hosts who regularly follow their Crossbred pack of Modern English and American lines, but also includes some pure Old English, pure Fell, and crosses on these bloodlines as well. (See “A Level Pack or a Team of Specialists?”)

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The sheer beauty of a level pack of foxhounds is indisputable. There is a uniformity of appearance and traits, and such a pack tends to run well together. But isn't there another option?

Why not a pack consisting of foxhounds of various types, welcoming the unique attributes of each hound type? Breeders know that no single type offers all the best attributes we want in a pack; hence the English-American Crossbred. But within those two categories there are still more individual types with more concentrated attributes that could allow each type to contribute at the appropriate stage of any hunt just when needed.

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trfhc18.wittenborn.leesJohn Wittenborn and Soccer, representing the Smithtown Hunt (NY), win 2018 Theodora Randolph Field Hunter Championship in Virginia.

John Wittenborn and his fourteen-year-old Clydesdale-Thoroughbred cross, Soccer, returned home to Long Island and the Smithtown Hunt with the Championship Trophy and ribbon from the Theodora Randolph 2018 Field Hunter Championship in Virginia. Three tries was the charm for Wittenborn and Soccer. Last year the pair made a good showing, placing third.

It was the first team from a northern hunt to have won the coveted prize in thirty-five years of competitions. And it was fitting; Mrs. Randolph was a northerner, though from Boston’s North Shore.

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canadian18.cloud with pam black.heather swanOttawa Valley’s Toronto and North York Cloud with Pam Black. Huntsman Antony Gaylard's longtime partner, Black helps as a road whip, cares for the hunt’s whelping bi*ches, the puppies after whelping, and, if it’s late in the year, may bring a whole litter back to the kennel by the house to give them a safe start in life. In her spare time, she operates her own business!  /  Heather Swan photo

Ottawa Valley Hunt’s Toronto and North York Cloud 2012 was judged Grand Champion of Show at the Canadian Hound Show. The show was hosted by the London Hunt (ON) and held on the grounds of the London Hunt and Country Club, Saturday, June 9, 2018.

In addition to Ottawa Valley, hounds were shown by Eglinton and Caledon, Hamilton, London, Montreal, Toronto and North York, and Wellington-Waterloo Hunts.

Ottawa Valley huntsman Antony Gaylard bred and entered Cloud while huntsman at the Toronto and North York Hunt (ON). When Gaylard departed T&NY to return as huntsman to Ottawa Valley, he took Cloud and others of his breeding with him, with permission, as is customary. Though technically English, Cloud has Crossbred lines in both sides of her pedigree. And an impressive pedigree it is, with outstanding tail lines—both male and female.

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JRs Photo by Rick Stillings 1Judges Graham and Sheri Buston make certain that every competitor at the Junior Handlers Hound Show gets their undivided attention and assistance. / Rick Stillings photo

More than thirty children, ranging in age from fourteen months to sixteen years, enjoyed a day showing, learning, and making new friends at the Central Virginia Young Entry Junior Handlers Hound Show on June 10, 2018 in Charlottesville, Virginia. This unique event offered a full schedule just for youngsters, including four showmanship sections, a retired foxhound class, a modified pack class, and horn blowing and whip cracking contests.

The emphasis was on creating a fun, welcoming day for juniors from any background—even those with no previous foxhunting or hound showing experience. Keeping with this accommodating theme, organizers invited bassets and beagles to compete, as well as foxhounds.

Judges Graham and Sheri Buston, huntsman and whipper-in at the Blue Ridge Hunt, perfectly combined cheerful patience and helpful suggestions with keen professional eyes for pinning the best exhibitors in each event. Foxfield Racing Association kindly offered use of their lush green course just outside Charlottesville as the beautiful venue.

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