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.
Two hours into the Blue Ridge Hunt meet at Fox Spring Woods Farm, huntsman and hounds were east of the meet and drawing north. I'm familiar with this area as I have walked much of the land with the Nantucket-Treweryn Beagles. I drove a half mile north to a clearing where foxes have been viewed in the past and waited. After two minutes of scanning the fields I saw a fox running towards me through a riding ring, down a hill and under two fences, finally turning east and disappearing over a hill as my camera captured every step. I lowered the camera, looked back to the west in anticipation of the arrival hounds and huntsman, and was greeted by a second fox that ran nearly the same line as the first. I followed the second fox from left to right, capturing every step. I lowered the camera once again and waited thirty seconds before hounds, whipper-in, huntsman, and finally the field took up the chase.
Posted December 23, 2016
Junior foxhunters and their parents traveled from thirteen states to Lexington, Kentucky, where the Iroquois Hunt hosted the finals of the 2016 Junior North American Field Hunter Championships. Thirty-three hunts participated over the course of the informal season by holding qualifying meets from which the finalists were chosen by mounted judges. In thirteen years, the program has grown steadily in participation and geographically from its modest start involving a few hunts in Virginia.
The program is succeeding because it’s purpose rises above just competition. Founders Douglas Wise, MFH, Old Dominion Hounds (VA) and Iona Pillion from the Blue Ridge Hunt (VA) had a larger dream: bring children to new hunting countries, broaden their hunting perspectives, and open their eyes to the fact that these hunting countries don’t just happen to be there for them by chance, but have been nurtured and conserved for the perpetuation of wildlife, open space, and for those who treasure the natural world.
“We want these kids to know what a conservation easement is,” said Marion Chungo, one of the organizers.
Every junior who qualifies by competing at any one of thirty-one Qualifying Meets offered across fourteen states and provinces will be eligible to compete in the Junior North American Field Hunter Championship Finals this year. The meets are in full swing.
The Blue Ridge Hunt hosted a qualifying meet on Saturday, September 24, 2016 at the McIntosh farm situated just above the Shenandoah River under western brow of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Anne McIntosh, MFH led the field of hopefuls, judges, and hunt members, the latter riding behind the junior competitors for a change.
Hunting was excellent, with foxes getting away right at the start and giving the judges plenty of opportunities to watch and judge the young riders and their mounts in action. And everyone viewed the quarry at least once!
Denya Dee Leake shot this dramatic photo and recorded the cry of hounds with her smartphone. Hounds found a fox near the kennels, sang all the hound music that one could wish for, and pushed their quarry hard through the course of the morning in a huge circuit and finally to ground back near the find. A fine school for the young entry and an exciting start to the Blue Ridge Hunt's 129th season. More than twenty riders and staff, along with car followers, braved the early hour start on the morning of September 3rd, 2016.
I want to talk about a horse. After nearly fifty years of hunting—around North America, Canada, Ireland, and England—on my own horses and on countless strange horses for the first time, I speak from some experience. Most of the horses have been darn good, even many of the strangers. A memorable few of the strangers have been especially good! Very few, thankfully, have been rank or dangerous. But I have to talk about one horse in particular—one of my own.
His name is Guitar. Yes, that simple. He’s registered with the Jockey Club just that way. Plain dark brown, sixteen-hand high, he was bred by the late Bill Backer of Smitten Farm in The Plains, Virginia. He’s by Our Native out of Royal Pastime by Tudor Grey. Sixty-four percent of Our Native foals were winners, and fifty-three percent of Tudor Grey grand-foals were winners. Guitar was bred to race, but he was never even put in training—no tattoo. My good luck.*