Fox Hunting Life with Horse and Hound

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Blue Ridge Hunt

BRHButton-80

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

We see every color of horse in the hunting field. And while foxhunters really shouldn’t care about color, I’m guessing that many riders have a preference. Right or wrong, I know I do. In this photo, several horses of varying colors are crossing the country well. We may be missing more colors than we care to, but we hope you’ll get the idea.

karel.nmf.3.kleckKeeping up with the Blue Ridge hounds in Virginia are (L–R) Cyrus (a paint) owned and ridden by Karel Wennink; Guitar (a “black-pointed bay”) owned and ridden by your editor; Hot Rize (a “black-pointed bay” and winner of the 2014 Virginia Gold Cup) owned and ridden by Russell Haynes; and Very Berry (a roan) owned and ridden by Jef Murdock, MFH, Old Chatham Hunt (NY). / Nancy Kleck photo

Colour by Edric G. Roberts

The old saying, so often repeated,
That ‘there never was yet a good horse
Of a really bad colour,’ is greeted
With a shrug, as a matter of course;
To the past it is now relegated
As the lore of some old-fashioned school,
Which believed in tradition that rated
An exception as proof to the rule.

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brh16.prima facie.smithwick.murphy.leesMaiden Hurdle winner Prima Facie and rider Jeff Murphy (center) keep in touch with the field the first time around. / Douglas Lees photo

March 12, 2016 saw the sixty-seventh running of the Blue Ridge Hunt Point-to-Point Races going off on the hunt’s normally scheduled weekend for the first time in four years, the three previous race meetings having been postponed because of winter weather conditions. With the weather and the footing close to ideal for horses and spectators alike, the meet, usually the third in the series, also served as the kick-off for the 2016 Virginia point-to-point season.

Jimmy Day-trained entries won two of the three hurdle races: Amateur/Novice Rider with Bruce Smart’s Dai Bando and the Open Hurdle with Daybreak Stables’ Manacor. In the Maiden Hurdle Race, Day's horse, Zol Zayne had to settle for second place, as he did last year in the same race. The Maiden Hurdle was won by Celtic Venture Stable’s Prima Facie, trained by Eve Smithwick, MFH and huntsman of the Snickersville Hounds (VA). Jeff Murphy held Prima Facie to the pace he wanted and patiently stalked the leader much as he rode the same race last year on winner Bedizen. Murphy took the lead from Hardly Patient on the final turn, accelerated to the last fence, and flew it cleanly for a convincing win.

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farnley.fred.grahamSedgefield Master and huntsman Fred Berry (left) visits with his pack of Penn-Marydels. Blue Ridge huntsman Graham Buston (right) was his guide for the day.  /  Nancy Kleck photo

The Sedgefield Hunt, founded in 1927, hunt a pack of Penn-Marydel foxhounds in the Piedmont region of North Carolina and Southern Virginia. We are a small hunt, but we have big fun, and we love our hounds. Last November we took a road trip to Northern Virginia to hunt with Blue Ridge and Thornton Hill. Six members, ten couple of hounds, eight horses and Ellie Mae, my mule, hit the road.

Fred Berry, MFH and huntsman, and his wife Elaine went up first and had a great day with Blue Ridge and their magnificent pack of Modern English and Crossbred hounds. On our day with Thornton Hill, which also hunts Penn-Marydels, the packs were put together. In our final outing with Blue Ridge, Fred was invited to hunt our Penn-Marydels. I'm told that for 275 years—from the time George Washington hunted with Lord Fairfax over that same country—the local foxes had never before heard a pack of Penn-Marydels in full cry!

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hunting fox.small.houliston

Mark Houliston’s fine photo of a fox pouncing on a mouse becomes all the more interesting when the context is revealed. For a good half hour, this red fellow hunted confidently and unconcerned, all the while trucks and trailers carrying Blue Ridge Hunt members, horses, staff, and hounds were arriving and unloading at a popular Saturday meet directly across the road from his happy hunting ground. Bon appetit, Sir Charles. We admire your nonchalance.

Posted December 22, 2015

JNAFHC2015.heatherjumpHeather Feconda, Loudoun-Fairfax Hunt (VA), was Champion, 13 & Over, on Yogi. /  Richard Clay photo

The Junior North American Field Hunter Championship competition that began modestly twelve years ago between a handful of geographically-close Virginia hunts continues to expand in scope. This year’s competition involved juniors from twenty-seven hunts located across six MFHA Districts.

The program is succeeding because it’s purpose rises above just competition. Founders Douglas Wise, MFH, Old Dominion Hounds and Iona Pillion from the Blue Ridge Hunt had a larger dream: bring children to new hunting countries and open their eyes to the fact that these playgrounds 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.

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