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

graham buston.hounds.maisanoHuntsman Graham Buston, hounds, staff, and field of the Blue Ridge Hunt  /  Joanne Maisano photo

The November morning was unseasonably warm as I tacked up my beautiful Cleveland Bay/TB cross, Fearnought. It was a surprise that I had come home from school, but with my mother keeping him fit for me, I knew that he would be all ready for a day’s hunting. Conveniently, the Blue Ridge Hunt (VA) meet was only a fifteen-minute hack from my grandmother’s stable where I keep my horse. By the time we arrived I was already very warm in my formal coat and wondering, ‘Did I drive all the way home for nothing?’

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joan batterton.beacon rock.1986Field Master Joan Batterton, Opening Meet, 1986, on her homebred North American Field Champion Beacon RockJoan Batterton, one of the finest Field Masters I have ever followed across a hunting country, died on Monday, August 31, 2015 at the age of ninety-eight. She was born in Auckland, New Zealand in 1917 and died at her home in Berryville, Virginia.

A diminutive but magnificent horsewoman, she led the field for the Blue Ridge Hunt (VA) for fifteen years, while in her sixties and seventies, on a succession of bold, grand jumping horses, some off the timber racecourses. She knew her country, knew how the foxes ran, and what I remember best is how she led her field at a steady hand-gallop, at an even pace, whether over fences or in the open, keeping us in touch with hounds in a lovely and seductive rhythm.

She never raised her voice, but spoke in her soft New Zealand accent, always with a touch of a smile, an inquiring arch of her eyebrows, maintaining an eye contact as expressive as her words. She didn’t suffer fools, however, and could flay them with a quiet single-sentence opinion.

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brh15.mulligan.getaway.kleckTrainer Teddy Mulligan marked his return to the racecourse with a win in the first race. / Nancy Kleck photoThe sixty-sixth running of the Blue Ridge Hunt Point-to-Point Races were held at Woodley Farm on Sunday, March 22, 2015. This was the second year in a row that the Blue Ridge race meet had to be postponed due to the weather.

Trainer Teddy Mulligan returned to the racecourse after a year’s absence, saddling his first horse for the first race since his leave-taking and scoring his first win. Bedizen and Zol Zayne, the one-two horses, pulled away from the field of four in the Maiden Hurdle Race with less than a quarter mile to run. Turning for home, Bedizen with Jeff Murphy up took the lead and drew away for a convincing win.

In the remaining two hurdle races—Amateur/Novice Rider and Open Races—trainer Jimmy Day and his rider Brendan Brooks dominated the Winner’s Circle with Controlled Neglect, owned by Ann Braxton Jones-Lynch, and Manacor, owned by a Daybreak Stables syndicate.

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brh15.mulligan.getaway.kleckTrainer Teddy Mulligan marked his return to the racecourse with a win in the first race. / Nancy Kleck photoThe sixty-sixth running of the Blue Ridge Hunt Point-to-Point Races were held at Woodley Farm on Sunday, March 22, 2015. This was the second year in a row that the Blue Ridge race meet had to be postponed due to the weather.

Trainer Teddy Mulligan returned to the racecourse after a year’s absence, saddling his first horse for the first race since his leave-taking and scoring his first win. Bedizen and Zol Zayne, the one-two horses, pulled away from the field of four in the Maiden Hurdle Race with less than a quarter mile to run. Turning for home, Bedizen with Jeff Murphy up took the lead and drew away for a convincing win.

In the remaining two hurdle races—Amateur/Novice Rider and Open Races—trainer Jimmy Day and his rider Brendan Brooks dominated the Winner’s Circle with Controlled Neglect, owned by Ann Braxton Jones-Lynch, and Manacor, owned by a Daybreak Stables syndicate.

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jordan hicks.tryon.erik olsenHuntsman Jordan Hicks moves from the Tryon Hounds to the Piedmont Fox Hounds / Erik Olsen photoAs we approach the close of the 2014/2015 foxhunting season, here’s our report on thirteen hunts that have either hired or will require a new huntsman for next season. We have already featured personal close-ups of three of the migrating huntsmen—Guy Allman, Brian Kiely, and Graham Buston—and we plan to bring you more.

We invite readers to fill us in on any moves that we’ve missed. We also invite you to send us a personal profile on any of these huntsmen that we can publish as a feature article. Or, just send us the information, and we’ll write the story. Use the “Contact Us” link that appears at the bottom of every screen to communicate directly with me, and be sure to include your phone number.

What follows is foxhunting’s version of musical chairs.

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