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.
The Central States hound Show was held on May 4, 2019 in Stilwell, Kansas, hosted by the Leavenworth Hunt. Hounds from six hunts were shown: Brazos Valley Hounds (TX), Bridlespur Hunt (MO), Fort Leavenworth Hunt (KS), Harvard Fox Hounds (OK), Mission Valley Hunt (KS), and North Hills Hunt (NE). Hounds were judged by Graham Buston, huntsman, Blue Ridge Hunt (VA).
Brazos Valley was the high scoring hunt for the day and was gunning for its third consecutive Grand Championship at Central States, but it was not to be. Grand Champion of Show was Harvard Goneaway 2018, drafted unentered by Hillsboro Hounds (TN) to Harvard and entered last season. Goneaway’s male line is highly prepotent, as we will see, and Goneaway’s story serves as a fine example of how the system is supposed to work: top breeding kennels generously drafting well-bred hounds to bolster other packs around the country.
Photos by Joanne Maisano
Blue Ridge’s warm spring race day on Saturday, April 21, 2019 was a welcome change for those who hark back to those cold, blustery days on the Woodley hillside in early March when the races were formerly held.
In the first race of the day, Maiden Hurdle, trainer Michael Pearson saddled two strong horses, Keoni and Scrappy Warrior. With seasoned amateur jockey Woods Winants on Keoni and Mike Woodson on Scrappy Warrior, the Pearson team shared the pacesetting until the last fence when Scrappy Warrior stumbled and lost its rider. Racing to the stretch, Shannon Hill Farm’s All Out of Aces with 2018 leading jockey Barry Foley aboard grabbed the lead. Keoni battled back but All Out of Aces was first at the wire, then disqualified for cutting a pole and being off course. Keoni was declared the winner. Big E, ridden by Kieran Norris and trained by Julie Gomena placed second.
It’s a week and a half since huntsman John Harrison was suddenly faced with, then miraculously dealt with what could have been a horrendous outcome of that day’s electric storm. A bolt of lightning struck the power meter at the Deep Run Hunt kennels and the building burned to the ground.
We’ve all heard how, with flaming shards falling from above, John was unable to reach hounds to free them from their pens. Needing another way in, he took a tractor to the perimeter and used the bucket loader to smash a way through, saving virtually all the foxhounds. The nightmare that ‘could have been’ was mercifully averted by John’s quick thinking and bold action.
Eric Myer, DVM, is currently in his sixty-sixth season of foxhunting. And not just with one hunt. No, no. If that were the case, the hunting season would be far too short to suit him.
At eighty-two, Eric begins his season in mid-July up north near Rochester, New York with the Genesee Valley Hunt. His wife Martha has roots in Geneseo, and the couple has a summer farm there. Then, in mid-October, when the Piedmont Fox Hounds are well into their cubhunting season down south in Virginia, Eric and Martha return to their Boyce farm in the Shenandoah Valley.
Matthew Mackay-Smith, internationally-renowned equine veterinarian, medical editor for EQUUS magazine, lifelong foxhunter, competitive endurance rider, and historian, died on December 8, 2018 in Berryville, Virginia. He was eighty-six.
Matthew possessed one of the most brilliant, ravenously curious minds I've ever encountered. A pioneer of equine surgical procedures, Harvard man, crazy brave foxhunter from age eight to eighty, mapper of colonial roads, 100-mile endurance rider, wordsmith nonpareil, coiner of riotous witticisms, knower of seemingly everything, mentor of seemingly everyone. In a world peopled with the narrow-focused, he was Jeffersonian in breadth. (Matthew was, in fact, a descendant of Thomas Jefferson.)