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.
Brian Ferrell has been appointed MFH at the Blue Ridge Hunt (VA), joining Masters Linda Armbrust and Anne McIntosh in a team of three. Ferrell, who is dead serious in his commitment to the hunt and to the sport, is nevertheless somewhat bemused.
“I don’t really fit the mold,” he says with a faint grin, the most you can expect from this soft-spoken, reserved, yet very popular member of the hunt. “I don’t come from a hunting background, and a Mastership was never my goal. I started taking riding lessons because my kids were riding. I picked it up reasonably well because I’ve always been pretty athletic.”
There’s a typical Ferrell understatement. As a high school state regional tennis finalist and a third-ranked regional giant slalom skier in Middle School, he was indeed a top athlete in his boyhood.
Ferrell grew up in Waterford, Virginia. His dad—also a good athlete—rode a little, but neither the family nor Brian ever had thoughts or aspirations of foxhunting. That came from his children, Emily and Charlotte. His wife Clare is from Devon, England and also rides.
Ferrell has no illusions about the prestige of Mastership. “Everyone at Blue Ridge has to work and contribute," he said. "I’m willing to put the time in and do the work, and I think I can provide a balance to the team of Masters through my own business experience and understanding of the need for teamwork. In the end I just want everyone to go out and have fun.”
Posted May 20, 2013
The Blue Ridge Hunt Point-to-Point Races, originally scheduled for Saturday, March 9 but postponed due to a snowstorm, were finally held on a sunny but cool Sunday, April 21, 2013—six weeks later. A good crowd of spectators enjoyed a brilliant day out-of-doors, but entries were down with the sanctioned Middleburg Spring Races having been run the day before.
Eva Smithwick—2012 leading trainer in Virginia—saddled two winners for Indian Run Farm, both ridden by Woods Winants. Fogcutter, with two previous hurdle wins at Thornton Hill and Old Dominion, won the Amateur/Novice Rider Hurdle, and Whodoyoucallit, with a win earlier in the season at Thornton Hill, won the Novice Timber. Neither horse was seriously challenged.
Masters, staff, and field of the Blue Ridge Hunt are thankful for the recent Martin Luther King holiday. We always advance the meet from our usual Tuesday to any Monday holiday to give the juniors a chance to hunt. With the Virginia hunting country enveloped in sub-freezing arctic air on Tuesday, Monday’s “storybook” hunt—fifty-five minutes on one fox—was a special gift.
The meet was at Catherine Berger’s Rolling Hills Farm. Hounds found their fox in the first covert where it was viewed across the open fields by a car follower. Before horses were even warmed up, we found ourselves racing to the first fence—a brand-new, raw, double-wide coop standing high on its timbers.
Foxhunting is and will continue to be embattled on two fronts: (1) animal rights activism and (2) loss of open space. The good news is that we have strategies for dealing with these pressures. The uncertainty rests with our own will and dedication, as Walt Kelly's cartoon character Pogo told us many years ago. Now and in the future, we need to look harder within...at us.