Fox Hunting Life with Horse and Hound

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Blue Ridge Hunt


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.


 canadian14.mary raphaelToronto and North York huntsman John Harrison gets his hounds moving for the judges. / Mary Raphael photo

Toronto and North York Clarence 2012 was judged Grand Champion of the Canadian Foxhound Show at the Ottawa Valley Hunt Farm on June 14, 2014. Judges were Messrs. C. Martin Scott, ex-MFH, Vale of the White Horse (UK) and Mason Lampton, MFH, Midland Foxhounds (GA).

It wasn’t too long ago that the Canadian hunts showed mainly English foxhounds, but the Canadian show now offers classes for both English and Crossbred Champions. With this in mind, it’s interesting to note that this year’s Grand Champion, while considered English based on the high percentage of English bloodlines in his pedigree, goes back in tail female to Midland Crossbred lines and on his sire’s side to a strong Blue Ridge female line of Crossbreds.

Clarence’s dam, Toronto and North York Clinic 2006, was a Crossbred hound out of a Midland female.* His sire, Blue Ridge Barnfield 2010, goes back in tail male to strong English lines of which Judge Martin Scott makes note:

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chapman7David Chapman photo

Novice rider Tom Bennett, riding for trainer Jimmy Day, fell at the same fence in the first two races at the Blue Ridge Hunt Point-to-Point on Sunday, March 23, 2014, but came back strongly to notch two wins on the day's card. This spectacular photograph was taken by David Chapman. See the entire sequence by clicking on the photo and starting the slide show. Prints of these photographs are available from the photographer. Contact FHL to be connected.

Bennett's blues started in the first race, the Maiden Hurdle, when his horse, Fall Colors (number 5) owned by Bruce Smart, fell. Bedizen (number 2) jumped Fall Colors cleanly (photo), but unseated his rider, Gerard Galligan, the two going their separate ways as well. (Click on the photo to see the entire sequence.)

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downing.dennis.karen mDennis Downing is the new huntsman at the Bedford Hunt (VA). / Karen L. Myers photo

Huntsman Robert Taylor hasn’t had a good rest in five years. He’s been hunting two separate packs of foxhounds in Maryland—the Goshen Hounds as Master and amateur huntsman and the New Market-Middletown Valley Hounds as professional huntsman. Huntsman Ken George has been driving hounds and horses six hours each way twice a week from Kansas to Iowa to hunt hounds in both states. Huntsmen love what they do, but each season ends with changes in the wind.

As this hunting season draws to a close, we see huntsmen on the move again. Starting in the north and progressing southward then west, here’s what we know so far; please let us know who we’ve left out.

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 bellemeade14.lasthunt.jpgThe author (right) with (l-r) Field Master Jean Derrick and Master and huntsman Epp Wilson at the final meet

Snow may have crippled Atlanta, but the few inches that fell in Thomson, Georgia during Belle Meade's second annual "Gone Away with the Wind" Hunt Week (January 26 to February 2, 2014) did little to dampen the great foxhunting and lavish southern hospitality. The first day we arrived was warm and sunny, a welcome respite from a frozen Maryland. I was returning for a second awesome adventure with Belle Meade Hunt and had encouraged two more of my fellow Marlborough Hunt members to come down. Jayne Koester and her amateur-radio enthusiast husband Fred enlivened their trip by talking to all the Ham radio operators near Interstate 95 as they drove south. Following them was Gwen Alred, a member of both Marlborough and Potomac Hunt clubs, who also decided getting out of a frigid Maryland was a good idea.

Monday at 3:00 pm, after warm greetings from our southern hosts and welcoming remarks from MFHs Epp Wilson, Charlie Lewis, and Gary Wilkes, we quickly trotted across the road from the kennels and moved across open cattle fields. I was riding first flight behind my good friend, Belle Meade Field Master Jean Derrick, and it felt wonderful to be cantering across soft ground in informal ratcatcher attire!

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cb hunt farnley official callar farnley hosts 2013l-r: Organizer Peter Cook, Blue Ridge Hunt; hosts Hettie Mackay-Smith Abeles and Dr. Matthew Mackay-Smith; Denya Dee Leake, honorary whipper-in, Old Dominion Hounds, step-granddaughter of Alexander Mackay-Smith / Liz Callar photo,

It's been nearly seventy-five years since Alexander Mackay-Smith's Farnley Farm in White Post, Virginia was home to a herd of some fifty Cleveland Bays. In his travels, Mackay-Smith had discovered the ancient breed of coach horse in the northeast of England and became convinced they would make ideal field hunters. He imported breeding stock, encouraged Tom and Marilyn Webster of the Idle Hour Stud to buy and stand Rambler’s Renown (who was to become North America’s leading sire of Cleveland Bays), and re-introduced the endangered breed to a new generation of horsemen and women in this country.

Farnley was once again in its bay glory on Saturday, November 16, 2013 as a record number of twenty-one Cleveland Bays (seven purebreds and fourteen part-breds) gathered at the invitation of Mackay-Smith’s children, Hetty Mackay-Smith Abeles and Dr. Matthew Mackay-Smith; Cleveland Bay breeder Peter Cook; and the Masters of the Blue Ridge Hunt for a celebration of the legacy that Farnley has left to the Cleveland Bay breed in North America.

Hetty Abeles and Dr. Matthew Mackay-Smith greeted the Cleveland Bay delegation and welcomed them back to Farnley as they assembled for a photograph in front of the house. Blue Ridge Joint-Master Anne McIntosh gave the official welcome on behalf of Joint-Masters Linda Armbrust and Brian Ferrell, after which participants divided into three flights and trotted up the lane to the first covert.

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