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

fran and guy2The newly engaged couple, Francesca Harding and Blue Ridge huntsman Guy Allman, return to the meet at the end of a surprising day. / Nancy Kleck photoBlue Ridge huntsman Guy Allman transformed last Saturday’s well-attended Junior Meet from just another great day in the field to far loftier levels. He chose a moment during his first draw to propose marriage to Francesca Harding. The lady said, “Yes,” and Allman presented her with a ring.

This was no spur-of-the-moment proposal I was to learn. The day’s affair was a premeditated, meticulously planned campaign of romance on the huntsman’s part that warmed even the hearts of the grizzled and jaundiced old-timers in the field.

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IMG 4031Blue Ridge huntsman Guy Allman's daughter Olivia on her first field hunter with mom Fran Harding keeping her in the middle. In case you don't recognize the horn call, Olivia is blowing "Happy New Year!" to all!

batterton.callar.3893.1Barbara Batterton, riding Linda Armbrust's Nicki-Z, is 2012 Virginia Field Hunter Champion / Liz Callar photoBarbara Batterton, riding Nicki-Z for the Blue Ridge Hunt, won the Virginia Field Hunter Championships on Sunday, November 11, 2012. Nicki is owned by Blue Ridge MFH Linda Armbrust, who often leads the field on him. An Argentina-bred Dutch Warmblood, Nicki did some showjumping in that country before finding his home in Virginia’s hunt country.

Kathleen O’Keefe, riding for the Casanova Hunt, was Reserve Champion. Best Turned Out was won by Helen Brettell of Middleburg Hunt.

The Virginia Field Hunter Championships were hosted this year by the Fairfax Hunt at Winter Farm in Middleburg, as a result of Fairfax member Karyn Wilson's win last year.

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Throughout the history of foxhunting, many Masters, huntsmen, and even field members have kept hunting journals. These accounts generally include the date, meeting place, names of hunting staff, weather and scenting conditions, and other factual details. Then, depending on the writer’s bent and talent, there may be textual descriptions of runs, actions of specific hounds, and even artistic renditions of special moments. Such journals have provided us with valuable historic information as well as stirring tales of the great hunts of yesteryear.

It came home to me only recently that most of us today carry in our pocket a resource that revolutionizes the traditional hunting journal: the smart phone.

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price.frosty.odh.tomsullivanSteve Price and Frosty test their mettle at Old Dominion / Tom Sullivan photoI wouldn’t consider myself a real foxhunter.

True, I’ve ridden to hounds several times, but always more like a spectator than a participant. This September, however, I had an awakening!

Thanks to the good graces of my friends Betsy Parker, proprietor of Hunter’s Rest in Flint Hill, and Norman Fine, of Millwood (and Foxhunting Life), I’ve been wending my way for the past four years from my New York City home to steep myself in semiannual Virginia equestrian sprees. Trail riding on Betsy’s school horses and on one of Norm’s hunters, Guitar, is the primary lure. In addition, Norm has taken me hunting with the Blue Ridge Hunt in the hilltopping field.

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