Mo Baptiste’s handsome bay Thoroughbred, Fifty Grand, has played the role of bridesmaid for years. He was Reserve Champion to Virginia Field Hunter Champions in 2012 and again in 2015. This year he was, finally, the bride. And the Champion.
Reserve Champion honors go to Marilyn Ware, Deep Run Hunt. The annual Virginia Field Hunter Championship is noted for the quality of the competing horses. The Masters of every Virginia hunt receive an annual invitation to nominate up to two horse and rider combinations which have been hunting regularly with that hunt. Chosen by the Masters, twenty-one riders from eleven hunts competed. They were:
It was a top-three sweep, not only for English fell bloodlines, but for one Cumbrian hunt in particular. When the recent Bull Run-Rappahannock Foxhound Performance Trials concluded in Virginia over the weekend of October 19–21, 2017, the three top-scoring hounds were either sired by or whelped out of fell hounds from the Ullswater Foxhounds (UK). And three different Ullswater hounds at that.
Another hound finishing in the top ten was also whelped out of an Ullswater hound. At the center of this story is professional huntsman John Harrison, currently in his first season hunting the foxhounds of the Deep Run Hunt.
Foxhunters from Mr. Stewart's Cheshire Foxhounds (PA) dominated Hunt Night at the Pennsylvania Horse Show in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania on October 16, 2017. Cheshire riders won three classes and received ribbons in all five events on Monday night to claim the overall hunt championship title over the thirteen competing foxhunts. This was the eighth hunt championship won by Cheshire since the inception of Hunt Night. Riders from the Bull Run Hunt (VA) and the Green Spring Valley Hounds (MD) were also class winners.
One surprising contributor to Cheshire's Championship team was Olympic veteran Boyd Martin who competed in and won the Gentlemen's Hunter Under Saddle class with Right On Que, owned by Tanya Emslie of Unionville, Pennsylvania. Martin had just placed third in the Fair Hill International Three-Day Event CCI*** this past weekend and decided to drive up at the suggestion of one of his fellow Cheshire members.
Foxhounds from five hunts faced off for the second Performance Trial of the Hark Forward season. The trials were hosted by the Millbrook Hunt in their scenic and mountainous country in the Hudson River valley of New York State, just ten miles west of the Connecticut border, ninety miles north of New York City.
Hounds met on Monday and Tuesday, September 25 and 26, 2017 under conditions reminiscent of mid-summer rather than the early days of autumn. Temperatures rose well into the eighties on both days as riders sweltered and hounds struggled to find quarry in the usually productive coverts. Yet hounds worked as a veteran pack and displayed outstanding work during their brief moments of action.
Each competing hunt had selected the seven-and-a-half couples of hounds from their kennels to best represent them. The thirty-seven-and-a-half couples of proven hounds melded quickly into a single pack (more about that later), reflecting positively on every huntsman: Bart Poole from the Essex Fox Hounds (NJ); Marion Thorne, Genesee Valley Hunt (NY); Codie Hayes, Golden’s Bridge Hounds (NY); Don Philhower, Millbrook Hunt; and Sean Cully, Rose Tree-Blue Mountain Hounds (PA).
I never met Ron Black in person, but I knew him so well. We’d been carrying on an email friendship for years. Ron died of cancer on September 5, 2017.
Over the years our correspondence covered all sorts of subjects—foxhunting, politics, world affairs. (He was for Hillary, all the way.) He scoffed at us mounted foxhunters for our preoccupation with horses and fancy clothing, and he would start most notes with, “How are things in the Colonies?” His sense of history was a huge part of who he was. And it was to preserve the history of foxhunting in his beloved Cumbria, after the despised Hunting Act became law, that possessed him to start a website and begin collecting that history.
That’s how John Harrison became friends with Ron Black. Harrison is currently hunting the Deep Run Hunt (VA) foxhounds, but twenty years ago Harrison was huntsman for one of the storied foot packs in the Lake District, the Ullswater Foxhounds. Ron was writing a book about the Ullswater. It was the hunt of Harrison’s boyhood, and he had returned to England from Toronto and North York (ON) to take up the horn there. It is a hard and dangerous place: climbing borrans (stone piles), crags (cliffs), and crossing the scree beds (fallen stone from the crags). It’s country that would ruin a horse the first time out. Harrison hunted the Ullswater hounds on foot there for eighteen seasons before returning to North America three years ago.