Fox Hunting Life with Horse and Hound

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Camden Hunt


Camden, Kershaw Co., South Carolina.


 lori and karen“He’s hunted twice; let’s take him to the Field Trial.” Author Lori Brunnen in the foreground, riding Sunny. Saved from the abattoir, he took to the hunting field like a veteran. Karen Miller accompanies Lori.  /   Amy Gesell photo

Since last year I have been trying to hunt with George Harne’s private Maryland pack, the Last Chance Hounds. This season I finally managed one day out with them and had a great morning, despite having Frankie’s bridle slip off, falling flat rectifying it, and finally being dragged a ways on my stomach. At least I did not let go. It was kindly described at breakfast as being “seventy-five percent elegant.” This is a small, close-knit group, and I felt lucky to have been able to join them.

Shortly after this outing I learned that friend Karen Miller was accompanying them to the Moore County Hound Performance Trial, an MFHA Hark Forward event in North Carolina the second weekend in October. We agreed to drive down together. The six hounds entered were traveling with huntsman Lisa Reid and whipper-in Marie LaBaw. Master George Harne was driving down with his friend, Roy Good, leaving at 1:30 Friday morning because George said he would be “too excited to sleep” anyway. Lisa and Marie were leaving at 4:30 Friday morning. Despite the fact that the first trial event was not until 4:00 pm Friday, Karen and I simultaneously agreed we were leaving at “10 o’clock Thursday morning.” No getting up in the dark unless absolutely necessary. This is an annual trip for the group but the first Performance Trial for Karen and me. We were stoked.

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wws heythrop r achelWhy Worry Hounds' Heythrop Rachel 2011 is Grand Champion of the 2016 Carolinas Hound Show.

Why Worry’s Heythrop Rachel 2011 was judged Grand Champion at the fortieth annual Carolinas Hound Show held at the Springdale Racecourse in Camden, South Carolina on May 7, 2016. It’s one thing for a visiting MFH to pick up a nice draft to bring back to the home kennels; it’s another thing entirely to know what to do with it. Here’s where George and Jeannie Thomas, MFHs, Why Worry Hounds (SC), showed their breeding acumen.

While visiting friends in England and judging a puppy show at the Heythrop kennels, George mentioned that he needed a bi*ch* to introduce new bloodlines into his breeding program. We have just the hound for you, he was told. So he brought home a nicely-bred entered bi*ch, Heythrop Rachel 2011.

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carolinas15.david traxlerGrand Champion Hillsboro Graphic '14 with professional whipper-in Leilani Hrisko. Judges (l-r) are MFHs Tony Leahy and Dr. Jack Van Nagell / David Traxler photoHillsboro Graphic '14 was judged Grand Champion of Show at the thirty-ninth annual Carolinas Hound Show held at the Springdale Race Course in Camden, South Carolina on May 8 and 9, 2015.

Whelped to royal bloodlines—American on the sire’s side and English on the dam’s side—it should have been no surprise to see Graphic garner top honors. Her sire is Hillsboro Jethro '08, son of the magnificent Potomac Jefferson '05, Grand Champion Foxhound at Virginia in the year of the MFHA Centennial celebration, 2007.

On the dam’s side, Graphic goes back in tail female to North Cotswold Grapefruit '95, a Peterborough Champion and dam of several influential foxhounds in North America including Iroquois Grundy '98, Master Jerry Miller’s all-time favorite foxhound, and Mid-Devon Grocer '00, sire of Virginia and Bryn Mawr champion hounds from Blue Ridge.

Foxhounds from fourteen hunts and five states trod the flags at Carolinas: Aiken, Camden, DeLa Brooke, Green Creek, Hillsboro, Keswick, Lowcountry, Moore County, Red Mountain, Sedgefield, Tennessee Valley, Tryon, Whiskey Road, and Why Worry.

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wilkes.chad.karenmChad Wilkes moves from Camden to Blue Ridge / Karen Myers photo

By common agreement among hunts and professional hunt staff, April 30/May 1 is the long-accepted transition date for hunt staff changes. In a round robin of moves, the Blue Ridge Hunt (VA), Camden Hunt (SC), and Old Dominion Hounds (VA) all connected and cooperated in making changes for the upcoming season effective this date.

After two seasons as second whipper-in at Blue Ridge, Ross Salter was hired by Old Dominion to whip-in to professional huntsman Gerald Keal there.

With that opening and huntsman Dennis Downing having given his notice of resignation to be effective one year from now, April 30, 2012, the Blue Ridge Masters looked to the future and hired Chad Wilkes, Camden huntsman for the past nine seasons, as kennel huntsman. Wilkes will whip-in to Downing during that huntsman’s last season at Blue Ridge.

Downing looks forward to continuing hunting hounds, but has not yet decided where that will be.

To fill the huntsman’s opening at Camden, the Camden Masters brought back former huntsman Kurt Krucke. Krucke hunted the Camden hounds from 1996 to 2004, most recently serving as huntsman for the Tennessee Valley Hunt (last season) and the Flat Branch Foxhounds in Aiken, South Carolina for six seasons.

Posted May 1, 2011

salter.ross.karenmRoss Salter moves from Blue Ridge to Old Dominion / Karen Myers photo

krucke.kurt.gretchen.pelhamKurt Krucke moves from the Tennessee Valley Hunt back to the Camden Hunt / Gretchen Pelham photo




Horses mean “business” in Camden, South Carolina. The area has been a mecca for horses and horse people at least as far back as the turn of the twentieth century, according to John Cushman, owner of The Tack Room in Camden.

“Places such as Camden, Aiken, and Southern Pines (NC) became winter colonies before Florida developed, and a lot of people who came were horse enthusiasts and brought horses for foxhunting, bird hunting and such,” said Cushman in Bob Spear’s article in The State.

The climate and the sandy footing suit horses. According to Thoroughbred trainer Frank Wooten, they don’t even put shoes on the youngsters until they start breezing them.

Camden is also home to the Camden Hunt, where hounds hunt the native fox and coyote over 12,000 acres of protected land.

The Carolina Cup steeplechase races are run in the spring, and the more prestigious Colonial Cup takes place in the fall. The South Carolina Equine Park, whose slogan is “Our Horses Mean Business,” stages more than forty horse shows a year. The shows are diversified, including walkers, Quarter Horses, paints, hunters and jumpers. They even have rodeos.

Hope Cooper, executive director of the National Steeplechase Museum estimates that horses bring almost $2.8 million annually in direct and indirect spending impacting restaurants, hotels, and merchants.

Cushman makes the interesting point that horses are labor intensive and require specialized manual labor.

“Think about a couple of thousand horses....that’s a lot of workers,” said Cushman.

It was precisely because the citizens understood those numbers that the community and government came together and established the South Carolina Equine Park. The county owns the park, and the South Carolina Equine Promotion Foundation oversees the operation.

“Horses create a twelve-month-a-year industry,” said Cushman.