Fox Hunting Life with Horse and Hound

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Essex Fox Hounds

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Somerset, Hunterdon and Morris counties in north central New Jersey

Website: www.essexfoxhounds.org


Forty-eight foxhounds in the kennels of the Essex Fox Hounds (NJ) were all safely evacuated by early responders from the local police departments as a fire that broke out in the feed room filled the building with smoke and flames soon seen shooting through the roof.

The fire was reported at 4:51 am on March 3, and was declared out at 5:40 am through the efforts of firefighters and volunteers from four area fire departments. The kennel building was semi-attached to a stable complex, but the fire was contained to just the kennel.

The fire was discovered by a hunt employee arriving at work. Peapack-Gladstone Police Officer Paul Morris, the first officer at the scene, heard the cries of frightened hounds as he pulled up in his patrol vehicle. He set about freeing hounds from the pens closest to the fire, and worked his way through the rest of the pens that were starting to fill with smoke. While freeing hounds, he was joined and assisted by two other officers from Bedminster and Far Hills.

Karen Murphy, MFH, praised the fast response. “We’re really lucky we had very good guys here so fast,” she said. “We’re very thankful.”

The cause of the fire has not yet been determined. It remains under investigation, but is not considered suspicious.

Click for P.C. Robinson’s complete article and James Brusso’s photo in the Bernardsville News.

Posted March 4, 2016

bert hannahColumnist Russ Hannah, writing for NorthJersey.com, recalls the day the Essex Fox Hounds (NJ) paid tribute to Bert Hannah, his late father. Bert wasn’t a foxhunter, a landowner, or a captain of industry. He was, writes Russ, an “ordinary man who had once been a Minnesota lumberjack with a third-grade education, if that.”

Bert was a caretaker on a large estate near the Brady estate and Hamilton Farms. The latter represented five thousand acres, constituting the primary Essex hunting country. The former, Martha Brookes Hutcheson’s estate of 104 acres, where Bert Hannah served as caretaker, was closed to the hunt by the owner as the result of a fallen rider being seriously injured there years earlier.

Nevertheless, Bert Hannah was an animal person. He bred field trial beagles—one a 1963 National Champion, Longview Susie at left in news photo with two of her offspring. And he loved horses.

Bert was always friendly to the Essex riders, stopping to talk as they went by. Any injured or lost foxhound that passed Bert’s way was taken in by him, fed, and cared for before being returned to kennels.

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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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neil.amatt.kleckNeil Amatt, professional whipper-in, Piedmont Fox Hounds (VA): “Anticipation, punctuality, how you present yourself—all these things are drilled into you in the English system. You start in the kennels, and you have to really want it before you’re even allowed on a horse.” / Nancy Kleck photo

With the start of a new season just around the corner, we bring back this article, first published in 2013, not only for the benefit of all new and aspiring whippers-in, but also for those field members who wish to appreciate all that happens in the hunting field.

Last season, after forty-five years of hunting, I witnessed a simple act of sophisticated whipping-in that left me shaking my head in admiration. For a huntsman or an experienced whipper-in, it was perhaps no big deal.

My hunt fielded an all-new professional staff last season—huntsman and whipper-in—both of whom were learning the country on the fly. Hounds had checked in a thick covert, and we in the field could see them, heads down, trying to recover the line. The whipper-in came galloping by headed for the end of the covert.

“Over here,” called the Field Master, pointing to a concealed trail. “You can get in over here.”

The whipper-in came back, talked urgently to the Field Master, then turned his horse and continued in the direction he was originally going.

After the meet I asked him what that exchange was all about.

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The Essex Fox Hounds (NJ) will reach out to their community on October 12 and 13, 2013 with “A Weekend in Gladstone.” Members will celebrate the hundredth anniversary of the hunt’s incorporation with a series of activities aimed at reaching out to their community.

On Saturday, foxhounds will meet at Bedminster Farm, and the organization’s legends will be honored at a hunt ball that evening at the U.S. Equestrian Team Foundation. On Sunday, there will be a procession of coaches, foxhounds and riders down Main Street to Natirar Park in Peapack and Gladstone, where a series of fun races will be held: stick races for children, a flat race, a timber race, and a Master’s Chase. Stable friends, amateurs, and junior riders will have the opportunity to ride relay races.

“We want to do something within our own community that gives a little understanding of why we keep open space,” said Karen Murphy, MFH.

The hunt feels that it is important for residents to understand the hunt’s role in preserving open space. Click for Nancy Jaffer’s complete article in The Star Ledger.

Posted September 14, 2013