Fox Hunting Life with Horse and Hound

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Spring Point-to-Points Restart at Warrenton

warrenton21.open timber.lees(L-R) Open Timber winner Highway Prince (Skylar McKenna up) and Some Response (Teddy Davies up) the challenger  / Douglas Lees photo

The Warrenton Hunt (VA) kicked off the spring point-to-point season on March 13, 2021, at the Airlie racecourse. Entries were light, but it was a fine start for the season after the depressing broken schedules of last year.

Five races were run under rules―two over timber and three on the flat. The hurdle races didn’t fill, but informal schooling races over hurdles allowed horses, jockeys, and trainers to make at least some use of their preparations.

Songster: Warhorse, Foxhunter

songster and BertSongster and Bert Main, his rider throughout World War I

Songster, a small, aged, chestnut horse was called up for duty on the very day after England declared war on Germany—August 4, 1914. The fourteen-year-old gelding, standing just over fifteen hands high, was considered too old and too small for the demands of wartime service, but there he was on Wednesday, parading through Loughborough Market Square in Leicestershire, on his way to France.

Age and size notwithstanding, he brought to the service his character, intelligence, and bravery. Those attributes plus a measure of luck helped him and his Trooper, Bert Main, to survive the three frightful years of war.

The Huntsman’s Horse

chris ryan.catherine pChris Ryan staying with his Scarteen Black and Tans  /  Catherine Power photo

It is generally recognised that only a very special horse will suffice for a huntsman of a premier pack. Many of these horses acquire fame in their own right and often become even better known than their riders. No horse should ever be considered too good or too valuable for a huntsman on a big day. Capt Harry Freeman-Jackson regularly hunted the Duhallow hounds off St. Finbarr, which he rode when representing Ireland in the Rome Olympics. Many of the greats are a one-of and often unridable unless they are up front.

Foxhunting and the Point-to-Point

Cheltenham point to pointCheltenham, the Home of Jump Racing in Britain

What came first, the chicken or the egg is a conundrum that is unlikely ever to be solved. The same question concerning foxhunting and point-to-point racing, on the other hand, is quite simple to answer. We have to go back as far as the fifteenth century and maybe even earlier to discover the origins of foxhunting. In its beginnings, it's likely the same hounds were used for hunting both hares and stags.

It was in the eighteenth century that foxhunting as we know it started to take shape, and for this we can thank Hugo Meynell, the father of modern foxhunting, and his period of Mastership at the Quorn. It wasn't long before the sport became a favourite pastime of the well-to-do crowd.

A Bluebird Day for Racing at Blue Ridge

brhptp20.maide hurdle1Maiden Hurdle, Div 1: (l-r) Noble Weed (Sean McDermott up), 3rd; All Out Of Aces (Graham Watters up), 1st  /   Douglas Lees photo

Saturday, September 19, 2020 was a bluebird day indeed for horses, horsemen, and spectators to be racing, riding, and cheering at Blue Ridge Hunt’s postponed spring point-to-point. Except the latter—the spectators— were sadly absent.

The ground was hard, but the ancient thatch of grass on the Woodley racecourse provides a thick natural cushion for horses. Nine races were run: hurdles, flat, then timber. Of the nine races, trainer Neil Morris entries won three—Maiden Hurdle, Open Hurdle, and Novice Rider Flat.

Entries are Well-Filled at Old Dominion Point-to-Point

odh20.maiden hurdle 1Maiden Hurdle, Division 1: Last fence (l-r) He'll Do (Parker Hendriks up), 2nd; You're No Better (Archie Macauley up), 1st.   /   Douglas Lees photo

With the 2020 events calendar at sixes and sevens for sporting events worldwide, Old Dominion Hounds’ annual Point-to-Point Races at Ben Venue came off on September 12th in the fall of the year rather than in the spring. The good news that some point-to-points are coming off at all is testament to the fact that we are trying to learn how to co-exist with a new reality. Not ideally, to be sure, but we are testing boundaries and, hopefully, learning what works and not what doesn’t.

The fact that most of the ten races on the day’s card were well-filled with entries demonstrates a heartfelt desire for a return to normalcy, but the many horses pulled up during the course of so many of the jump races also demonstrates the training difficulties encountered this year.

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