Fox Hunting Life with Horse and Hound

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A Sporting Tour Through Merry Old....Part 2

Join James Barclay---an ex-Master of five English foxhunts---for Part 2 of his personal and revealing tour of elite hunting establishments through Middle and Eastern England. Barclay went out with twenty-one packs in just two months during the informal season, the last of which on the morning before the first of six Opening Meets. Click for Part 1.

IMG 7031Fitzwilliam huntsman George Adams and hounds with birdman John Mees at the kennel meet, Milton Park  / James Barclay photo

Fitzwilliam
Hunting with the Fitzwilliam is always a treat, especially as my family and I spent twelve very happy seasons there. Although Peterborough is on the doorstep, the Park is beautifully laid out for hunting and many good days are enjoyed there. The kennels are situated on the eastern side of the Park and have a history going well back into the 1700s.

The combination of these hounds hunting with an eagle---[The Hunting Act allows a pack of hounds to flush a fox to a bird of prey]---in close proximity to the action is something we are seeing in all but a few places now and is very much a sign of the times. George Adams has hunted these hounds for over thirty years and is certainly one of the most popular men in his profession. This particular morning was when one realises just how lucky we are. On our side of the Park wall was a great gathering of like-minded  people enjoying something that has taken place here for generations. On the other side is four miles plus of new houses, factories, roads and the roar of urban noise. Is it therefore, not up to us—those who love our countryside and its activities—to encourage and involve those who may never have come across us before? Our worlds may be far apart in one sense, but they are not in another. There may be just a wall between us in this case, but it should never be looked upon us as a barrier.

Ballymacad Foxhounds at The Hurler's Rest

ballymacad1Ballymacad huntsman Kevin Donohoe with hounds at Archerstown. Following (l-r) are whippers-in Bobby Kellett, Maurice Quinn, and Irish MFHA trainee Keith Broderick.  / Noel Mullins photo

There is a rich history of hunting in County Meath, Ireland. The Sherbourne family kept a pack at Loughcrew, and the Ballymacad Foxhounds were founded there in 1797.

The Ice Age of 30,000 years ago made a massive contribution to foxhunting in the Ballymacad hunt country. The countryside is made up of drumlins, small tear drop-shaped hills such as found in the Carolinas in the U.S. Many are covered in gorse, and despite the weather if one looks underneath the cover there is always a snug dry base, which makes them natural homes for foxes. Add to that the small bogs and hazel woods and you have variety. Foxes don’t have far to travel, and prying eyes are easily avoided.

To hunt foxes successfully in this country, hounds need to be true to the line to reduce their opportunities of going to ground too quickly. The country is challenging; one needs a horse that can jump walls, wire, drains, double and single banks, and a rider that can stay on!

The Grallagh Harriers at Moyvilla

coopers hill1.1-15

The morning’s heavy showers abated, affording my visitors a promising start at the Moyvilla meet, County Galway. I am still forming opinions on which hunt on our card is best, but Moyvilla would be among my favourites. It regularly brings out the best in Master and huntsman David Burke!

Skies were clearing nicely as we drove to the meet, air temperature considerably cooler than previous days. Martin McNamara, who just started riding in September and is a recent convert to the stone walls, was on Darcy, a fifteen-two-hand Irish Cob gelding. Andrea Ypma, visiting from Canada, was excited to be part of the foot followers. She had arrived in Ireland two days earlier for a three-week immersion into the Irish Hunting culture with us at Coopers Hill Livery. The wall builder was tasked with the important job of escorting Andrea to all the finest places to watch the fox bolt and view some of the horses jumping the walls.

The East Galway Foxhounds at McDonagh's Pub

What follows is a report on a fine day’s hunting, a description of a brilliantly executed new kennel complex that any hunt contemplating new kennel construction will appreciate, and an opportunity to become Joint-Master of an Irish pack for any foxhunter yearning for more adventure!

East Galway Foxhounds joint master Joe Cavanagh and huntsman Liam McAlinden and hounds at the New Kennels(l-r) East Galway Foxhounds Joint-Master Joe Cavanagh and huntsman Liam McAlinden with hounds at the New Kennels / Noel Mullins photo

The history of the East Galway Foxhounds goes back to Giles Eyre of Eyrecourt who kept a pack of hounds from about 1790. The East Galway Foxhounds was founded in 1880.

In addition to those milestones, the year 2014 will go down as a proud year for the East Galway followers. A brand new state of the art kennel complex was developed and financed by Joint-Master Joe Cavanagh and handed over to the hunt recently. Cavanagh, a successful businessman and a former owner of Cavanagh Foundry in Birr, is passionate about hunting. A former Master of the Ormond Hunt for twenty seasons, he joined the mastership of the East Galways eight seasons ago. Joe bred the international eventer Comanchee who with his rider James Robinson was third at Burghley and fourth at Badminton, the latter which he competed in ten times, and the last time at nineteen years of age!

The project of building the new kennels has taken Cavanagh three years from purchasing the site, visiting kennels in the UK and Ireland for ideas of what mistakes to avoid, securing planning permission, and then building. Meticulous about detail, his top priorities were the welfare of hounds and horses and comfortable surroundings for the huntsman to do his work.