Fox Hunting Life with Horse and Hound

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FHL wants your hunt reports! Stories and photos. Submit yours here.

Billy Vance at Eighty, and The Fermanagh Harriers

billy vanceCaptureMaster and Huntsman Billy Vance (80) watches his Fermanagh Harriers at work.  /  Noel Mullins photo

How many huntsmen are hunting hounds at eighty years of age? Or to add a twist to that question, how many huntsmen having achieved that age have already hunted hounds for the previous fifty seasons?

Billy Vance, Master and huntsman of the Fermanagh Harriers, has achieved this remarkable milestone. To see him hunting hounds is inspiring, humbling, and brings home just how lucky we all are to be able to follow great horsemen like him across the countryside.  

Vance is special—a consummate and stylish horseman across what can only be termed as challenging hunting country with drains, banks, walls, and wire to contend with. And he is usually riding horses he bred himself. He is a genius with a pack of hounds, but don’t get in his way when they are running! If Ireland is in need of role models in these difficult economic circumstances, then Billy Vance fits the bill. He never seeks attention, yet is respected not just in his own hunt but by the hunting fraternity at large. And it is sometimes difficult to get a photograph of him.

“I am not into photos!” he says.

Carol Easter Tribute Draws Hundreds to Farmington

easter1Honorary whipper-in Tom Bishop, huntsman Matthew Cook, and honorary  whipper-in Kimberlee Morton move off from Springhaven Farm for a memorial meet in honor of the late Carol Easter, MFH.  /  Cathy Summers photo

On a clear, sunny Saturday morning, December 19, 2015, two days after what would have been Master Carol O. Easter’s seventy-seventh birthday, the Farmington Hunt gathered on a grassy knoll at her beloved Springhaven Farm in Charlottesville, Virginia to celebrate her life and legacy.

MFH W. Patrick “Pat” Butterfield addressed a large gathering of fifty-five riders, family members, and guests as a chilly breeze prompted me to adjust the buttons on my coat. Blue Ridge mountains in the distance framed the classic scene of hounds rolling in the grass, horses milling about, and riders exchanging greetings in anticipation of moving off for the morning’s sport.

Multiple generations of friends and family, young and old, were there to be part of this special day. The entire Easter family was on hand to welcome a steady stream of visitors--a serious yet jovial field of riders and onlookers that included life-long close friends Carter McNeely and veteran octogenarian foxhunter and neighbor Bobbie Wells; on foot, Phyllis Jones and daughter Robin Mellen, and Ellie Wood Baxter. Bobbie shrugged against the chilly wind and quipped, “I might have not picked this day to come out, except for the day it is.”

Sedgefield Hunt—Members and Hounds—Go Visiting

farnley.fred.grahamSedgefield Master and huntsman Fred Berry (left) visits with his pack of Penn-Marydels. Blue Ridge huntsman Graham Buston (right) was his guide for the day.  /  Nancy Kleck photo

The Sedgefield Hunt, founded in 1927, hunt a pack of Penn-Marydel foxhounds in the Piedmont region of North Carolina and Southern Virginia. We are a small hunt, but we have big fun, and we love our hounds. Last November we took a road trip to Northern Virginia to hunt with Blue Ridge and Thornton Hill. Six members, ten couple of hounds, eight horses and Ellie Mae, my mule, hit the road.

Fred Berry, MFH and huntsman, and his wife Elaine went up first and had a great day with Blue Ridge and their magnificent pack of Modern English and Crossbred hounds. On our day with Thornton Hill, which also hunts Penn-Marydels, the packs were put together. In our final outing with Blue Ridge, Fred was invited to hunt our Penn-Marydels. I'm told that for 275 years—from the time George Washington hunted with Lord Fairfax over that same country—the local foxes had never before heard a pack of Penn-Marydels in full cry!

Country Closed? Woodbrook Takes 'em to the Beach!

woodbrook.beach2aWoodbrook Hunt (WA) takes hounds for a new adventure -- a day at the beach.  /  Emily Rang photo

The temperature was seventeen degrees when we rose at 5:30 to begin our day with horses and hounds. The promise of the day’s adventure outweighed the desire to stay warm in bed. The pack could feel it even in the dark. They bugled excitedly as horses were fed, stalls cleaned, and ice chipped away in the buckets.

The pack always knows when they are going somewhere. Even when the routine is the same in the morning, their hive mind senses the excitement of something different. On this inky black, frozen winter morning typical of the Pacific Northwest, they felt an adventure coming on and sang out a beautiful song to the entire neighborhood: rise up, gather your hunting kit and your best horse, and join us for some fun! Not all appreciate the early, noisy invitation, but the jongleurs, undiscouraged, serenade the neighborhood anyway, hoping to be loaded and on their way as soon as possible.

The Woodbrook Hunt Club (WA) is fortunate to have our hunting country located literally out of our kennel door. The kennels are on a military installation, part of Joint Base Lewis Mcord (JBLM). We have a lot of access, but we must acquire a permit, or the area must be open to recreation. This weekend we had neither permits for the area, as it was Thanksgiving weekend, and the ground was so frozen and slick, it would be galling on our steeds. Our clever huntsman,  Jennifer Hansen, who never misses an opportunity  for hound action, planned a trip to the ocean with our pack where the weather could be cold, windy, and rainy, but surely not frozen. And we were permitted to ride to our hearts content.