Fox Hunting Life with Horse and Hound

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

Mr. Stewart’s Cheshire Foxhounds Welcomes the Hark Forward Tour

cheshire.magner foxhounds.barb smithHuntsman Barry Magner collects hounds.  /  Barbara Smith photo

The fourth Friendship Meet on the Hark Forward Tour of scheduled hunts and performance trials was at Mr. Stewart’s Cheshire Foxhounds in Unionville, Pennsylvania. During the month of September we traveled a distance of three thousand miles and visited nine hunts.

The Cheshire is revered as one of the best foxhunting establishments in North America, renowned for big fences, protected countryside, and a distinguished history. When you hunt here, everyone asks, “Did you jump the line fences?” Yes, we jumped one of the line fences first! Everyone spreads out and picks a panel of three-rail fencing and off you go, foxhunting with Cheshire!

Opening Meet at Scarteen: A Centuries-Old Tradition

scarteen.huntsman.cropped.powerMoving off to Opening Meet in the village are Chris Ryan, MFH (at left) and huntsman Raymond O’Halloran, leading staff, hounds, and a select few. Joanna Turvey (center) wears the colors of the South Notts Foxhounds (UK).  / Catherine Power photo

Recorded Scarteen history only goes back to the early seventeen hundreds, so we don’t know exactly how long the opening meet has been held in Knocklong, Ireland. But through those centuries that have been recorded, the venue has remained an unbroken tradition.

Part and parcel of that tradition is to have hounds and followers (both foot and mounted) blessed for the coming season. This ecclesiastical duty falls to the local padre who came to the kennels with bell, book and candle to invoke Divine support. No doubt our young huntsman welcomed this as any huntsman would. However, a huntsman in his first season particularly needs a bit luck and a tail wind to see him through.

New Huntsman Debuts at the Galway Blazers

blazers.crop.mullinsAnthony Costello is the new huntsman at the Galway Blazers. /   Noel Mullins photo

The Galway Blazers (IR) is a knick name for the County Galway Hunt, the formal name certainly possessing less flair. (Flare?) One account suggests the Blazers acquired their soubriquet when, during a hunt ball in Birr, County Offaly (following a joint meet with the Ormond Foxhounds), the hotel burned down. Alternatively, the term, blazers, might refer to duelling or blazing as the practice was known. Some of the Blazers’ followers had a reputation for duelling!

When I was growing up hunting with the Blazers, Thursdays were the days to bring out young horses and ponies new to hunting. Often we came home on a different pony or horse than we started with as we had our fair share of falls! For that reason, I would not normally have thought of going to a Thursday meet this season, but I am really glad I did.

The South Tyrone Foxhounds at Minterburn

STF.Stephen Hutchinson MFH in a brave jump onto the road fox hunting with the South Tyrone FoxhoundsSome get it right. Stephen Hutchinson, MFH in a brave jump onto the road with the South Tyrone Foxhounds / Noel Mullins photo

I never cease to be amazed at the challenges of foxhunting in County Tyrone, Northern Ireland. On a good hunting day, for many, it would be easier to ride in the Aintree Grand National. Such is the challenge of crossing this well-fenced countryside with its network of wire, drains, and hedges, that visitors seldom return a second time!

If there is any weakness in the hunt membership, it is that they have too many veterinary surgeons following and not enough physicians. In the course of this day’s hunting, every one of the vets was in trouble. Since Dr. Cathal Cassidy emigrated to New Zealand it has not been the same, particularly as he was a psychiatrist, which, given the cavalier attitude of the followers across the hunting country, is the branch of medicine most suited to the needs of the South Tyrone followers. In fact the horses look sounder than the riders.