Fox Hunting Life with Horse and Hound

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

The Westmeath Foxhounds at Streamstown

westmeath hounds and staff.mullinsWestmeath Foxhounds (IR) and staff: huntsman Mark Ollard (rt) and whipper-in Adam Douabbse. John Smith and Frano Derwin follow / Noel Mullins photo

The Westmeath Foxhounds, located in the Midlands of Ireland, was founded in 1854. It has had many illustrious Masters over the years such as Sam Reynell (1835-91), the Earls of Longford (1890s), Hon. Kieran Guinness (1973-76), Sir Dermot and Lady Molly Cusack Smith (1949-50), and Harry Worcester Smith (1912-13) from the USA (no relation to Sir Dermot).

Smith wanted to prove that American hounds and Thoroughbred horses could handle the Irish hunting country as well as the native horses and hounds. He was disappointed on both counts. First, the Westmeath hunt committee insisted he hunt the local pack, and second, though he was a brave and competent rider, he notched over fifty falls off his Thoroughbred horses in the course of the season!

A Red Letter Day at Live Oak

spencer allen.and staffHuntsman Spencer Allen with the LIve Oak foxhounds, accompanied by whipper-in Alexandra Taber and kennel huntsman Sam Andrews.  /  Leslie Ballenger photo

Marty’s Weather Channel said no way but my Weather Bug gave me hope, and hope springs eternal! It looked highly likely that we might have to cancel due to heavy rain and possible thunderstorms, but, never wanting to cancel unless totally necessary, the call was made at 5:30 a.m. to go for it.

We were in the saddle at 8:30 and headed for the Dip Vat. What a shame, as it turned out, that so many were put off by the weather prediction of three inches of rain, to have only two in the field—Cameron and David Reid. “Small field, good hunt” could not have been more true!

Farmington Accepts the Inevitable, Adds New Quarry

farmington.matthew.summersProfessional huntsman Matthew Cook and hounds of the Farmington Hunt (VA). / Cathy Summers photo

On a hot midsummer afternoon, huntsman Matthew Cook rode up to meet me on a green John Deere lawn mower. Cutting grass is just part of the work it takes to maintain the grounds and kennels at the Farmington Hunt Club (VA), home to sixty noisy, rambunctious foxhounds.

Coming to Farmington in the summer of 2013 from the Los Altos Hunt in northern California, Cook faced a new set of challenges, both in topography and local culture. He was learning his new job in the shadow of the forty-year reign of the revered Jill Summers, MFH, whose practice and policy of hunting only foxes laid the foundation for Farmington’s hounds. The pack was bred and trained to ignore anything non-vulpine.

Duhallow Foxhounds at Kilbrin: The Oldest Foxhound Pack in Ireland

duahallow.ger withers.powerDuahallow huntsman Ger Withers / Catherine Power photoFounded by the Wrixon-Becher family, the Duhallow foxhounds have been hunting North Cork from the Kerry border to Doneraile continuously since 1745 making it the oldest foxhound pack in Ireland. (For those who question how to reconcile that with the Scarteen, the recorded history of which goes back to the early 1700s, the keyword is “foxhounds.” The Scarteen Black and Tans are technically known as Kerry Beagles, though they dwarf any beagles we know today.)

The Duhallow pack existed before 1745, but there is no recorded history. That year, Henry Wrixon of Ballygiblin rented a fox covert, Regan’s Break, for thirteen guineas. Henry passed the pack on to his son, Colonel William Wrixon, who in turn passed it on to his own son. In 1800, Sir William Wrixon Becher, MFH met with several other gentlemen to form a club to be called the Duhallow Hunt Club. Sir William had taken on his wife’s maiden name, Becher, she from the same family for which the infamous obstacle on the Grand National Steeplechase course at Aintree, England, Becher’s Brook, is named.