Fox Hunting Life with Horse and Hound

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Each hound in this pack is a top-ten qualifier from one of nine qualifying foxhound performance trials held across North America this season.

houndtrial21.winning hounds.maisanoTrial Huntsman Epp Wilson and his guide, huntsman Graham Buston, in the Blue Ridge country  /  Joanne Maisano photo

This Blog is to celebrate an exclusive pack of foxhounds that will hunt the fox at the J. Robert Gordon Field Trial Grounds in Hoffman, North Carolina, from March 25−27, 2022. The hound that earns the top score in this trial will be named the 2022 National Champion Performance Trial Foxhound.

Each hound in this unique pack earned its place by qualifying in one or more two-day performance trials held over this season from coast to coast. To qualify for this, the National Championship Performance Trial, each hound here compiled a score during its qualifying trial that placed it among the top-ten scoring hounds in that trial.

Why should that matter to hunt officers, Masters, huntsmen, hound breeders, and field members?

The better the hound pack in your hunt, the better the sport. The better the sport, the better the enjoyment for everyone in the field. The better the enjoyment, the more members in the field of those hunts. And as hunt officials know, having more members in the field means more hunt revenue and a financially sound hunting establishment. Simple as that.

The 2021/2022 National Foxhound Performance Trial Championship is fast approaching. It is this season’s main event for all who love to watch the best hound working in the field. And attend the best parties with your favorite people―foxhunters!

The championship trial is the finale for nine qualifying trials held around the country during the hunting season. Attendance surely will appeal to qualifying hunt staff and their members, houndsmen and breeders, and those foxhunters who simply want the chance to hunt with a pack of hounds, each member of which has proven its hunting superiority over hounds from five to ten other packs, each hound from which was selected by its Master or huntsman for its hunting superior over the hounds in its own pack.

In other words, each hound in this storybook pack has already survived three selection processes―first by its own huntsman chosen from his pack; second by mounted judges following a time-tested and carefully-developed scoring procedure; and third by a brilliant computer program that interprets and weighs the judge’s scores according to importance in the progress of a hunt, then apply a time factor for endurance scores.

With respect to the latter, endurance, it’s amazing how some hounds collect excellent scores early in the day, only to disappear from the scoresheets three hours later. Or the next day. It’s later in every hunt when their talent is really needed to bring the hunt to a proper conclusion by accounting for their quarry. Some hounds, on the other hand, show up among the high scorers early in the day, late in the day, and into the late afternoon on the second day. Wouldn’t you rather a hound like that in your own pack on a blistering day of good scenting? That’s the hound that gives you that one day of the season you replay in your mind over the summer.

Foxhound performance trials identify the top-working foxhounds in a pack under the same hunting conditions for all hounds. Of that, I have no doubt. I participated as a judge in numerous performance trials, especially in the earlier days trying to realign the scoring methods from field trials to what we look for in a pack hound. Through those early years, I witnessed the development of improvement in the hunting of a pack of hounds that always started out as strangers to each other and advances in the scoring to better recognize and score every hunting trait upon which to compare pack hounds at work.

I was always amazed how at the end of each day at the judges’ meeting―after all the mileage covered and all the hours passed―the same hounds had been noticed and scored by virtually every judge. That fact alone gave me confidence that under this system a group of judges could fairly recognize separate and recognize the top working hounds in a pack.

bull run blue ridge pt 2021.callarStrangers at the start, foxhounds from 8 competing hunts get to know each other in the Bull Run Hunt country at a Performance Trial qualifier early in the season. /   Liz Callar photo

For Masters/Huntsmen/Breeders Looking to Improve You Pack:
As a member of the field, every hound you see at work in this championship trial will have already proven its hunting abilities over a multitude of other hounds chosen by their Masters and huntsman as the best in their respective packs.

I haven’t counted, but let’s assume that each of the nine qualifying trials this season drew entries from six hunt clubs on average. That would mean total participation of fifty-four hunts through the season. So, the hounds you will see in the pack vying for the upcoming championship will have already exceeded the performance of the best hounds from perhaps one-third of all the hunts in North America!

Take notes of what attributes you see that would improve your own pack. Talk to the staff members there at hand. Consult the online MFHA Kennel Studbook for the bloodlines of hounds you saw and liked.

For All Other Foxhunters:
The number of riders in the field will be limited. Don’t get shut out. Watch North America’s top foxhounds at work. Oh, yes. And don’t miss the parties.

The weekend starts with a welcoming dinner for all and a meeting for judges on Friday evening, March 25, 2022. Two days of hunting will follow, through Sunday, March 27, 2022. There will be a Saturday night dinner and a presentation of awards for the first day of hunting. Sunday, after the second day of hunting, luncheon will be served, the presentation of final awards made, and the 2022 National Champion Foxhound will be introduced!

Contact Jan Sorrells to register qualified entries or to ride as a field member.

Posted February 20, 2022

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