Fox Hunting Life with Horse and Hound

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Remembering Lady Molly

Lady Molly Cusack-Smith

Continuing my theme on the intersection of people and places, FHL subscribers might remember the story that Noel Mullins sent us last month about the Galway Blazers’ Puppy Show. The story was accompanied by a Mullins photograph of the Blazers’ long-serving MFH and huntsman Michael Dempsey. I was thrilled to see the photo, for I have my own memories of Michael Dempsey.

Before Dempsey became Master of the Blazers, he whipped-in to the late Lady Molly Cusack-Smith and the Bermingham and North Galway hounds. In that capacity both he and she are principal characters in one of the stories—a true ghost story that happened forty years ago—in my book, Foxhunting Adventures. So Mullins and I exchanged memories of our mutual connections.

John Denis, MFH

John_DenisThe intersection of people and places is sometimes wondrously coincidental. Irish photojournalist Noel Mullins and I have recently discovered foxhunting friends we have in common from County Galway some forty years since. More than friends, these were larger-than-life individuals enormously influential in the process that turned each of us into the foxhunting men we became.

Fast forward, and here is an excerpt from Chapter 2 of my book, Foxhunting Adventures: Chasing the Story, describing a large painting hanging in the dining room in Bermingham House, County Galway, home of the late Lady Molly Cusack-Smith, MFH:

"Dominating the end wall above the sideboard and presiding in spirit equal to Molly’s presence, gray-whiskered John Denis surveys all from the saddle. This dramatic nineteenth-century portrait of man, horse, and hound in a graceful swirl of motion and muscle was presented to him by grateful members of the Galway field."

Travels with Betsy

Our photojournalist friend Betsy Parker has set out on a cross-country horse-hauling journey with truck, trailer, two horses, her friend Beth, and Beth’s seven-year-old son John. Betsy is also carrying her laptop and camera and sending a daily journal of her experiences—a discourse that flies from her keystrokes tap-tapped in the harsh light of morning or the dead of night, whenever the day’s events are ready to be put to bed.

Most foxhunters trailer their horses to hunt meets and competitions without thinking much about it, but hauling cross-country has to be epic. Since Betsy’s writing talent allows her to switch from pure reportage to poetic musing to humor, effortlessly, from paragraph to paragraph, we couldn’t resist taking the journey with her and experiencing vicariously the good, the bad, and the ugly happenings as our intrepid trio meets and deals with them.

Here is the second installment. Previous accounts are available for access from the Horse and Hound drop-down menu above. Click on Travel.
August 1, 2010

An Unforgettable Field Hunter

Our writer/foxhunter friend Martha Woodham from Georgia has sent us a touching memorial about the life and times of one of the best field hunters in North America. I realize that’s a bold claim, but Martha is telling us about a mare that, at the age of twenty-four, came to Morven Park as the oldest of the sixty top qualifiers from all over the country and placed third in the MFHA Centennial Field Hunter Championship. I watched all those horses go, and they were truly the cream of the crop.

But I have another stake in this story. I had the good fortune to ride that mare with the Bear Creek Hounds (GA) in her twenty-third year, and it was an experience to savor. My visit to Bear Creek constitutes Chapter 18 in my book, Foxhunting Adventures: Chasing the Story, and here’s an excerpt:

Opening the Window

With regular reports from Ireland and England by photojournalist Noel Mullins, Foxhunting Life is pleased to bring you a wider window into the world of foxhunting.

Mullins, having retired as marketing chief for IBM in Ireland, has happily reverted to his true personna—foxhunter. FHL subscribers have already enjoyed his stunning photographs and well-crafted articles. There’s more to come.

Mullins also has two books currently in print and available through FHL’s Bookstore. In The Origins of Irish Horse Fairs & Horse Sales: 3,000 Years of Selling Irish Horses, the author explores the roots that have made Irish horses famous the world over. Irish horse fairs and horse sales have lured buyers from every nation in the expectation of finding horses with good temperament, tough bone, and athletic ability.

Where Did You Hear That One?

I shall always be grateful to the Masters of Foxhounds Association for allowing me to develop Covertside and serve as

its editor for fifteen years. During that time I had the unparalleled opportunity to meet, observe, hunt with, talk to, and interview many of the greatest huntsmen, hound breeders, Masters of Foxhounds, and foxhunting statesmen of the last half-century. Not only in North America, but in England and Ireland as well.

When planning this website, one of the features I wanted to offer was access to authorities such as these. Every foxhunter has the occasional question, whether it be on an arcane hunting term, hunting hounds in the field, breeding hounds, correct attire, a point of etiquette, training the field hunter, sporting art or literature.


The young lady was waiting in line—a long line, all the way outside the building—at the Virginia Foxhound Show when a soft-spoken, older man started a casual conversation. Where are you from? What hunt? Did you bring hounds to the show? How are they bred? What is your country like? He was interested in all she had to tell him about her hounds and her hunt. Then he strolled off.

"Do you know who you were talking to?" gushed a friend nearby.