Fox Hunting Life with Horse and Hound

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Sporting Photographer Janet Hitchen

janet hitchen3.leesDouglas Lees photoPopular and widely-respected photographer Janet Hitchen (neé Goldberg) died at her home near Millwood, Virginia on Tuesday evening, March 24, 2015. She was seventy-one.

Brilliant at her art, she has, over the last few decades, recorded a magnificent visual historical record of people and events in the world of field sport in and around Virginia. I fervently hope that her collection of negatives and digital image files will be preserved in her name, in the custody of a capable and responsible archivist, for the benefit of sporting researchers and writers of the future.

Janet was my go-to photographer from the early 1990s on, whenever I needed an image for Covertside. When I published the first full-color foxhunting calendar for the American Foxhound Club in 1998, she was the first photographer I called. Two of her photos were included in that inaugural calendar, and her photos have graced the pages and covers of Covertside and our Foxhunting Life Calendars ever since.

Mrs. Thaddeus (Anne) Ryan, 89, Dies in New Zealand

scarteen hunt dance.1949Scarteen Hunt Dance, 1949, where Anne Peter from New Zealand first met Thady Ryan, MFH. Anne is second from the right in front. Thady is second from the left behind.Anne Ryan (neé Peter), eighty-nine, widow of the late Thady Ryan, MFH, Scarteen (IRE), died in her home in Nelson, New Zealand on Wednesday, March 11, 2015. She will be remembered with affection by sportsmen around the world who had the good fortune to meet her while hunting with the Scarteen behind Master and huntsman Thady Ryan, and especially by those who had the greater good fortune to stay or dine at Scarteen over their hunting holidays.

Anne, a native of New Zealand, was visiting cousins in Ireland in 1949 when she met Thady. She caught his eye the first time he spied her hacking in from a meet with the Tipps. A few days later, she appeared at the Scarteen Hunt Dance in the company of a young man. Thady had not forgotten his first sight of Anne, and he wooed her with determination. There were obstacles, she having been brought up in the Anglican faith and he a devout Catholic. Further, the cousins with whom Anne was staying had promised to return her to her family in New Zealand “whole and single.”

Hunting Horn Ringtones on your iPhone!

JohnT Huntsman John TabachkaWe finally worked it out: how to download our horn call ringtones to an iPhone! So many people have asked, and here’s how. But first, a story.

I tried to phone Steve Price, a member of Foxhunting Life’s Panel of Experts, but he was out. I left a message asking him to return the call on my cell phone. When his call came, I happened to be in the stall with my retired hunter, Guitar. Upon hearing the ringtone, "Gone Away," old Guitar pricked his ears and took a couple of lively turns around the stall! I laughed and explained the scene to Steve.

“You should have given the phone to Guitar and told him, ‘It’s for you,’” said Steve.

FHL's ringtones are the brilliant horn work of John Tabachka, huntsman, Sewickley Hunt (PA), a two-time winner of the National Horn Blowing Contest at the Pennsylvania National Horse Show in Harrisburg. (Click to view FHL's popular video, Calls on the Horn, in which John explains the meaning and usage of the principal horn calls heard in the course of a day's hunting.)

What follows is the ringtone download procedure for iPhone users only, and uses M4R files required by the iPhone; most other cell phone users should use the mp3 files that we have made available for some time now. (Note: This "read more" link is open to all viewers.)

Win or Lose, Some Good Has Emerged

norman.karen.farnleySometimes good things eventually emerge from bad moments. Most people around the country don’t really dwell on animal welfare. Representatives of the small, vocal, and well-financed animal rights movement make their strident claims, and the media spreads their gospel. Those who live with animals are not as well organized or as well financed, and their voices—generally—aren’t as well heard. So it has been in New York City, where some good things—honest truths about animals—have finally emerged after a year of bad moments.

Under the guise of animal welfare, hungry real estate developers are seeking to put the carriage horses and their drivers out of business. They see money to be made in developing the horse stabling premises right there in the heart of the city. To that end they contributed large donations to Bill de Blasio’s mayoral campaign last year. It’s been a year of bad moments for truth about animals.

While the battle isn’t yet over, some amazingly beautiful and honest prose has been published in the responsible media setting the record straight on false claims of animal abuse that were initially so persuasive to a misinformed population. And that’s a good thing, because it so seldom happens.

On Monday this week, a New York Times editorial led with: “Here is something the New York City Council can do to end 2014 on a high note. It can vote down Mayor Bill de Blasio’s effort to abolish carriage horses.”

Ten Years of the Hunting Ban in England

norm DSC0995Liz Callar photoIt’s been ten years now since England’s Hunting Act of 2004 was enacted by the Labour government, and neither side is satisfied, says Stephen Moss in The Guardian.

To give the briefest of recaps, here’s what the law allows. Two hounds may be used to flush a fox to a gun; a pack of hounds may be used to flush a fox to a bird of prey; and/or a pack of hounds may follow a drag.

Most hunts in England and Wales opt for the drag. The problem comes when hounds find the line of a live fox and switch from the drag. At that point, huntsman and staff are supposed to stop hounds. The huntsman says, Easier said than done. The hunt monitor with his video cam rolling says, Not only did you fail to try to stop hounds, you even encouraged your hounds! There’s the rub, and there’s the basis of most of the prosecutions in court. In the end, it all depends on the persuasiveness of the evidence.

Tony Blair, prime minister at the time of the bill’s passage, later wrote that his support of the legislation was a mistake. When David Cameron, a foxhunter himself, became prime minister, he promised a free vote in Parliament aimed at reversing the ban. However, he has not been able to get enough support within his own government’s coalition to give him the confidence to push for such a vote.

Beep-Beep...Attempting to Re-Establish Connection...

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On Saturday of Opening Meet---traditionally the last Saturday in October for my hunt---the connection between me and you through Foxhunting Life was temporarily interrupted. Instead of coming home with hounds as I had planned, I detoured to the hospital. The good news is that, despite a fractured sacrum, everything is stable, and no surgery is necessary.

I am currently in rehab and making progress. I want to thank all who have called, emailed, and posted good wishes on Facebook. My heart is warmed by your messages.

Despite the week's hiccup in FHL's editorial schedule---now mostly behind us---we expect to maintain our usual twice-monthly e-mailings of FHL WEEK. My goal is to make this temporary stutter as brief as possible---perhaps even unnoticed by most of you!

Posted November 5, 2014

Thoughts on Field Hunter Competitions

nafhc14.winnerA competent horse and rider, confidently and comfortably crossing the country: what we all aspire to! Laurie Ambrose and Stretch, winning the Theodora A. Randolph Field Hunter Championship in Virginia.  /  Douglas Lees photo

The recently held Theodora A. Randolph Field Hunter Championship in Virginia is a unique competition. It differs from the more usual one-day hunter trial in which foxhunters ride individually over a course of obstacles, often including lead-overs, trot fences, fast gallops, and hold-hards.

In the Theodora A. Randolph Championship format (see Susan Monticelli’s report in separate article), field hunters are observed by mounted judges for several days during a series of actual foxhunts behind different packs of foxhounds. The judges’ task during these hunts is to select those horse/rider combinations they wish to see in a final day of competition. The finals, held each year at Glenwood Park in Middleburg on the morning of the Virginia Fall Races, consist of a mock hunt following a Field Master over a course of obstacles, and then individual tests similar to those in a hunter trial for the final ten or so selected.

While some avid and capable foxhunters believe that foxhunting is not a competitive sport and decline to participate, and while I can appreciate and respect their view, I also see benefits from these competitions. From one aspect, it’s a great value. If you want a hunting holiday in Virginia, you get to hunt with four different packs for an entry fee of not much more than the cost of a single cap at some of these hunts. And parties all week to boot!

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