Fox Hunting Life with Horse and Hound

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Guilt by Association

nodh.klmWe recently ran an article by Anne Hambleton titled “Thoroughbreds: Kings of the Hunting Field.” The article received many enthusiastic Comments and was posted by readers through the social media. Yet despite all the enthusiasm and warm feelings the article generated for this majestic breed, one Thoroughbred retirement organization may have lost the support of an important donor.

Anne wrote about some famous race horses—Steppenwolfer, McDynamo, Lonesome Glory, Private Attack, Buck Jakes—who found second homes in the hunting field. Those horses loved foxhunting, and their riders, sitting atop a fleet, supremely athletic, and bottomless horse that moves like a cloud would have it no other way. Anne made a case for the breed, and she also encouraged foxhunters to look at some of the wonderful candidates available at the many Thoroughbred rescue organizations.

One major retirement organization mentioned the Foxhunting Life article on their Facebook page and proudly told of some of the racetrack retirees they have successfully re-homed for second careers as field hunters. They received several positive responses, then heard from a long-time major donor who left a negative comment about foxhunting being a cruel sport and threatened to stop donating to the organization. Guilt by association.

Naturalist's Notebook: The Red Fox

cathysummers5Cathy Summers photo

The red fox (Vulpes fulva) is one of the best-known characters in history and legend, widely spread over the temperate and northern regions of the world. For its combination of beauty and grace and intelligence it has had the attention of artists, poets, and naturalists, and merits the attention of those who would read the signs of the out-of-doors.

The Future of Foxhunting: We Have Seen the Enemy and He Is Us

norman.karen.farnleyFoxhunting is and will continue to be embattled on two fronts: (1) animal rights activism and (2) loss of open space. The good news is that we have strategies for dealing with these pressures. The uncertainty rests with our own will and dedication, as Walt Kelly's cartoon character Pogo told us many years ago. Now and in the future, we need to look harder within...at us.

Thoroughbreds: Kings of the Hunting Field

steppenwolferNina Siepel on Steppenwolfer, out with the Cheshire hounds this year

Consider the happy life of Steppenwolfer (by Aptitude out of Wolfer): lots of treats; a big field with clover and buddies; and, from September to March, running around the countryside with a lot of other horses chasing a pack of hounds. A far distance from running third to Barbaro (by Dynaformer out of La Ville Rouge) in the Kentucky Derby and second in the Arkansas Derby in 2006.

Gelded and purchased by Gail and Dixon Thayer as a steeplechase prospect, his short steeplechase career wasn’t as stellar as hoped for. But he’s one happy puppy now. And Nina Siepel, who hunts him with Mr. Stewart’s Cheshire Foxhounds (PA), always wears a big grin, as if she still can’t really believe her good fortune. I’m not sure who is the luckier of the two.

Dedicated Website Lists Field Hunters for Sale

nodh.klmLooking for a Field Hunter? Try FoxhuntingHorse.com, a website dedicated to our discipline. Certainly, horse marketing websites have been used successfully for years, but if you were looking for an experienced foxhunter, you had to wade through a lot of horses in a lot of other disciplines.

Many of those ads, after telling you that the horse is a great mover, snaps its knees, has four flashy white socks, and is schooling successfully over two feet, finish with the line, “Would make a great field hunter.” Well, maybe, but not just yet.

FoxhuntingHorse.com was created by Lisha Marshall, an experienced horsewoman and foxhunter. The website segregates field hunters into categories: First Flight, Second Flight, Hilltopper, Child’s Hunter, Staff Horses. Each horse’s experience is described in terms that are meaningful to the foxhunter.

Hunt Attire: No Single Truth

norm.kleckThe author in informal cubhunting attire / Nancy Kleck photoTraditional foxhunting attire is important to me, but I’m not a fanatic.

Why is it important? Respect...for three hundred years of sport, art, literature, and the men and women who had the passion, energy, and intellect to formulate and leave us one of the most exhilarating activities known to man. For these reasons it pains me to see the concepts of appropriate attire ignored in many hunting fields today.

There is good reason to dress modestly and uniformly. Foxhunting is about the hounds and the quarry; it’s not a stage for man or horse. Its dress code can be described as stratified uniformity—stratified between staff, Master, and field so we can quickly identify who’s who in the heat of battle, and uniformity so that we all maintain our modest place in the overall scheme of the sport.

Why, on the other hand, am I not fanatical about correct hunting attire? Because there is no single truth.

New Age Hunting Journal

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Throughout the history of foxhunting, many Masters, huntsmen, and even field members have kept hunting journals. These accounts generally include the date, meeting place, names of hunting staff, weather and scenting conditions, and other factual details. Then, depending on the writer’s bent and talent, there may be textual descriptions of runs, actions of specific hounds, and even artistic renditions of special moments. Such journals have provided us with valuable historic information as well as stirring tales of the great hunts of yesteryear.

It came home to me only recently that most of us today carry in our pocket a resource that revolutionizes the traditional hunting journal: the smart phone.