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George L. Ohrstrom III Wins MFHA Award

george ohrstromGeorge L. Ohrstrom III / Matthew Klein photoEver since 1888, the Blue Ridge Hunt has pursued foxes through the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia—a verdant, rolling grassland dotted with small woodlands, perhaps fifteen miles across, nestled between the Blue Ridge Mountains to the east and the Allegheny Mountains to the west.

The Shenandoah River flows northeasterly along the eastern edge of the valley, passes under the western slopes of the Blue Ridge, and empties into the Potomac River at Harper’s Ferry, W.Va.—a confluence described three centuries ago by Thomas Jefferson as “one of the most stupendous scenes in nature.”

Home to a mostly rural population, the Shenandoah Valley has long been a destination of unsurpassed beauty to vacationers and sightseers. The northern part of the Valley that is home to the Blue Ridge Hunt also finds itself to be an object of lust to developers from Washington, D.C., and Northern Virginia to the east and the nearby city of Winchester to the west. While many landowners find it hard to resist the potential financial windfall from development, others believe that to relinquish such natural beauty to untrammeled development would be a crime against nature.

Along with its sister landscape just to the east of the Blue Ridge—Virginia’s Piedmont—a passionate calling for preservation has rallied many of its citizens to battle. Few, however, have responded like George Ohrstrom III. The scope and creativity of Ohrstrom’s efforts locally, nationally, and internationally earned him the MFHA’s Conservation Award for 2014.

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Professional Huntsmen Are the Heart and Soul of Foxhunting

larry pitts.karen kandraHuntsman Larry Pitts with the foxhounds of the Potomac Hunt (MD) / Karen Kandra Wenzel photo

Professional huntsman Larry Pitts was recognized at the recent MFHA Staff Seminar held in Lexington, Kentucky, April 12 to 13, 2014. After a dinner for the two hundred attendees, Larry was presented with the annual Ian Milne Award for his exceptional contributions to the sport of foxhunting.

While the sport of foxhunting may, as many say, revolve around the foxhound, I suggest that the heart and soul of our sport is the professional huntsman. Professionals like Larry preserve the superlative foxhound bloodlines for breeding, and they maintain the standards for the care and training of hounds in kennel and the handling of hounds in the field. All hunts—whether high-octane or small farmer’s pack—and all huntsmen—whether professional or amateur—benefit from their breeding acumen and their examples of practice.

Here is a real-life example of how the professional huntsman exerts his or her influence upon our sport in kennels far beyond his own. Epp Wilson, MFH and huntsman of the Belle Meade Hunt (GA), reached back to his teen years and his first meeting with Larry Pitts in this vignette.

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Hugh Robards to Hunt Hounds for Middleburg Hunt

robardsHugh Robards cubhunting with the Rolling Rock HuntTalk about experience. Hugh Robards has spent fifty-three years in hunt service. He whipped-in to some of the legendary huntsmen in England—Brian Gupwell at the Eridge (later to become huntsman for the Duke of Beaufort), Percy Durno and Captain Ronnie Wallace at the Heythrop, and Charlie Wilkin at the Wynnstay.

Upon Captain Wallace’s recommendation to Lord Daresbury, MFH of the County Limerick Foxhounds, Hugh moved to Ireland to take up his first post as huntsman. There he remained for twenty-seven seasons showing world-class sport to the Irish—none keener—and visiting sportsmen and women from around the globe.

After parting from the Limerick, he came to the U.S. to help rebuild the Rolling Rock Hunt (PA), remaining there as Master and huntsman until 2007. From Rolling Rock he moved to the Saxonburg Hunt (PA) where he served as huntsman until coming to the Middleburg Hunt last year as first whipper-in to huntsman Barry Magner. (Barry is moving to Australia this season, and we hope to catch our readers up with him in another article.)

“Hugh continually reinvents himself because of his love for his work,” said Juli Robards, his wife. “Transcending change is one of his great qualities, and I’m unabashedly one of his biggest fans!”

Those who have hunted behind him are big fans as well. Tony Leahy, who grew up in Ireland, is first vice-president of the MFHA and serves as Master and huntsman of the Fox River Valley Hunt (IL). “Hugh is without question one of the best huntsmen I’ve seen,” said Tony. “I remember hunting behind him at Limerick, and I’ve seen him do amazing things!”

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The Accident that Saved Countless Concussions

 caroline.comic relief.leslie tCaroline Treviranus and Comic Relief / Leslie Treviranus photo

Caroline Treviranus and Comic Relief were an experienced horse/rider team at the 1978 World Championship Three-Day competition in Lexington, Kentucky. It was Caroline’s second World Championships representing the United States, and she had ridden Comic Relief to Horse of the Year status two years earlier.

As the pair entered the stadium jumping arena for the third and final phase of the competition—having completed the dressage and cross country phases—they were standing in fifth place. A few minutes later Caroline lay unconscious in the grass, bare-headed. Her hunt cap—traditional headgear for all show riders at the time—had parted company with her in mid-air, and a whirling fence rail struck her head.

What followed was evacuation by helicopter, two weeks in a coma, and months of rehabilitation for Caroline. What resulted in quick succession for the rest of us were mandates by the United States Pony Club, the United States Combined Training Association (USCTA), and the American Horse Shows Association for the wearing of approved safety helmets. Eventually, as riders became used to wearing safety helmets, their use was adopted by foxhunters and approved as acceptable, indeed recommended attire.

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