Fox Hunting Life with Horse and Hound

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Foxhunting Life sends this e-magazine to more than 4,500 individuals. Some are paid subscribers who have full access to every article. Many are unpaid registrants, who have access to a limited number of articles. Here’s a sampling from our archives, free to all. If you would like to subscribe, please click here.

The Great Hound Match: Day 4

harry worcester smith2Harry Worcester Smith in hunting attire, circa 1910, from the Harry Worcester Smith Archive (MC0041), National Sporting Library & MuseumThis week's Bonus article, free to all (no subscription necessary), is an excerpt from Chapter 10 of "The Great Hound Match" by Martha Wolfe―a historical account (with liberties taken) of that famous quarrel between Masters A. Henry Higginson and Harry Worcester Smith over the merits and hunting ability of the English foxhound compared to the American foxhound. The author views the match as “a metaphorical battle in America’s coming of age―her psychic independence from Britain’s lingering shroud at the turn of the twentieth century.”

Saturday, November 4, 1905, Grafton Hunt’s Second Day

“Hounds never ran so fast since the world began.”
−Allen Potts quoting Dr. Charles McEachran, judge for The Match, Richmond Times-Dispatch. Saturday, November 5, 1905

You and Ham trot on ahead with the hounds,” Smith told Mal Richardson. “We’ll not be far behind.”

Philippa’s Fox-Hunt

edith somerville"...made me feel as if I were being skillfully kicked downstairs."  /   Illustration by Edith Somerville

This week's Bonus article, free to all (no subscription necessary), finds Major Sinclair Yeates, R.M. (Resident Magistrate) posted to Ireland by the British Crown with the authority to adjudicate local disputes. He rents a house, Shreelane, for himself and his wife-to-be, Philippa, from Mr. Flurry Knox, Master of the local pack of foxhounds.

No one can accuse Philippa and me of having married in haste. As a matter of fact, it was but little under five years from that autumn evening on the river when I had said what is called in Ireland "the hard word," to the day in August when I was led to the altar by my best man, and was subsequently led away from it by Mrs. Sinclair Yeates. About two years out of the five had been spent by me at Shreelane in ceaseless warfare with drains, eaveshoots, chimneys, pumps; all those fundamentals, in short, that the ingenuous and improving tenant expects to find established as a basis from which to rise to higher things. As far as rising to higher things went, frequent ascents to the roof to search for leaks summed up my achievements; in fact, I suffered so general a shrinkage of my ideals that the triumph of making the hall-door bell ring blinded me to the fact that the rat-holes in the hall floor were nailed up with pieces of tin biscuit boxes, and that the casual visitor could, instead of leaving a card, have easily written his name in the damp on the walls.

The Silver Horn

john weatherford.e.iselin.masonColonel John Weatherford, MFH  /  Illustration by Eleanor Iselin MasonThis week's Bonus article, free to all, no subscription necessary. Gordon Grand is one of my favorite sporting authors, and his short story, “The Silver Horn,” is one of my favorite foxhunting stories. The reader is transported, in the early part of the twentieth century, to “that venerable hotel on Albemarle Street” in London, which we may readily assume is Brown’s Hotel. Colonel John Weatherford, MFH is relating Florence’s story as she told it to him upon their chance meeting in the hotel dining room after breakfast. I have extracted just the kernel of the story to reproduce here.

Returning from the theater and supper [Florence] had drifted off into a sound sleep, from which she was gently and fancifully awakened without sensing the cause. Her watch showed three o’clock. The roar and rumble of London had faded to its lowest murmur. A midsummer moon filtered through and illuminated the street below. What was it that had so illusively awakened the sleeper? Again she listened. The faint mellow note of a hunting horn drifted up from Piccadilly.

In The Curranhilty Country

EDITH SOMERVILLE ILLUSTRATIONIllustration by Edith SomervilleNow that we all have more reading time on our hands, here is this issue’s Bonus Article to fatten the content for our subscribers and to open more articles, previously restricted, to our non-paying registrants. We’ve been talking about the Irish cousins and author team of Someville and Ross in this issue, so here’s a condensed version of a chapter from Experiences of an Irish R.M. The narrator is Major Sinclair Yeates, the lovable (in the instance of the Somerville and Ross stories) British Resident Magistrate (R.M.) sent to Ireland to adjudicate local disputes in the days before Irish independence in 1922.

Dartmoor and Doyle

From Foxhunting Life archives, now that we all have more reading time on our hands, here is this issue’s Bonus Article to fatten the content for our subscribers and to open more articles, previously restricted, to our non-paying registrants. We were reminded of Sir Arthure Conan Doyle's poem since we've been talking about Dartmoor in recent issues.

dartmoor ponies.janetladnerJanet Ladner photo

Photographer Janet Ladner was out following the Mid-Devon Foxhounds when she came across these wild ponies taking shelter from the snow. I have hunted on Dartmoor, in England’s West Country, and found it to be a fascinating landscape of bleakness and beauty, with visible reminders of cultures that serially take one back in time all the way to prehistory. While hunting, one comes across ditches left by tin mining activity that began in pre-Roman times and continued to the twentieth century, evidence of farm tillage going back to the Bronze age in the parallel rows running across the slopes, and standing stones erected in prehistoric times. During quiet moments when hounds check, one can allow the imagination to soar.

For me, Dartmoor also conjures memories of cold winter boyhood days at home, reading the spooky mystery, Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle. It was the third of his Sherlock Holmes novels to be published, and this Dartmoor mystery filled my young head with delicious terror.

By coincidence, Janet Ladner’s photos of the ponies on Dartmoor arrived just as writer/editor Steve Price sent me this foxhunting poem, written by Arthur Conan Doyle. A confluence of Dartmoor and Doyle. Who knew he wrote foxhunting poetry?

Is Irish Hunting Really That Crazy?

east galway2.mullins.Harry Bleahen in the airWith the East Galway / Noel Mullins photo

Denya Clarke, who hunted from childhood in Virginia, was an A-Pony-Clubber, and now lives and hunts in Ontario, posed a question about foxhunting in Ireland. She writes:

“Several of us are interested in hunting in Ireland, but it seems a matter of pride to the Irish to boast about the speed, dreadful weather, jumps onto roads, formidable ditches, intimidating banks, wire, rain, steep hills, rivers, and rocks that one will face hunting in Ireland. We're not chickens, but do the experts have any suggestions as to where or how to hunt in Ireland that doesn't require doubling (tripling) your life insurance and leaving your up-dated will in the lorry?”

We asked Hugh Robards and Noel Mullins to respond—Hugh, because he showed world-class sport as huntsman for the County Limerick foxhounds for twenty-seven seasons, and Noel, because he is a lifelong foxhunter and one of those guilty Irish journalists that Denya refers to in her question.

I Was the Vixen’s Designated Kit-Sitter

dave ellis.vixen and kitsDave Ellis photo

I had found the den of a family of red foxes and was going early each morning to take pictures of the mother and her young kits. The kits were five or six weeks old, and were at that curious, exploring stage. Their life at that point pretty much consisted of eat, sleep, and play.

The father did not seem to be around, so the vixen had a lot of work to keep her four kits fed and safe. She was not stupid. She soon figured out that she could make use of me. She had to spend several hours each day off in the woods hunting in order to keep the little ones fed, which meant that without a father around, she would have to leave them alone and subject to being found by other predators.

Horse Racing Terms: An Illustrated Guide (2)

Book Review by Norman Fine

coates.horse racing termsHorse Racing Terms: An Illustrated Guide by Rosemary Coates, Merlin Unwin Books (UK), hardbound, illustrated in color, 140 pages, available online or directly from publisher, £8.99

Though this book is about the language of horse racing, much of the content is common to all horse people. And hunt racing and steeplechasing terms are included. And the little volume is the work of Rosemary Coates—a favorite illustrator of ours, whose work illuminates Deirdre Hanna’s humorous and continuing series about the two nineteen-year-old girls who left post-war England to work with horses in America.

Maiden, weaver, hands, claimer, the going, pony (the verb!), schooling, stayer—these and more than a hundred other examples of the arcane language of racing and horsemanship are tackled, many accompanied by Rosemary’s clever paintings. Also included is an alphabetic Glossary of Terms and a serious page on “How to read a Racecard.” Just the latter alone could turn the modest price of this book into a sound investment for the occasional race-goer’s next outing at the steeplechase course or racetrack.

James Barclay's Hunting England

myhuntingengland.barclayMy Hunting England, James Barclay, Ruddocks, Lincoln, UK, 2015, cloth, illustrated, large format, 143 pages, £45Foxhunters are often regarded by the uninitiated as a pack of wealthy horsemen in fancy clothes galloping gaily over the countryside. Truth be told, some foxhunters riding in their private and select world above the fray see it the same way.

James Barclay learned differently. In his just-published My Hunting England, he tells of his life in hunting, his love for England, and—for a man born high above the fray—tells his story with humanity, sympathy, and respect for all manner of hunting man and his quarry.

A frequent contributor to the pages of Foxhunting Life, James Barclay was born to a banking family well-represented in the world of hunting. He, his sister, two brothers, mother, father, grandfather, and great-grandfather all served as Masters of Foxhounds—a family way-of-life that began in 1896 when his great-grandfather became Master of the Puckeridge. James served as Master of five hunts from 1983 to 2012: the Essex and Suffolk, Fitzwilliam, Cottesmore, South Wold, and Grove and Rufford.

James’s new book is part memoir, part snapshot of hunting in the twenty-first century, and part tribute to those who left their mark on the sport of his life. He entered hunt service at the bottom and toiled alongside the other lads in the kennels. Nor, as he was to find, were all kennels equal.

Gregg Ryan, MFH Back in the Winner's Circle at Orange County

och15.amnov hurdle.leesAmateur/Novice Rider Hurdle Race (l-r): Special Guy (Ben Swope up) was second by a length to winner Spy In The Sky and Gregg Ryan, MFH.  /  Douglas Lees photo

The Orange County Hounds Point-to-Point Races were held on Locust Hill Farm, Middleburg, Virginia, on Sunday, March 29, 2015, perhaps the nicest spring day for racegoers yet this season.

Gregg Ryan, MFH of the Piedmont Fox Hounds and the Snickersville Hounds in Virginia, marked his return to the racecourse by winning the Amateur Novice Rider Hurdle Race on his veteran, Spy In The Sky. Ryan allowed Ben Swope on Special Guy to set the pace for much of the race, before pulling away with five furlongs to go. Special Guy, as he did at Warrenton, made a late rush, but not enough.

Spy In The Sky is trained by Eva Smithwick, Gregg’s Joint-Master at Snickersville. Trained in years past by Jimmy Day, Spy in the Sky won the $100,000 A.P. Smithwick Memorial Handicap at Saratoga in 2012, returning long odds of 25-1 to the lucky ticket holders there.

Trainer Teddy Mulligan Returns, Wins at Blue Ridge

brh15.mulligan.getaway.kleckTrainer Teddy Mulligan marked his return to the racecourse with a win in the first race. / Nancy Kleck photoThe sixty-sixth running of the Blue Ridge Hunt Point-to-Point Races were held at Woodley Farm on Sunday, March 22, 2015. This was the second year in a row that the Blue Ridge race meet had to be postponed due to the weather.

Trainer Teddy Mulligan returned to the racecourse after a year’s absence, saddling his first horse for the first race since his leave-taking and scoring his first win. Bedizen and Zol Zayne, the one-two horses, pulled away from the field of four in the Maiden Hurdle Race with less than a quarter mile to run. Turning for home, Bedizen with Jeff Murphy up took the lead and drew away for a convincing win.

In the remaining two hurdle races—Amateur/Novice Rider and Open Races—trainer Jimmy Day and his rider Brendan Brooks dominated the Winner’s Circle with Controlled Neglect, owned by Ann Braxton Jones-Lynch, and Manacor, owned by a Daybreak Stables syndicate.