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.

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.

Autumn Morn: Ode to a Huntsman

Although this poem was written in tribute to a huntsman in his prime, it is especially poignant because it seems to prophesy his tragic end.

Fay Bohlayer, a member of the Shakerag Hounds (GA), wrote the poem in 1981 for huntsman Michael Power on the occasion of his move from Shakerag to the Warrenton Hunt (VA). Ten years later, Bolayer’s poem was read at Power’s memorial service after he suffered a fatal accident in the hunting field. It could as well have been written for that sad occasion.

Power was a keen, hardworking, talented huntsman, and he showed exceptional sport at Warrenton. I watched one day as he had someone throw a coat over a barbed wire fence, which he then jumped to stay with hounds.

Once Bohlayer asked him which he thought was more fun: hunting or racing. Power replied, “Whichever I happen to be doing at the time.” She recalls one day behind Power when hounds were running, and to stay with them Power galloped without pause straight toward an iron gate, which he jumped. Bohlayer chose not to follow Power’s line, and after the run she came up and apologized for going around. “Not at all,” he piped in his Irish tenor. “It’s your sport, but it’s my living. I must go.”

Here’s Fay Bohlayer’s tribute to Michael Power:

Why We Cover the Hunt Races

NormanMy answer to the question is threefold: first, the very notion of the point-to-point race originated with foxhunters; second, many of our great field hunters have come from the ranks of the timber horses, and conversely many of the best steeplechase horses have their start in the hunting field; and third, most of the steeplechase jockeys are foxhunters as well.

As Catherine Austen reminds us in Thoroughbred Owner & Breeder, “Hunt racing has its roots firmly lodged in the hunting field. Point-to-pointing started when two hunting men, Edmund Blake and Cornelius O’Callaghan, challenged each other to a race in 1752 for four-and-a-half miles across country from Buttevant Church to Donraile Church in County Cork. They jumped everything in their path, and by keeping the steeple of Donraile Church in sight (steeple-chasing), the two men kept to the planned route along the banks of the Awbeg River. The same line can still be taken while hunting with the Duhallow Foxhounds now.

“Amateur jump racing evolved from there....”

Hunting Attire, Tack, and Appointments

Foxhunting Life’s guide to correct hunting attire has been prepared with reference to several sources: Foxhunting in North America by Alexander Mackay-Smith, 1985; Guidebook 1997, a publication of the Masters of Foxhounds Association of North America; Riding to Hounds in America by William P. Wadsworth, MFH (first published in 1959 and subsequently in 1962 by The Chronicle of the Horse and reprinted many times); Miller’s Catalog, 1974; and Horse Country catalog, 1997.

Nancy Dillon Honored

Nancy Dillon is a living, legendary treasure of the Piedmont Fox Hounds in Virginia. She is the longest subscribing member of the hunt, having started hunting at age eight in 1943. For nearly a half century she has taught and led more children into the hunting field than anyone can count. Her truck and trailer pulling into the meet have been likened to the car at the circus where the clowns just keep coming out.

On Friday, November 8, 2013, the hunt threw a party at Buchanan Hall in Upperville to screen a specially-produced documentary—Lessons in the Piedmont—in tribute to Nancy. Throughout this beautifully-produced and heart-warming film, children (some grown, others still growing), Masters, hunt members, and citizens of the community expressed their love for this woman and their heart-felt appreciation for what she has done to instill a love of the sport, respect for the land, and personal values to generations of children.