Foxhounds from five hunts faced off for the second Performance Trial of the Hark Forward season. The trials were hosted by the Millbrook Hunt in their scenic and mountainous country in the Hudson River valley of New York State, just ten miles west of the Connecticut border, ninety miles north of New York City.
Hounds met on Monday and Tuesday, September 25 and 26, 2017 under conditions reminiscent of mid-summer rather than the early days of autumn. Temperatures rose well into the eighties on both days as riders sweltered and hounds struggled to find quarry in the usually productive coverts. Yet hounds worked as a veteran pack and displayed outstanding work during their brief moments of action.
Each competing hunt had selected the seven-and-a-half couples of hounds from their kennels to best represent them. The thirty-seven-and-a-half couples of proven hounds melded quickly into a single pack (more about that later), reflecting positively on every huntsman: Bart Poole from the Essex Fox Hounds (NJ); Marion Thorne, Genesee Valley Hunt (NY); Codie Hayes, Golden’s Bridge Hounds (NY); Don Philhower, Millbrook Hunt; and Sean Cully, Rose Tree-Blue Mountain Hounds (PA).
Genesee Valley, a stop along the MFHA's Hark Forward Friendship Tour, was awesome! Six foxes put to ground in three-and-a-half hours! Epp Wilson, MFH, Belle Meade Hunt (GA), called it the best red fox hunt he had ever experienced.
Epp is Chairman of the Hark Forward Foxhound Performance Trials this season and is leading the tour across the North American foxhunting countries. Friendship Meets along the way have been scheduled. Join Epp and his fellow travelers for one or more (or any) of the exciting trials and/or hunt meets.
The Genesee Vally Hunt is renowned as one of the premier foxhunting clubs in North America. We were privileged to join Marion Thorne, MFH and huntsman, for their exciting Opening Day Meet on Saturday, Sept. 23, 2017. Marion’s pack more than lived up to its reputation!
With six hundred foxhounds from thirty-seven hunts showing in five separate rings at the Virginia Foxhound Show at Morven Park on Sunday, May 29, 2016, the hour gets late before the four individual division champions—American, Crossbred, English, and Penn-Marydel foxhounds—finally get their chance to face off for the William W. Brainard Jr. Perpetual Cup designating the Grand Champion of Show.
The hour arrived, somewhere around six p.m., as four handsome champions came together before Dr. John W.D. McDonald, MFH, judge of this prestigious class. It had been a long, hot, and tiring day for everyone—spectators, judges, handlers, and hounds alike. But one foxhound looked like he was still ready and happy to run from one end of the field to the other, which he did when asked to show his movement. With long, powerful, yet graceful strides that looked like a slow-motion camera had been set up just for him, Midland Striker made his statement and would not be denied.
“He is one of the most beautiful movers anyone could expect to see,” said Judge McDonald in admiration. “And he has perfect conformation.”
Martha wrote this story after studying The Life of an American Sportsman: Being Reminiscences by Harry Worcester Smith during the course of her 2016 John H. Daniels Fellowship at the National Sporting Library & Museum in Middleburg, Virginia.
I’m not sure that many people would have characterized Harry Worcester Smith as a good-for-nothing “cad.” On the other hand, neither might they have called him a gentleman. He was highly opinionated and he had a temper. He had a wicked sense of humor and he suffered no fool. He was a scalawag, a bit of a braggart, maybe a knave, possibly a scoundrel. It’s perhaps divine providence or poetic justice that his favorite horse, his horse-of-a-lifetime, was named “The Cad.”
An experienced foxhunter has become Master of a pack of foxhounds and recognizes that he has a deer problem. His hunting country is thickly wooded and accessible via trails. His staff is composed of an experienced amateur huntsman and honorary whippers-in. He whips-in himself, and has experienced first-hand the problems posed by the very nature of the country.
There are no discreet coverts to draw that can be surrounded by staff to stop hounds if a deer goes out. In the event of riot, staff is unable to gallop through the thick woods to get ahead of hounds and rate them. Or to even see which hound led the miscreants astray. He understands that he must first teach puppies what the proper quarry is, but he has no access to fox pens to even help him establish good habits from the start.
Thinking outside the box, he came up with the idea of using commercially available deer scent and fox scent as a tool to train hounds.