Having been a member of many fields in many hunting countries, the huntsman has always been my hero. From the time we mount up and for the few hours that follow, it is the huntsman who is most directly responsible for our day’s sport.
One might well argue that the hounds have something to do with it, and this I grant. But the pack is the product of the huntsman, and, since the level of sport depends on how hounds perform in the field as a pack, it all comes back to the huntsman.
Here’s our annual report on the recent moves of huntsmen Neil Amatt, Martyn Blackmore, Tony Gammell, and Sam Clifton.
With the foxhunting season closing, and a new season of hound and puppy shows approaching, I always determine to improve my eye for a hound by judging from ringside just for fun. I would encourage any foxhunter to try it. The exercise not only makes the day more interesting, but educational as well. Especially when you can collar a friendly judge after the class and ask him why he didn’t like the hound you adored, or why he picked a hound you thought was ordinary.
It can be intimidating when you watch a procession of foxhounds enter and leave the ring and wonder how in the world the judge can sort them all out. For example, how does he compare a hound he is looking at to one he saw ten minutes ago? I have asked, and it seems there are almost as many methods as there are judges.
Mo Baptiste’s handsome bay Thoroughbred, Fifty Grand, has played the role of bridesmaid for years. He was Reserve Champion to Virginia Field Hunter Champions in 2012 and again in 2015. This year he was, finally, the bride. And the Champion.
Reserve Champion honors go to Marilyn Ware, Deep Run Hunt. The annual Virginia Field Hunter Championship is noted for the quality of the competing horses. The Masters of every Virginia hunt receive an annual invitation to nominate up to two horse and rider combinations which have been hunting regularly with that hunt. Chosen by the Masters, twenty-one riders from eleven hunts competed. They were:
William Faulkner, two-time National Book Award, Nobel Prize, and Pulitzer Prize-winning author, came to Charlottesville, Virginia from Oxford, Mississippi in the last decade of his life. He arrived two years after his daughter Jill moved to Charlottesville with her husband Paul Summers, who graduated from law school at the University of Virginia and was working as city attorney. Soon, Faulkner, Jill, and Paul were hunting with the Farmington Hunt. Jill would become Master in 1968 and serve in that capacity for forty years.
Faulkner had a reputation among hunt members for being game and fearless to his fences, despite having taken up serious foxhunting only since his arrival. He’d ridden since childhood, foxhunted in Tennessee, and loved it. However, he experienced a couple of serious riding accidents, and died in 1962 at the age of sixty-four from complications arising from a fall.
As we approach the 2017/2018 season, Foxhunting Life makes its annual report on the recent moves of eight huntsmen across the North American hunting countries.
Hugh Robards’ decision to hang up his hunting horn after fifty-five seasons in hunt service got Round One underway. Fully half of those seasons, and certainly the most visible, Robards spent in Ireland’s challenging ditch-and-bank country as huntsman for the County Limerick Foxhounds. There, he provided world-class sport for Master Lord Daresbury (whom he succeeded as huntsman), the hard riding members, and a constant stream of hunting visitors from around the globe.
For the last three seasons, Robards has carried the horn for the Middleburg Hunt (VA). As difficult as his personal retirement decision must have been, the Middleburg Masters and members paid Robards such a stirring tribute at their Hunt Ball that he had to have felt the sincere respect and affection in which he was held, notwithstanding his short tenure there. The members made certain that the ball revolved about him with mounted photographs of his career, the showing of a specially produced video, and speeches—sincere and well-earned, to recognize an illustrious career.