Like many in the hunting world, I was saddened to learn of the passing of Al Schreck, MFH. Al was a great influence during my years as a huntsman, not only in America but also in Ireland.
Al had been a Joint-Master of the Los Altos Hounds since 1969 and had visited Ireland every year from the early 1960s to hunt with the County Limerick foxhounds and adjacent packs. I first met Al in 1970 when I went to Ireland to hunt the County Limerick foxhounds for Lord Daresbury, MFH. I immediately became friends with him and his lovely wife, Jo. Sadly, Jo predeceased him.
Honorary huntsman Jennifer Hansen credits the Woodbrook Masters who encouraged her to take hounds on a one-thousand-mile trip (each way!) from Washington State to Southern California to participate in the Western States Hound Show. It was the first time that Woodbrook had shown hounds in many years, and it was the first time Hansen ever showed hounds. And she took home the Grand Champion Foxhound of Show, Woodbrook Kent 2014.
“I was as nervous as I could be,” said Hansen, but “I was so proud of Kent who held his stern high all day. [Judge] Mr. Pitts said, ‘That hound just can’t stand bad!’”
“New” is hardly the word to use when writing about the sport of foxhunting in general, and even harder to use with a club as dedicated to tradition as central Virginia’s Farmington Hunt Club. Change is always a challenge! But our new huntsman Matthew Cook has been changing things all around since he arrived in Free Union three years ago—raising a new level of hunting sport with a growing list of firsts.
Cook entered Farmington hounds in the Virginia Hound Show in May, 2014 for the first time; he took a carefully picked few hounds to meet prospective foxhunting juniors at the local 4H club last spring, and he accompanied his daughter Pippa along with a group of Farmington juniors to compete for the first time ever at the finals of the Junior North American Field hunting championship in Lexington, Kentucky just last October. Most recently, he prepared Farmington hounds to compete in a foxhound performance trial at the Belle Meade Hunt in Thomson, Georgia in January 2017.
As we approach the 2016/2017 season, Foxhunting Life reports on recent huntsmen moves around the hunting countries.
Ivan Dowling has retired from hunting Mr. Stewart’s Cheshire Foxhounds (PA). After ten seasons (and before that as first whipper-in), this comes as a major change at Cheshire because the Irish-born Dowling was a key figure in implementing a bold, highly unusual, and successful hound breeding program there. With Dowling’s departure, Cheshire loses a professional whipper-in as well—Stephanie Boyer—who will wed Dowling in September.
Barry Magner is the new Cheshire huntsman. Irish-born Magner’s professional career includes whipping-in at the United Foxhounds (IRE) and a stint whipping-in in England. In the U.S., Magner whipped-in to the Howard County-Iron Bridge Hounds (MD) for a season and became huntsman there in 2007 upon Allen Forney's retirement. He came to Virginia as huntsman for the Middelburg Hunt where he remained for five years until leaving two years ago for Australia. Back in the U.S., Magner joined the Cheshire as professional whipper-in last season and was named huntsman upon Dowling’s retirement.
Brian Kiely knows he will have big boots to fill when Larry Pitts, huntsman for the Potomac Hunt (MD), retires after thirty-five seasons there. Brian spent a weekend recently with the Potomac Masters, had a chance to hunt with Larry, and accepted the position of huntsman starting next season.
“The way Larry conducted himself, the way the hounds related to him, was poetry,” said Brian. “It was a fabulous experience just to watch him.”
“I remember seeing Larry some years ago at the Virginia Foxhound Show,” Brian continued. “Hounds from hunts all over were arriving at the kennels...nervous...running off...and there was Larry, calmly walking his pack through all the confusion, without a care.”