Stuart Grod—popular field member of the Fairfield County Hounds (CT)—has retired after forty-three consecutive seasons hunting in the first flight. A retirement party was held in Stu’s honor at the hunt’s clubhouse on November 22, 2014, where well-known food and travel author Michael Stern read a poem he composed for the occasion.
"Build a bridge with your hands on the mane;"
"Trot smooth as you head for the jump;"
"Go light when your hands hold the reins;"
"And don't crowd on the lead horse's rump:"
Just some of Stu's tips I've acquired
Since I started to ride with you folks.
I'll miss you up there, you strange country squire
With your bright eyes, your wisdom, and jokes.
In a hark back to bygone days, the Theodora A. Randolph Field Hunter Championships combine a whirlwind week of foxhunting and socializing against a backdrop of sporting estates, well-bred foxhounds, and passionate foxhunters. Always held the last week of September and ending the first weekend of October, this year's event attracted seventy-four entries with a brilliant card of hosting hunts: Orange County Hounds, Blue Ridge Hunt, Loudoun Fairfax Hunt and the Piedmont Foxhounds. Judges ride alongside the field to observe the competitors in action before selecting several riders each day, based on how well their horses performed, for the finals on Saturday. Every hunt hosted a tailgate, and there were social functions every evening.
Foxhunters from twenty-two hunts and eight states rode in the event: Andrews Bridge, Belle Meade, Blue Ridge, Bull Run, Casanova, Deep Run, Elkridge-Harford , Farmington, Glenmore, Hillsboro, Keswick, Loudoun Fairfax, Lowcountry, Middleburg, Newmarket-Middletown Valley, Old Dominion, Orange County, Palm Beach, Piedmont, Snickersville, Warrenton, and Whiskey Road. Riders came from Florida, Georgia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia. The six judges were Helen Brettell, Middleburg; Snowden Clark; Liz McKnight, ex-MFH, Elkridge-Harford; Ginny Perrin, MFH, Deep Run, and the husband-and-wife team of Lincoln Sadler and Cameron Sadler, MFH, Moore County.
“We now have twice the country and twice the membership at one-half the cost,” said Donna Rogers, MFH of the newly merged Loudoun Fairfax Hunt. “It was a no-brainer!” Good sense notwithstanding, the courtship that finally resulted in an official union of the two hunts—Loudoun West and Fairfax—lasted two years.
“We had a long engagement,” agrees Rogers. “We hunted together, we socialized together, and we became happier and happier with each other.”
Compromises were required for the resolution of many questions. Who will hunt the hounds? What will be the name of the hunt? What will be the new hunt’s colors? What days will we hunt?
“The hardest issue was that of the huntsman,” said Rogers. “If we retained either of the existing huntsmen and let the other one go, there would have been great unhappiness on the other side. We decided that the fairest to both memberships would be to start with a clean slate.”
As a result of that difficult decision, British-born Andy Bozdan becomes the first huntsman of the Loudoun Fairfax Hunt. (Click to read an amusing anecdote from Andy’s days as a whipper-in.) Foxhunting Life has already reported on the round-robin of huntsmen changes set off in part by the Loudoun West-Fairfax merger. (Click to read Huntsmen on the Move and New Huntsman at Loudoun.)