Huntsman Robert Taylor hasn’t had a good rest in five years. He’s been hunting two separate packs of foxhounds in Maryland—the Goshen Hounds as Master and amateur huntsman and the New Market-Middletown Valley Hounds as professional huntsman. Huntsman Ken George has been driving hounds and horses six hours each way twice a week from Kansas to Iowa to hunt hounds in both states. Huntsmen love what they do, but each season ends with changes in the wind.
As this hunting season draws to a close, we see huntsmen on the move again. Starting in the north and progressing southward then west, here’s what we know so far; please let us know who we’ve left out.
Blistering hot weather visited Virginia for the past four weeks. While not unusual this time of year, the length of the hot spell, with temperatures hovering in the high eighties and even reaching into the low nineties, has proved miserable to man and beast alike, but it failed to deter foxhunters who entered this year's North American Field Hunter Championships.
On Monday, September 30, the Championships began at Keswick. Hounds met at Glenwood, a fixture in the neighborhood of James Madison's Montpelier, outside the town of Orange. Contestants from as far away as Florida and Georgia traveled to compete in the event, as well as to enjoy early autumn hunting in Virginia. They were not disappointed. Keswick huntsman Tony Gammell provided a fine day of sport in the lovely rolling countryside as hounds ran across the nearby road, back again, and beyond the fixture into a scenic expanse of woods and cornfields. Afterward, everyone enjoyed a tailgate as five contestants were selected for the finals.
On Tuesday, October 1, hounds met at Owl Run Farm in Warrenton, home of Casanova Hunt Joint-Master Mrs. Joyce Fendley. Previously the home of Donna and Jack Eicher, huntsman at Rombout and later Farmington Hunt, the grounds include a lake and a cluster of graceful weeping willows out front. The residence and barns all exude the charm of old Virginia Hunt Country—weathered stone, stout board and batten, low eaves and metal roofs. A special surprise awaited the field this morning when shortly after casting hounds, an eruption in a cornfield revealed that hounds had encountered a black bear! Fortunately, the pack obeyed their orders to ignore the bear as it beat a hasty retreat. The remainder of the morning proved quieter, and as the field hacked in, Mrs. Fendley positioned herself, as she always does at the end of a hunt, such that she could personally thank everyone in the field as they passed by on their way to their trailer. This small but thoughtful act is just one of many that make hunting in Virginia so special and unique. It was a hot, thirsty, and tired field that gathered under a tent to drink and devour a delicious crab dip while recalling the excitement of having gone on their first bear hunt! This morning, six finalists were announced.
Trainer Neil Morris and jockey Jacob Roberts teamed up at the Loudoun Hunt Point-to-Point to win four of their five races over fences at Oatlands in Leesburg, Virginia, Sunday, April 14, 2013.
After a fifth place showing in the first division of the first race (Maiden Hurdle)—won by Silverado Beach, rider Jeff Murphy, trainer Doug Fout—Morris-trained horses with Roberts in the irons swept the four remaining brush and timber races on the card.
Completing the recent round-robin of “Huntsmen on the Move,” Martyn Blackmore will be the new huntsman at the Loudoun Hunt (VA) come the month of May, the traditional month for hunt staff to move to their new posts. Blackmore is the departing huntsman at the Loudoun West Hunt, just across town. With this announcement, a circle is completed as three huntsmen trade places among three hunts.
Huntsman Andy Bozdan moves from the Tennessee Valley Hunt (TN) to fill the vacancy at Loudoun West. Huntsman Ryan Johnsey leaves the Loudoun Hunt to fill the vacancy at Tennessee Valley. And Blackmore, departing from Loudoun West, fills the vacancy at Loudoun.
"Sue and I look forward to meeting Andy and Erin Bozdan," said Martyn, "and will offer them any help they may need."
To most members of the field, the huntsman is a heroic figure on horseback who gives us great pleasure in our moments of recreation. For the huntsman, however, those glorious moments are but brief episodes ina career for which their are very few opportunities available in the entire world! What brings these men and women to commit their working lives to such a career? Foxhunting Life will be starting a new series of articles focusing on huntsmen and their own stories of how they came to their profession. It promises to be a fascinating glimpse of lives most of us know nothing about. Watch for it!
Posted April 24, 2013
In a fast game of musical chairs, huntsmen around the country are moving at a rapid pace. Andy Bozdan, Ryan Johnsey, Daron Beeney, Matthew Cook, Gerald Keal, and Ross Salter are all in the game.
Two years ago London-born Andy Bozdan arrived here from Australia to hunt hounds for the Tennessee Valley Hunt (TN). Bozdan is now moving to the Loudoun West Hunt (VA) to take over their pack of Old English and Crossbred hounds for the 2013/2014 season.
“I have loved every minute of hunting the Tennessee Valley Penn-Marydels,” Bozdan said, “and moving to Tennessee from the UK allowed me the opportunity to meet Erin, whom I married in May last year.
“Hounds have really come together this season, making a real pack. All the new entry have entered well and hunted well all season with no exceptions. The pack is in good shape both physically and mentally, very happy with life, and I know they will miss their dad as I will miss them very much too. We are sad to be leaving Tennessee, but realize what a wonderful opportunity awaits us in Virginia this coming May.”
Bozdan’s opening at Tennessee Valley will be filled by Ryan Johnsey, current huntsman for the Loudoun Hunt (VA)—not to be confused with Bozdan’s Loudoun West! The Loudoun Hunt is currently seeking a huntsman.