Fox Hunting Life with Horse and Hound

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Middleburg Hunt

middleburg

Middleburg, Virginia

Website: www.middleburghunt.com


albertpoe.portrait.leesAlbert Poe was huntsman of the Middleburg Hunt (VA) for 15 years before retiring from an illustrious career breeding and hunting old Virgnia Bywaters type foxhounds. / Douglas Lees photo

Albert Poe died on Saturday night, May 18, 2019. He was arguably the finest American-born professional breeder of foxhounds of our time. Along with his brother, Melvin, the pair have to be considered the two most storied American-born professional huntsmen that any foxhunter living today could have followed across the country.

Melvin might have been considered the more gregarious personality, but Albert, in his quiet way, was extremely articulate. He could put into words the hunting wisdom which developed perhaps instinctively.

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meg gardner toy horse

I’m looking forward to the new exhibits at the Museum of Hounds and Hunting. They’ll open the day before the Virginia Foxhound Show at Morven Park, Saturday afternoon, May 25, 2019 at 4:00 pm. In addition to the permanent exhibits, including the hallowed Huntsmen’s Room, visitors will see twelve ancient wooden toy horses lovingly restored by Meg Gardner, ex-MFH and Field Master of the Middleburg Hunt (VA). Meg retired as Master in 1994.

She was a superb horsewoman and adventurous Field Master. I followed her over a five-foot stone wall once—yes, someone measured it—and we weren’t even running at the time. In cold blood. Just something she decided to do for a lark. No panel. No rider. Just a solid stone wall. But as for artistic restoration of wooden rocking horses? Who knew?

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deep run and blue ridge hounds on exerciseC’mon, Gotta Walk a Few Hounds..  /   Sheri Buston photoIt’s a week and a half since huntsman John Harrison was suddenly faced with, then miraculously dealt with what could have been a horrendous outcome of that day’s electric storm. A bolt of lightning struck the power meter at the Deep Run Hunt kennels and the building burned to the ground.

We’ve all heard how, with flaming shards falling from above, John was unable to reach hounds to free them from their pens. Needing another way in, he took a tractor to the perimeter and used the bucket loader to smash a way through, saving virtually all the foxhounds. The nightmare that ‘could have been’ was mercifully averted by John’s quick thinking and bold action.

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In this excerpt from “Foxhunting: How to Watch and Listen,” the author reveals what goes through the huntsman’s mind as hounds find their fox and push it into the open. In Robards' celebrated book, the entire chase is chronicled from beginning to end, first from the standpoint of the huntsman, then from the viewpoints of the whipper-in, the Field Master, the hounds, and the fox.

robards.mburg photo.cropHugh Robards and the hounds of the Middleburg Hunt  /  Middleburg Photo

Try to position yourself so you can hear what the huntsman is doing. You may hear a hound whimper. The huntsman has not only heard, but he has seen Wagtail trying to take a line to the edge of the covert where some thick briars cover the boundary ditch. The pack also heard the whimper and, knowing it is Wagtail, a hound on whose opinion they can rely, have come in close to her and the huntsman. Now you might see the huntsman quietly edge his hounds toward the ditch. As you strain to hear what is going on, everything in the covert falls silent.

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The author explains how a huntsman deploys hounds when drawing covert for a fox, and the considerations that dictate his tactics. Drawing is what the huntsman does when seeking a fox, not to be confused with casting for the fox when hounds are at fault.

robards.mburg photo.cropHugh Robards and the foxhounds of the Middleburg Hunt / by Middleburg Photo

On leaving the meet, you might want to keep close to the Field Master so you are in a good position to observe what is going on at the first draw. The whippers-in and other helpers have gone to various point of the covert to view the fox away. Notice on approaching the covert, not one hound leaves the huntsman until he tells them to leu in, at which time hounds enter the covert and begin searching for the scent of a fox. The huntsman wants all hounds in covert when a fox is found so they will all be there to apply pressure, push it out, and be together on the line when it goes away.

If it is a large covert, the huntsman will draw it into the wind, thereby giving the pack every opportunity to wind and rouse their fox. He will also ride into the covert, cheering and encouraging his hounds: “Lieu try, try in there, leu wind ’im, push ’im up old dogs.” That may be what it looks like in print, but most huntsmen make guttural noises that few people can understand!

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