Matthew Mackay-Smith, internationally-renowned equine veterinarian, medical editor for EQUUS magazine, lifelong foxhunter, competitive endurance rider, and historian, died on December 8, 2018 in Berryville, Virginia. He was eighty-six.
Matthew possessed one of the most brilliant, ravenously curious minds I've ever encountered. A pioneer of equine surgical procedures, Harvard man, crazy brave foxhunter from age eight to eighty, mapper of colonial roads, 100-mile endurance rider, wordsmith nonpareil, coiner of riotous witticisms, knower of seemingly everything, mentor of seemingly everyone. In a world peopled with the narrow-focused, he was Jeffersonian in breadth. (Matthew was, in fact, a descendant of Thomas Jefferson.)
The sheer beauty of a level pack of foxhounds is indisputable. There is a uniformity of appearance and traits, and such a pack tends to run well together. But isn't there another option?
Why not a pack consisting of foxhounds of various types, welcoming the unique attributes of each hound type? Breeders know that no single type offers all the best attributes we want in a pack; hence the English-American Crossbred. But within those two categories there are still more individual types with more concentrated attributes that could allow each type to contribute at the appropriate stage of any hunt just when needed.
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.
The Masters and Directors of Mr. Stewart’s Cheshire Foxhounds (PA) have announced the return of Ivan Dowling as professional huntsman for the well-respected pack.
Dowling returned to hunt the Cheshire hounds on a temporary basis in February, upon the departure of huntsman Barry Magner, then in his second season. A search committee was established to review other potential applicants but decided instead to propose reviving the hunt’s previous long term relationship with Dowling. The retired huntsman enthusiastically agreed, according to the recent announcement from the hunt.
Junior foxhunters, their horses, parents, and friends traveled from thirteen states to Thomson, Georgia, where the Belle Meade Hunt hosted the finals of the fifteenth annual Junior North American Field Hunter Championships on November 11-13, 2017.
Throughout the course of the informal season, hunts around the country held qualifying meets from which the young finalists were chosen by mounted judges. Of the 216 juniors who qualified to compete in the finals, fifty-six young riders from eighteen North American hunts—more than twenty-five percent of those qualified—traveled to Belle Mead to hunt, compete, see old friends, and make a pile of new friends. And did they have a wonderful time! It was truly a pleasure to see.