The season has started and so far so good. Young hounds are entering well and have been given the space and time to work things out. But every season brings headaches the Masters can well do without.
Most field members are blissfully unaware of the amount of year-round planning that goes into every day’s hunting. During the spring and summer Masters need to go and visit their landowners and make sure they are welcome for the following season. Secondly, they need to look further afield to increase their hunting country. Why? Because there are too many ways good country can be lost. Here’s one that I experienced.
Legendary horseman Louis “Paddy” Neilson III, MFH, died Thursday, September 5, 2019 at the age of seventy-seven. He was the husband of Toinette Phillips Neilson, with whom he shared thirty-one years of marriage.
Paddy served as Master, alongside his daughter, Sanna, of Mr. Stewart’s Cheshire Foxhounds (PA) and was a winning race rider and trainer. He hunted with Cheshire since childhood and served as full-time honorary whipper-in for the last thirteen years of his life, jumping his last fence in the line of duty just a couple of weeks before his death.
The late Matthew Mackay-Smith—internationally renowned veterinarian, editor of EQUUS magazine, foxhunter, and elite endurance rider—began foxhunting at the age of eight behind his late father, Alexander Mackay-Smith (ex-MFH, author, and longtime editor of The Chronicle of the Horse). Matthew left a treasure trove of hunt reports and countryside observations which, thanks to the permission of Matthew’s wife, Winkie, FHL will publish from time to time.
In my veterinary rounds in the country of Mr. Stewart’s Cheshire Foxhounds (PA), I often took a shortcut by using West Road, a primitive gravel lane with grass between the tire tracks. There, on a blustery March afternoon, I spied a feminine fox upwind of me, nonchalantly toting half a rabbit. In the gloaming, she was heading toward her den with the family supper. I stopped. She stopped, too, but oblivious of me. She was maybe fifty feet away.
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.