Fox Hunting Life with Horse and Hound

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Old Dominion Hounds

olddominion

Fauquier County, Virginia

Website: facebook page


melvin.90thMelvin Poe at his ninetieth birthday celebration / Douglas Lees photoThe world of American foxhunting lost one of its best-loved and most highly respected personalities with the passing of huntsman Melvin Poe, age ninety-four, on Saturday September 13, 2014. That’s the sad news. The good news is that Melvin was able to ride his horse and hunt his hounds to the very last year of his life.

In foxhunting circles he was referred to simply as Melvin. Everyone knew who you were talking about. He’s been a fixture in North American foxhunting for more than sixty years and a celebrated legend for most of that time. He’s immortalized in a dramatic oil painting by Wally Nall; he made the cover of UK’s Horse and Hound in 1991; he starred in Tom Davenport’s 1979 foxhunting video documentary, Thoughts on Foxhunting, narrated by Alexander Mackay-Smith;  he was the subject for Peter Winant’s wonderful book, Foxhunting with Melvin Poe, The Derrydale Press, 2002; and in 2011 Melvin was inducted, along with his brother Albert, into the Huntsmen's Room at the Museum of Hounds and Hunting in Leesburg, Virginia.

Melvin grew up in the Virginia countryside. He was the boy to whom his friends turned to identify trees, birds, and animal tracks. His father, uncles, and brothers were all enthusiastic hound breeders and hunters. Melvin and his contemporaries represent a vanishing breed of countryman who knew the woodlands intimately and all that grew and thrived therein. And baseball! Melvin and his brothers loved baseball and participated in organized league play into their adult years.

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Remembrance

Melvin Poe Dies at Home at Age Ninety-Four

Norman Fine

melvin.90thMelvin Poe at his ninetieth birthday celebration / Douglas Lees photoThe world of American foxhunting lost one of its best-loved and most highly respected personalities with the passing of huntsman Melvin Poe, age ninety-four, on Saturday September 13, 2014. That’s the sad news. The good news is that Melvin was able to ride his horse and hunt his hounds to the very last year of his life.

In foxhunting circles he was referred to simply as Melvin. Everyone knew who you were talking about. He’s been a fixture in North American foxhunting for more than sixty years and a celebrated legend for most of that time. He’s immortalized in a dramatic oil painting by Wally Nall; he made the cover of UK’s Horse and Hound in 1991; he starred in Tom Davenport’s 1979 foxhunting video documentary, Thoughts on Foxhunting, narrated by Alexander Mackay-Smith;  he was the subject for Peter Winant’s wonderful book, Foxhunting with Melvin Poe, The Derrydale Press, 2002; and in 2011 Melvin was inducted, along with his brother Albert, into the Huntsmen's Room at the Museum of Hounds and Hunting in Leesburg, Virginia.

Melvin grew up in the Virginia countryside. He was the boy to whom his friends turned to identify trees, birds, and animal tracks. His father, uncles, and brothers were all enthusiastic hound breeders and hunters. Melvin and his contemporaries represent a vanishing breed of countryman who knew the woodlands intimately and all that grew and thrived therein. And baseball! Melvin and his brothers loved baseball and participated in organized league play into their adult years.

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joan hopewell.leesJoan Hopewell (left) and daughter Tanya hunting with the Old Domionion Hounds / Douglas Lees photo

Joan Hopewell, MFH of the Old Dominion Hounds (VA) from 1976 to 1979, died in Southern Pines, North Carolina on Thursday, June 26, 2014. She was born in England in 1919 and came to the United States in 1950. She was married to John C. Hopewell and lived in Virginia until moving to Southern Pines, North carolina in the late 1980s.

Mrs. Hopewell owned and trained race horses, including the successful Running Comment, winner of the New York Turf Writers Cup, in Saratoga in 1981.

After moving to Southern Pines, Mrs. Hopewell ran the Moore County Point-to-Point with Bubby Compton, and was an active part of the  equestrian life of this thriving horse community. She was a close friend of Ginny Moss, founder of the Walthour-Moss Foundation and MFH of the Moore County Hounds.

Mrs. Hopewell leaves behind two daughters: Diana Clarke, who lives in England, and Tanya Smith, a teacher in Southern Pines. She is grandmother to Kaylor, Derick, Rosy, and Noel.

A graveside service was held on Monday, June 30.

Memorial contributions may be made to the Walthour-Moss Foundation, P.O. Box 1744, Southern Pines, NC 28388.

Posted July 2, 2014

joan hopwell et al.lees(L-R) Joe Brooks (bowler from Mr. Hubbard’s Kent County Hounds); Joan Hopewell, MFH, Old Dominion Hounds; Emmet Simmons; Hattie (Mrs. James Sinclair); Harcourt Lees, MFH, Warrenton Hunt; John Hopewell, former MFH and husband of Joan Hopewell; Swannie Cunningham / Douglas Lees photo

 

live oak dandyLive Oak Dandy was Grand Champion of Show at the Southern Hound Show this year. / Cathy Taber photo

The hound show season, now underway, provides an excellent opportunity to improve one’s eye for foxhound conformation by judging from ringside just for fun. The exercise not only makes the day more interesting, but educational as well. Especially when you can collar a friendly judge after the class and ask him why he didn’t like the hound you adored, or why he picked a hound you thought was common. (Obviously, you must frame your question such that the judge understands that you are seeking an education and not leveling criticism!)

It can be intimidating to watch a procession of foxhounds enter and leave the ring and wonder how in the world the judge can sort them all out. For example, how does he compare a hound he is looking at to one he saw ten minutes ago? Ten years ago, I asked some top judges how they judged a class, and here's what I learned.

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booli selmayr.kirsten edlundBooli Selmayr, professional whipper-in, Millbrook Hunt (NY): “A good day whipping-in is not having to be told, but instead, allowing natural instinct to guide me: listening to the horn and hounds, reading the terrain, and quickly distinguishing whether fox or coyote.” / Kirsten Edlund-Tunkel photo

Professional or Honorary
The world of whipping-in is split into two camps—professional and honorary. The professional whipper-in often fills the position to gain experience and recognition on his or her road to becoming a huntsman. As the title suggests, it is a paid position. The honorary whipper-in is not paid, is generally recruited from the ranks of the hunt membership, and generally does not aspire to become a huntsman. He or she may be a riding member or one of the Masters.

Professional hunt staff in England go through a structured period of apprenticeship. Years there are spent just doing kennel work before even being allowed to walk hounds out on exercise and before even being allowed on a horse. If recommended, they will finally be taken on as second whipper-in to a hunt. After a few moves, they may be recommended to fill an opening for a first whipper-in somewhere else. Under the system, they purposely move every few years from one hunt to another, gaining experience and exposure to different huntsmen and different methods before finally being offered a huntsman’s post. Clearly a strong foundation is laid through such a rigorous system.

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