Fox Hunting Life with Horse and Hound

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Orange County Hunt

orangecounty

Fauquier County, Virginia

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Leica eventing at age 24. She placed third because she was too fast cross country.

Leica was a remarkable horse whose career took her from incorrigible youngster with a vicious buck to an impressive third-place finish at age twenty-four in the grueling MFHA Centennial Field Hunter Championship. She was still hunting and showing at age twenty-seven, when she had to be humanely euthanized as the result of a pasture injury.

With her bloodlines and dazzling good looks, Leica was primed to be an outstanding dressage horse. An imported bay with touches of white, she was registered Hanoverian (by Lindberg, out of St. Pr. Kari) who was also entered in the main stud book of the RPSI (Rheinland Pfalz Saar International) and Holsteiner registries.

But after abuse from trainers who pushed her too far too fast, Leica had other ideas, says owner Julie Whitlock McKee of Grantville, Georgia. McKee acquired the hard-headed mare at age four after the trainers gave up on her. The pair did not get off to an auspicious start, with Leica rearing the first time McKee threw a leg over her. Rearing and bucking would become a regular occurrence.

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Huntsman Scott Neill

California’s West Hills foxhounds—organized sixty-three years ago by song-and-dance man Dan Dailey and boasting the late President Ronald Reagan as a founding member—were compelled to learn a new vocabulary disguised in a down under accent last season.

For the prior fifty-five years David Wendler, one of the most experienced huntsman ever to carry the horn, had led the West Hills Hounds over difficult and dry terrain, hunting a pack of independent-minded American hounds primarily of the July strain (with some Orange County red ring neck blood). When it came time for Wendler to retire, West Hills was in a quandary. How to keep up the high level of sport in what some believe to be the most demanding hunt country in North America?

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melvin-poeAnytime I see Melvin Poe, I always make a point to speak to him and show him his Florida strain of the Orange County red ring-neck foxhounds. He’s always so approachable and friendly and, of course, always interested in the red rings. In fact, last year at the Virginia Foxhound Show, I nearly missed one of our classes because I was talking to him just outside the ring. Luckily, Mac came running over and told me to get in there!

Our association with Orange County began in 1996, during our first season, when Kerry Glass, former Master and huntsman of the Norfolk Hunt (MA), contacted Melvin and arranged for us the draft of Orange County Boots, Bundles, and Britches. After our very first breeding to Boots, we instantly shifted our previously tri-color pack to red. Whenever we come to Virginia, we visit the Orange County kennels. It’s a ritual.

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April 1, 2020
“Hundreds of hurrying people pass within a few miles of Unionville, Pennsylvania, every day—unaware of the magical transformation that waits over a hill and down a road. The village guards the entrance to acres and acres of rolling grassland suspended between the suburbs of Wilmington and Philadelphia like a mirage." 

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“Immediately noticeable about this unexpected sweep of countryside is the luxury of miles of turf as closely woven and sturdy as homespun. And there is a wondrous absence of wire. No barbed wire, no hog wire, no flagged and electrified monofilament. The post-and-rail fences stretch on and on like railroad tracks. It’s the sort of landscape that strikes organ chords of rapture in a horseman’s soul: gallop-and-jump country, simply an outstanding foxhunting country. It has been painted by renowned artists George Weymouth and Andrew and Jamie Wyeth; filmed by Alfred Hitchcock (the hunt scenes in Marnie); been crash-landed on by Jacky Onassis and those not so famous. And for nearly fifty years, it has been nurtured by Nancy Penn Smith Hannum, the master of Mister Stewart’s Cheshire Foxhounds.”*

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(Thanksgiving, 2007)
The Bath County Hunt (VA) can be an exercise in sedate foxhunting: extraordinarily beautiful, particularly toward the closing days of autumn, but often a somnambulant snooze. Surely, there is sport at Bath County, even good sport, but no one expects the thrilling pace of a mid-winter foxhunt in Orange County territory. In truth, Bath County is expected to be relaxed, somewhat slower paced.

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