Anytime 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.
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."
“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.”*
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.
Some hilltopping Field Masters take their field to a few high vantage points in the day's hunting country and stay there. Other hilltopping Field Masters try to keep up with hounds as best they can using the gates and not jumping the fences.
What is the proper way to lead hilltoppers? Which of these fields is more likely to turn the fox? Foil the line? Get in the huntsman's way?