Fox Hunting Life with Horse and Hound
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FHL WEEK, July 16, 2019

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This Week in...

...News

Expert Witness Testimony Discredited By a Kiss; UK Huntsman Found Not Guilty
The kiss that sealed a court verdict (pg. 2)

...Literature

The Key to the Quarter Pole
Review of a new novel set on the backstretch of Colonial Downs that will keep you turning pages. (pg. 3)

...People

Huntsmen On the Move: 2019
Our annual report on the comings and goings of huntsmen across North America (pg. 5)

...Our Hunting World

Historical Foxhunting Treasure Rescued From Extinction
A. Henry Higginson’s long-lost silver tray headed for meltdown was recognized, restored, and hangs on display. (pg. 9)

...Norm Fine’s Blog

Rogue Master/Huntsman Receives Suspended Jail Term In Britain
A 150-year-old hunt destroyed and a dagger thrust in the back of our sport by one of its own. (pg. 12)

 

 

 

 

Expert Witness Testimony Discredited By a Kiss; UK Huntsman Found Not Guilty

News

Professor Stephen Harris is an opponent of hunting and was serving as an expert witness in the prosecution of a huntsman on trial in the UK for illegally hunting the fox with dogs. Harris's testimony was thrown out, however, after he was seen being kissed by another witness. That witness was known to be a veteran anti-hunting campaigner, and the cozy relationship between the two eloquently refuted Harris’s supposed role as an independent witness.

Professor Harris argued that he was kissed before he could stop the kisser. But Wills’ defense counsel, Stephen Welford, argued that the kissee could no longer be regarded as an independent witness in the case, given his demonstrably close relationship with the woman, another prosecution witness.

District Judge Tim Daber agreed, saying, “The allegation of bias specific to this particular case is something that in my view the court cannot ignore. A reasonable observer would consider him to be partisan. However unbiased he may be, this court must exclude Professor Harris’s evidence.”

Longtime huntsman Mick Wills of the Grafton Foxhounds (UK) was found not guilty.

Professor Harris’ friends too often appear to interfere with his testimony. Several years earlier, another prosecution brought privately by the League Against Cruel Sport (LACS) against six members of the Lamerton Hunt (UK) collapsed when the court learned that Professor Harris was a friend of Paul Tilsley, head of investigations for the LACS.

Click for the complete story by Patrick Sawer, senior news reporter for The Telegraph. We don’t know if the article was filed under Court Beat or the Gossip Column, but the link will take you there.

Posted July 11, 2019

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Key to the Quarter Pole

Literature

Book Review by Norman Fine

key to the quarter pole.crop.williamsThe Key to the Quarter Pole, Robin Traywick Williams, Dementi Milestone Publishing, VA, 2019, Soft Cover, 278 pages, $16.00A person who writes about horses and people has first to really know both subjects, then bring to the project a compelling way with words. Robin Traywick Williams delivers it all in The Key to the Quarter Pole. She’s a horsewoman and a foxhunter, and for six years was chairman of the Racing Commission for the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Plus, she’s been a feature writer for the Richmond Times Dispatch and a statewide finalist for UPI’s Journalist of the Year. She has several books to her credit, and this one is terrific—a page-turning novel filled with a variety of characters who inhabit that most exclusive inner sanctum of the horse world—the backstretch of the racetrack.

Louisa Ferncliff is one. She’s been beat up by a life with horses, but though her body is failing, she motors on with a will of steel. She knows very well that if she doesn’t take over the care and welfare of deserving racehorses, they will be raced and ruined. It happens all around the backstretch, but there are certain horses that she can’t let that happen to—especially the ones that give so much and expect so little. The principal object of her ministrations is Alice’s Restaurant, a horse with a fragile knee and a dubious future, who you’ll be rooting for every step of his tortuous way.

She spares some of her time caring for people, too. There’s Jimmy, the exercise boy, who is too green or too shy to fix himself. And there is Shannon, a girl with all the confidence in the world to make all of her hair-brain schemes work out for her, but, realistically, it couldn’t possibly happen that way. Or could it?

All the while, everyone lives their own peculiar life on the backside trying to break in or break out—the wanna-bes and the about-to-bes, the desperate and the hopeful—all dancing to the rhythm of the training schedule that begins every morning in the dark and ends...whenever. Robin’s characters, all capably crafted in three dimensions, play out against each other in an engrossing storyline that will keep you turning pages.

Jimmy, the quiet exercise boy, is no self promoter, but the trainer has noticed his calming effect on horses and his natural feel for pace. In fact he’s the only exercise rider who’s been able to get the Rondo filly into a starting gate. In the following excerpt, Jimmy can’t believe that he’s actually riding his first race, something he never dared to imagine. And he finishes in the money! Here’s an excerpt:


The pace picked up as the horses swept into the turn and the Rondo filly started slipping to the outside. He was shocked at the power of the centrifugal force. Even though he was folded up on the horse’s back with irons no more than fourteen inches long, he felt as though his right foot was hanging down the filly’s side and and he was slipping off. He jammed his foot in the iron and pushed himself to the inside, leaning with the filly as she accelerated around the curve. The stewards had impressed upon him the importance of maintaining a straight line, keeping to his own path during a race, but in the melee of shifting positions coming out of the turn into the stretch, it was impossible to tell where his path was. A horse dropped over in front of him and accelerated. He could feel a horse behind him looking to come by.

When they straightened out in the stretch, he popped the filly with his stick and she switched leads. He began scrubbing his hands up her neck and was rewarded with a perceptible surge of speed. With the horses spread out, Jimmy’s sense of pace became stronger. He could see the rail where stanchions flashed past like ticks on a stopwatch. All around him jocks were shouting and swatting their mounts. Some, like his filly, were going forward. Others were falling back. Adrenalin surged through his body like the shock from a cattle prod. He was riding in rhythm with his horse, driving her forward with hands and legs and voice. They overtook a filly on the inside and Jimmy rode as hard as he could, trying to reach the pair in front. The jocks in front suddenly stood up, letting their horses coast. As the Rondo filly blazed past, Jimmy heard the jocks calling out.

“Hey, bug boy, beep beep, game over.”

They laughed.

He slacked the reins and let the filly coast, at once pumped, embarrassed, amazed, and out of breath.

During the gallop out, Louisa focused on the horse's legs. The filly’s soundness gave Louisa more than her usual feeling of relief. The filly was okay. The filly had gone in the gate and was okay. She had run a race and was okay. Her new jock had handled her well. Together, they were positioned to win next time.

“Look at that boy grin. You’d think he won the lottery.”

[Jimmy] waved his stick at the stewards atop the grandstand and dismounted. A groom held the horse as he pulled the postage stamp saddle off. After he weighed in, Mike shook his hand. “Nice ride, jock.”

“Oh man. Oh, man,” Jimmy said.

“Lose those last three pounds and you win the next time.”

“Oh man. Oh man,” Jimmy said.

Louisa savored Jimmy’s euphoria. These were the highs racetrackers lived for, that otherworldly feeling of coiling up like a copper spring and exploding in a shower of red and yellow sparks. Only jockeys knew the feeling of being one with the wind, but other horsemen could appreciate the tension of a race and feel, beating deep in their own chest, the heart of a good horse. When it was your horse, the elation went beyond human happiness, as if God had invented a new emotion just for horsemen. Louisa knew Jimmy would be back, three pounds lighter, ready to ride the next race. If he didn’t have racetrack fever before, he had it now.

She watched the boy walk away with Mike, his sweaty silks clinging to his poker-thin arms and ribby body. He was barely touching the earth, she knew, like a ballerina soaring on bruised toes. She didn’t know whether to be happy or sad.

Posted July 10, 2019

Huntsmen On the Move: 2019

 People

steve farrin.amwell valley.pa natl2013Huntsman Steve Farrin, parading Amwell Valley hounds at the Pennsylvania National Horse Show (2013).

It’s time for our annual report on the recent moves of huntsmen across North America. The huntsman is my hero. From the time we mount up and for the few hours that follow, it is he or she most directly responsible for the day’s sport. How the huntsman has bred, trained, deployed, and communicated with his troops—the hounds—has everything to do with the satisfaction of our day in the field.

The moves have been numerous this season, and, in a two cases, we have experienced whippers-in finally achieving their dream of a pack of their own to hunt. We’ll catch up with Alasdair Storer, Andrew Bozdan, Kathryn Butler, Stephen Farrin, Danny Kerr, Emily Melton, and Timothy Michel.

Old Dominon Hounds (VA)
After twelve seasons carrying the horn at Amwell Valley Hounds (NJ), Stephen Farrin is moving to Old Dominion.

“I am a third generation huntsman,” wrote Steve, “who has hunted and consequently gleaned many years of valuable knowledge from my family, mentors, and fellow huntsmen to guide my experience.”

Indeed, Steve has had an exceedingly rare foundation for any huntsman. He grew up in the kennels of the Quorn (UK), in a hunting country considered the cream of High Leicestershire. For thirty seasons (1968 to 1998) Steve’s late father, Michael Farrin, was the acclaimed huntsman for the Quorn. This is the hunt that actually kicked off the era of modern mounted foxhunting late in the eighteenth century during the time of Hugo Meynell, MFH, namesake of the “Meynellian Science.” Meynell actually invented a brand new way of hunting the fox—at speed, over open country, jumping obstacles as they came. We’ve been doing it his way ever since.

An aspiring huntsman could have had no finer education than growing up in the Quorn kennels with foxhounds of the finest lineages, absorbing the breeding, training, raising, showing, and hunting of this renowned pack. Steve is also a 2009 graduate of the MFHA’s Professional Development Program.

Steve emigrated to the U.S. in 2006, whipped-in to the Myopia Hunt (MA), Rombout Hunt (NY), Green Spring Valley Hounds (MD) for six seasons, and spent the last twelve years as huntsman for the Amwell Valley.

Taking over the horn at Amwell Valley will be Kathryn Butler, who arrives in New Jersey from her previous post as professional huntsman for Limestone Creek Hunt (NY).

emily melton.karenkandraEmily Melton whipped-in at Howard County-Iron Bridge / Karen Kandra photo

New Market-Middletown Valley Hounds (MD)
Emily Melton moves to New Market-Middleton Valley as huntsman. Emily has whipped-in for nine seasons at the Howard County-Iron Bridge Hounds (MD) and is a another graduate of the MFH’s Professional Development Program. Emily feels good about her career advancement as she approaches her new post.

“I think I’m ready now,” she said. She paused for a moment, then looked at me squarely in the eye and said with absolute confidence, “Yes, I’m really ready for this step.”

Former New Market-Middletown Valley huntsman Alasdair Storer, who has also been hunting the Middletown Valley Beagles, will concentrate solely on the beagle pack as huntsman and Joint-Master. This is no surprise. Allie hunted a topnotch beagle pack in England before coming to the States, and has a special place in his heart for the breed.

Timothy Michel becomes another first-time huntsman as he takes over the horn for the Bull Run Hunt (VA). Tim has been mentored and trained by the Masters and huntsmen of two top American hunts—Midland Fox Hounds (GA) and Green Spring Valley Hounds (MD)—having whipped-in and served as kennel huntsman.

Sheila Jackson Brown, MFH, Green Spring Valley, while disappointed that Tim will be leaving, has no doubt that Tim is ready for this advancement in his career.

“I hunted 140 days at Midland and 115 days a season at Green Spring, so there is no question I love to hunt!” Tim told his new employers. His wife, Jody, has been managing the Green Spring Valley stables, and will be looking for a similar opportunity in the Bull Run country. Daughters Abby (sixteen) and Samantha (seven) are accomplished riders as well.

andy bozdan2Andy Bozdan calls in hounds.

Camargo Hunt (OH)
London-born Andy Bozdan is the new huntsman at Camargo. Andy has hunted all manner of hounds—from Old English foxhounds to Penn-Marydels, beagles, and bloodhounds. And he’s hunted hounds in all manner of hunting countries—England, Australia, and North America. And he arrives with his wife, Erin, who can whip-in to him!

Andy previously held the huntsman’s post at Tennessee Valley Hunt (TN), where he and whipper-in Erin Doyle were married. After that, he was the first huntsman for the newly-merged Loudoun-Fairfax Hunt (VA), before taking a sabbatical and whipping-in most recently to huntsman Graham Buston at the Blue Ridge Hunt (VA). Andy has made friends wherever he’s been.

Danny Kerr, Camargo’s huntsmen for the last twenty-nine seasons, has retired. Prior to moving to Camargo, he was professional huntsman at the Sedgefield Hunt (NC) for eight seasons. Now in his sixties, Danny has enjoyed a long career hunting hounds and looks forward to enjoying some entirely different aspects of life before picking up a hunting horn again. If, indeed, he decides to do that at all!

Danny’s son is about to enter his senior year of high school, is playing football, and has garnered sufficient attention such that Danny wants to be with him as the family looks toward their son’s future in college sport. And Danny’s good friend, Tot Goodwin, has just registered his newly established hunt with the MFHA this year, the Goodwin Hounds (NC), and Danny plans to spend some hunting time with Tot. For some huntsmen, retirement looks like an ending; for Danny Kerr, retirement looks more like a new beginning.

Posted June 30, 2019

Historical Foxhunting Treasure Rescued From Extinction

Our Hunting World

higginson plate.nmf

The old silver tray was headed for melt-down, as are most engraved and unknown relics of lives long past and out of memory. Fortunately, however, it was recognized and rescued. For that, foxhunters with a respect for history have foxhunting historian Peter Devers, Millbrook ex-Master John Ike, and Live Oak Masters Marty and Daphne Wood to thank.

On a January evening in 1931, A. Henry Higginson—Master, huntsman, author, and contender in the Great English-American Hound Match of 1905—tendered his resignation as president of the Masters of Foxhounds Association. At dinner that night, members presented him with a tea service and engraved silver tray as a token of their regard and appreciation for his many years of service to the sport. In the last chapter of Higginson’s book, Try Back, published the following year, he wrote: 

“At the meeting that evening, I handed in my resignation as President of the Masters of Foxhounds Association of America, an office I had held for seventeen years, and vacated the chair in favor of my old friend Henry Vaughan, who had served the Association as Secretary ever since its foundation in 1907. No man ever worked harder for the furtherance of the Association than Vaughan, and no one so richly deserved the honor which the Association paid him that night in electing him to the Presidency, which I hope and trust he will keep for many years to come. It was a wrench to me to give up the office which I held so long, but recognising as I did that my duties as Master of the Cattistock would entail my being in England for many months of the year, I felt it was only right that I should do so. The Association paid me the great honor of electing me Honorary Vice-President for life, and in addition they presented me at the dinner that night with a most exquisite tea service and a silver tray on which was engraved the seal of the M.F.H. Association and the following inscription:

‘TO A. HENRY HIGGINSON, M.F.H., FROM HIS FELLOW MEMBERS OF THE MASTERS OF FOXHOUNDS ASSOCIATION OF AMERICA.
A TOKEN OF THEIR GRATITUDE AND APPRECIATION OF HIS SEVENTEEN YEARS OF ABLE AND AND SUCCESSFUL LEADERSHIP AS THEIR PRESIDENT IN FURTHERING THE WORK AND PRESTIGE OF THE ASSOCIATION.’

“I was quite overcome by this token of friendship ...and it took me a few minutes before I could get my breath and try to thank them properly for a gift that I will always rank among my dearest possessions.”

higginson.nmfUntil very recently, the tray of which Higginson wrote had been an important missing artifact from his extraordinary life—a life so very prominent in the early history of organized, mounted foxhunting in North America. Then, two years ago, foxhunting historian Peter Devers at the Millbrook Hunt (NY) discovered through eBay that the tray had surfaced and was for sale. Devers writes:

“ln April 2017 I was made aware of a sterling silver presentation tray gifted to Alexander Henry Higginson by the Masters of Foxhounds Association of America. An NYC silver dealer named Andrew Callahan, who by strange coincidence has a country house in Verbank, near Millbrook, was offering it for sale for $2,900.

“As you are aware, Higginson spent many years at Thorndale, the estate of Oakleigh Thorne, MFH, hunting his own pack (the Middlesex) and later Mr. Thorne's Millbrook pack."

Callahan told Devers that he had paid more than he really wanted to for it, but just could not let it go to another dealer. The melt down value of the silver is about $1,400, but the artistry of the tray and its historic import obviously made it worth more if he could connect it with the right buyer.

Devers contacted Millbrook ex-Masters Oakleigh Thorne, John Ike, Farnham Collins, and Nancy Stahl. John Ike called Daphne Wood, and Daphne negotiated its purchase. The Woods had it restored and framed, and donated it to the MFHA Foundation. The Higginson tray now resides in the new MFHA office building next to Higginson’s portrait.

higginson corner.nmf

Daphne writes, “We gave it to the new MFHA headquarters in honor of Dennis Foster who was hired by Marty when he was president of the MFHA and who served the Association so well as executive director for twenty-four years, 1993–2016.

“If you have not seen your magnificent new headquarters, it’s well worth a visit!” Daphne concludes.

“This tray is a significant historical piece, worthy of being in a museum," Peter Devers writes. "To my mind, this piece ranks second only to the missing Great American Foxhound Match trophy as a piece of historic hunting memorabilia.”

Posted July 5, 2019

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rogue Master/Huntsman Receives Suspended Jail Term In Britain

Norm Fine’s Blog

nodh.klmFHL Editor Norm Fine / Karen L. Myers photoPaul Oliver, ex-MFH and huntsman of the South Herfordshire Foxhounds has been convicted of animal cruelty offenses. He provided live fox cubs to his hounds to be killed in kennels. The once-respected hunt, established in England 150 years ago, is now disbanded.

The evidence was damning. Footage was shown in court taken by hidden cameras covertly put in place by anti-bloodsport activists.

Oliver was given a sixteen-week suspended jail sentence, and kennelman Hannah Rose received a twelve-week suspended sentence. Anti-bloodsport activists across Britain are up-in-arms over the court’s leniency. On this count, even the pro-hunting community agrees.

Just as British foxhunters, itching to reverse the despised Hunting Act of 2005, are trying to convince their fellow citizens that foxhunters are best capable of policing themselves, one of their own has to go and do the unconscionable. In so doing, Oliver has struck a dagger in the heart of foxhunting all over the world—not just England.

“That video will haunt us forever,” said Tim Easby, executive director of the MFHA in Britain.

The reaction of British sporting institutions have been appropriate. The hunt was cast out—disbanded—as was Oliver. He was described in one article to be a member of the Western Hunt in UK, as well. I asked Easby if he would be allowed to hunt at any registered hunt again.

“He wouldn’t dare,” was Easby’s terse reply.

So, ok. Unprincipled people on both sides—the right side or the wrong side—of any issue can do damage to their own cause. But I couldn’t help but wonder why the pro-hunting faction wasn’t more candidly and prominently in the news as Oliver’s trial ended and the sentence was announced. Why didn’t they tell the public how the miscreant was punished by fellow foxhunters?

The world press over the course of a month in May and June 2019 was full of articles from the BBC News, the Independent, Horse and Hound Magazine, Huffington Post, Daily Mail, London Examiner, Evening Standard, Metro, and county and local publications. They covered first the verdict, the run-up to the sentencing, and the sentencing itself. But among all the reports, I saw no word from the pro-hunting side to the effect that such practices, while rare and misguided, are condemned and punished by organized foxhunting itself...that the hunt has been disbanded and cast out, and that Paul Oliver will never again set foot among the field of any registered hunt.

One can well understand how any attempt by the foxhunting constituency to counter the bitter taste in the public’s collective mouth could simply prolong the agony, and such, in fact, was the most likely reason for the lack of communication by the sporting institutions. But I have to wonder if, during the month’s worth of mega-coverage by the press, the absence of sound from foxhunters actually spoke louder than no sound at all.

Posted July 8, 2019