This Week in...
Riding Lesson by Henry Taylor
Humor by a Pulitzer Prize-winning American poet (pg. 1)
...Norm Fine’s Blog
MFHA Appoints Andrew Barclay
The new Director of Hunting was standing in the wings (pg. 2)
Entering Young Hounds by Andrew Barclay
Establishing a working relationship with the young entry (pg. 5)
Andrews Bridge Opens Fall Season at the Slabpile by Rachel Wilkoski
A favorite fixture in Amish country maintained by consideration and respect (pg. 8)
Liam Clancy: Foxhunter, Artist by Norman Fine
Lively foxhunting portraits from the artist’s recent American visit (pg. 12)
By Henry Taylor
Henry Taylor is an American poet, author of more than fifteen books of poems, and winner of the 1986 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry.
I learned two things
from an early riding teacher.
He held a nervous filly
in one hand and gestured
with the other, saying, "Listen.
Keep one leg on one side,
the other leg on the other side,
and your mind in the middle."
He turned and mounted.
She took two steps, then left
the ground, I thought for good.
But she came down hard, humped
her back, swallowed her neck,
and threw her rider as you'd
throw a rock. He rose, brushed
his pants and caught his breath,
and said, "See, that's the way
to do it. When you see
they're gonna throw you, get off."
Taylor was born in 1942 in Lincoln, near Leesburg, Virginia, and raised as a Quaker. He graduated from the University of Virginia in 1965, received his M.A. from Hollins University (formerly Hollins College) in 1966. He went on to teach literature at American University from 1971–2003 and also co-directed the Master of Fine Arts program in creative writing.
A lover of horses since childhood, Taylor won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry for his book, The Flying Change. The title, an equestrian term, suggests changes that people negotiate through life—a theme of some of the poems in the book.
Posted September 14, 2020
MFHA Appoints Andrew Barclay
Norm Fine's Blog
MFHA Director of Hunting Andrew Barclay
In a September 2, 2020 letter to members of the Masters of Foxhounds Association (MFHA), president Tony Leahy made the following announcement.
“After an extensive search process, it is my pleasure to announce that Andrew Barclay has been appointed as the Director of Hunting.
“Andrew’s experience and knowledge of foxhunting combined with his work with the MFHA to further its mission has proven that he meets the needs of our members. Over the past 14 years he successfully led the Professional Development Program as well as supporting a variety of MFHA initiatives.
“At this time, Andrew will continue as the Professional Development Program Director. As Director of Hunting, his efforts will promote, preserve, and protect our sport by supporting our membership with hunt development, territory matters, education initiatives, and Studbook registrations.
“Please join us in welcoming Andrew Barclay in his new role as the Director of Hunting.”
When it comes to foxhunting, Andrew Barclay has done it all. He served as professional huntsman for the hard riding Green Spring Valley Hounds (MD) for twenty years, showing sport to a field of race riders, trainers, and avid sportsmen and women. His record as huntsman earned him the honor of induction into the Huntsman’s Room at the Museum of Hounds and Hunting.
As a youngster in Pennsylvania, Andrew competed in combined training events, then discovered foxhunting. He hunted with the venerable Rose Tree Foxhunting Club from age sixteen to eighteen, often serving as honorary whipper-in. Following that, he worked for an owner at the racetrack for two years. In 1974, Andrew accepted a position at Green Spring Valley as professional whipper-in.
For seven years he turned hounds to the storied professional huntsman, Leslie Grimes, who has been described as a perfectionist in all things and a stern taskmaster. Over that period, with Grimes as a mentor, Andrew absorbed the education of a lifetime. In fact, Grimes preceded Andrew into the distinguished company of the Huntsman’s Room.
As President Leahy mentions in his letter, Andrew already has had fourteen years’ experience working with the MFHA. And they with him. His efforts in the Professional Development Program have filled a big gap in helping to prepare aspiring huntsmen both intellectually and in practice for the day when they would carry the horn with confidence and responsibility. A rigorous apprenticeship system has been in place for centuries in England, but in America there was no uniform way of preparing such men and women, especially those geographically distant from other sources of qualified support. Such were left to their own devices or had been previously mentored often by a single individual whose approach to training and hunting hounds were often absorbed as gospel by the mentee, deservedly or not.
With Andrew’s hunting background, thoughtfulness, and gift for communicating (see his article in this issue on the subject of entering young hounds), the MFHA appears to have had an ideal candidate for Director of Hunting ready and standing in the wings.
Posted September 8, 2020
Entering Young Hounds
By Andrew Barclay
What follows is an excerpt from the author’s excellent book, Letters to a Young Huntsman.
Foxhounds of the Orange County Hounds (VA) / Douglas Lees photo
We would start roading (mounted hound exercise) around the middle of July. I really wanted the youngsters off couples by this time as a couple wrapped around a horse’s leg can be an ugly thing. Once puppies are used to going out with the horses, then it’s time to start introducing them to things like sheep, deer, cattle, etc.
This should be done as low key as possible; the worst thing you can do is make a big deal of it. If you have staff swinging whips and speaking loudly to the hounds, it’s only going to jazz them up. If you stay relaxed and cool, the hounds will pick up on that and remain cool themselves. Theses are things that they will see every day out hunting and everyone has to act accordingly.
When you are out, look for deer, walk the line, and quietly say, “ware deer.” If need be, send a whip ahead to move the deer so hounds don’t see them, as the temptation to run by sight might be too much for some. After they are accustomed to the scent of deer, then, when they do see them, they will not be as tempted to run them. At that point, it’s great if they can see one.
As you go around the countryside make sure you cross streams and jump the occasional fence to teach the puppies how to negotiate those obstacles. They will learn from the older hounds. Hack down roads and work on keeping your hounds on the right side of your horse so cars can get around you. Do this by you and your staff putting their whips in the left hand and using your voice to move hounds over. I would just say, “car,” and they soon learned what I meant. Again, stay as calm as possible; if you get too excited it will scare the timid hounds and they will do everything but what you are trying to accomplish.
Scarteen youngsters ready to enter the pack / Noel Mullins photo
As time goes on and hounds need more work and fitness, you should pick up the speed and start using the horn (sparingly) so the young entry will realize that the noise is coming from you. If you use it too much, the older hounds tend to get a little keen and vocal. I would usually double the horn as we started a hard trot or gallop and then blow a long note as I pulled up. This gave the puppies an idea that doubling means fast and long means come to me.
By the end of three weeks of roading, the older hounds are getting bored and want to hunt. Try to get through the fourth week, but if the older hounds are getting too hard to manage then it’s time to start putting hounds in covert. I was very lucky to get a couple of weeks of cubbing in before we officially opened our cubhunting season.
Be careful those first few days that you do not take too many puppies. If you are entering a lot, then sort them into two or three different groups. Try to cubhunt as often as possible. We would start off doing six days a week, then, after two or three weeks, we’d cut back to four days. Hounds learn nothing in the kennels, so as long as the days are short and the ground not too hard as to hurt hounds, then more is better.
I always liked starting in the corn fields as I felt that the corn held plenty of foxes and is inviting for young hounds to go into. Be careful the cornfield isn’t too big and have whips stationed around the field to prevent any splits from getting away. Whips should also be able to anticipate any riot that might be coming out and keep puppies from running it. I never worried too much about a split so long as they all stayed in the corn. Usually, as one or more foxes go to ground, the pack will fall in together. You just need good help to keep any splits from getting away. With luck, hounds will run around in the corn and eventually put one to ground all together. Take plenty of time at the earth encouraging hounds to really mark. Make a huge fuss over the puppies and encourage them to get their noses into the earth and get a good snootful of fox. This may well be the first time that they really smell a fox and that will certainly reinforce the desired scent.
You will find that, thanks to the good older hounds, it will take no time for you to start noticing your puppies doing well. They will be running up with the older guys and really look like they have figured it out. It is at this time that you must be most careful. I used to liken it to a sixteen-year-old boy who has been driving for four or five months and is starting to think he’s pretty hot. This is when the mistakes happen. Both the puppy and the boy tend to go too fast, overrun the turns, and sometimes chase things they shouldn’t! The unfortunate thing about this stage (with the puppy) is that it often comes at the same time as the deer rut. During the rut, the deer put out a lot of extra smells that are different from the normal scent. The puppy who has never thought about deer will get this intoxicating whiff and just won’t be able to help himself. The next thing you know, he will open and start running.
Watch your older hounds; you will have one or if you’re lucky several that will come right up to your horse as if to say, “It’s not me, boss.” Then use the horn to blow the note you use for riot, get your whips to stop them, or if you are closest stop them yourself. As soon as this is done, regain your composure and find a fox. If this is done right, and you can find the right game before the day is done and have a good run, and hopefully account for it, it won’t take long to have them broke. One of the good things about hunting on frozen ground is that the scent is usually poor. This is when your puppies will be brought back to their noses and will have to really think about what they are smelling. I found it fascinating to see young hounds that were running fast and hard suddenly have to think and work hard. You can almost see the light bulb turn on. It is often in these months that puppies really become foxhounds.
As for finishing the work of getting your puppies entered, it is all about having the good older hounds to learn from. They will get your puppies entered. All you need to do is hunt as often as possible, keep them out of trouble, and watch them learn every hunt.
Posted September 3, 2020
Andrew Barclay is Director of Hunting for the Masters of Foxhounds Association.
Andrews Bridge Opens Fall Season at the Slabpile
By Rachel Wilkoski
The foxhunter's favorite view: between the ears / Rachel Wilkoski photo
Thursday morning, September third, just past 7:00 am, the sun was rising over high corn fields, alfalfa and late season tobacco fields, much of it soon to be harvested by teams of Belgian mules in Christiana, Pennsylvania. Off of Highland Road, arriving Andrews Bridge Foxhounds members were pulling their rigs onto the edge of a tobacco field. The farm ground was greasy from the prior night of rain and it was the slightest bit humid.
Good soil makes for good mud. / Rachel Wilkoski photo
Eighteen-and-a-half couple of hounds waited patiently in the hound trailer for the first meet of the season, away from the kennels, ready for some fresh territory. The young entry had been working hard for the few weeks prior to the season’s start, getting acclimated to their new jobs at the Andrew’s Bridge Kennels fixture, but they were now ready to take on the Slabpile country.
Hounds struck just a few minutes in and maintained a steady pace and strong cry, as only Penn-Marydels can, on a fox that gave us over an hour of sport on the hot, muggy morning. The fox ran multiple loops around the Slabpile woods, dashing between the corn and back into the wooded covert, then to the low thicket, through the unmown field, back into the woods, then the corn. The field, swapping ends and looping with the cry of hounds, gave riders little time to catch their breaths.
Just past the hour mark the chase concluded at a small crick, a handy spot for tired and hot hounds to grab a drink, the perfect end to the day. The horses, drenched in sweat, were able to take a few breaths before the field hacked in, content, behind staff and hounds, chattering about surviving the trappy Slabpile fixture. The terrain was slick due to the rich farm ground and washed out, rocky gullies. The fences are stiff, with coops to be negotiated in and out of mud and three-board fences not yet settled into the earth. Riders negotiate sharp corners and twisted wooded trails, especially tricky going downhill. But out in the open...sheer beauty!
Fresh baked hospitality / Rachel Wilkoski.photo
Back at the meet, riders were met with warm and delicious cinnamon rolls, generously made that morning by landowners, Sam and Emma. These were distributed by a barefoot, young Amish boy with a smile on his face. Emma made sure to have her produce stand stocked with fresh bi-color sweet corn, peaches, green beans, watermelons and an assortment of home-canned jams, pickles, and beets so that riders could pick up a few items for dinner on their way out.
We all made our selections and said our thank yous for the fantastic baked goods before heading home—a simple and easy gesture to the family for the use of their farmland for our sport. This Lancaster County fixture, centrally located, is just a stone’s throw from Bartville Harness and Tack Shop, the go-to tack shop for high quality, long lasting hunting tack. It’s an easy stop along the way home, as the road from the meet spits you right into the Bartville parking lot!
This fine and convenient hunting fixture is all possible because of a hard earned relationship between Andrew’s Bridge Foxhounds and their Amish neighbors. The hunt’s dedication to this relationship is a shining example of the importance of communication and respect we all must have with and for our Landowners. Between the large Amish Thank You picnic that is hosted each year, the small hunting fields to lessen the damage done to farm fields, and the utmost respect for crops by Andrew’s Bridge members, staff, and Masters, the long relationship remains healthy.
Posted September 9, 2020
Rachel Wilkoski photo
Liam Clancy: Foxhunter, Artist
By Norman Fine
“Elegance.” Maureen Conroy Britell out with the Piedmont Fox Hounds (VA). Acrylic paint on textured acrylic paper.
Irish artist Liam Clancy made a fast tour of the Virginia and Maryland hunting countries during the first week of March 2020—just before the world stopped in its tracks as the result of COVID. He got in some hunting, both mounted and on foot, and he gathered material for his work—painting commissions.
Liam works mostly in acrylic paint, which he likes for its versatility. “I can dash off something that looks like a watercolor, or build up a painting in layers as you would with oils,” he explains.
Goshen Hounds (MD) “with whom I had a hugely enjoyable day's sport." Acrylic paint on a stretched canvas.
Entirely self-taught, Liam’s light was lit many years ago in agricultural college when he found himself earning spare cash from fellow students by painting their gundogs and hunters.
“I’m very much a hunting man first and an artist second,” he said. He has been most influenced in his work by Lionel Edwards, Snaffles, and Cecil Aldin (whom he considers greatly underrated).
Greg Schwartz, former huntsman , Bull Run Hunt (VA), “who tragically died shortly after my visit. His partner, Amy Savell, was extremely kind and helpful to me on my stay in Virginia, and I subsequently gave this little painting to her.” Acrylic paint on textured acrylic paper.
“I aim for authenticity and a little twist of humor,” he says in describing his work, and he clearly achieves that aim. Though he admits to painting with relish those immaculate riders on blood horses—Maureen Conway Britell for example—other works bring out the humor and down-to-earth images of the hunting field that are so much a part of his output.
“The inimitable” Robert Taylor, MFH and huntsman, Goshen Hounds. Acrylic paint on textured acrylic paper.
“I have always been drawn to trying to capture the farmer on the refusing three-year-old, or the cold, miserable, ten-year-old who can’t wait to get off her pony and go home!” he says.
“The Golden Thread.” Richard Roberts, “the particularly impressive huntsman to the Middleburg, with his favourite bi*ch.” Acrylic paint on textured acrylic paper.
Liam’s specialty is painting commissions, and, unlike some artists, he enjoys dealing with his clients and batting ideas about with them. To contact Liam, Click.
Posted September 5, 2020
Artist Liam Clancy enjoying his day with the Goshen Hounds / Karen Kandra photo