Fox Hunting Life with Horse and Hound
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FHL WEEK, September 12, 2019

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This Week in...

...Literature

The Old Coop on My Half Farm by Sarah Martin
Remembering an old, disused Bridlespur hunt coop with both a sporting and a romantic history...in verse. (pg. 2)

...Hunting Days of Yore

Squire Osbaldeston: A Sporting Prodigy
Master and huntsman, rowdy rake, quick to take offense as well as give it, and impossible to forget. (pg. 3)

...Art

Andre Pater: An American Journey
An exhibit of sixty-nine works by the modern master scheduled for exhibit at the Headley-Whitney Museum. (pg. 6)

...Subscribers’ Space

Coyote In the Mist: A Fleeting Engagement by Derek French
Was this brief confrontation between human and wildlife a 2-way communication or just a sizing-up? (pg. 8)

...Our Hunting World

A Woman’s Place by Salley McAden McInerney
A hunt coat, unworn for 44 years, the owner’s journey full-circle back to the hunting field at Camden, and a surprise waiting in the coat pocket. (pg. 11)

 

 

 

The Old Coop on My Half Farm

Literature

My Half Farm, in Wentzville, Missouri, was a part of the main fixture of the Bridlespur Hunt Club (IL) from 1957 to 2006, before urbanization forced the club to relocate further west. My Half Farm is still home to hunt horses, the My Half Farm Beagles, and is a regular fixture for the Three Creek Bassets.

the old coop.cropThe Old Coop on My Half Farm

The Old Coop she stands bended, a dip across her bow
Where time has weathered wood, barely even two-six now.
Many years have passed and she beckons as if to say,
Do you remember when the hunters came my way?

The Old Coop sits heavy, where imposing she once stood.
Many a hunter snapped his knees, back when times were good.
Up and over they did go, landing downhill, facing north.
Over I've flown many times on beasts now left this Earth.

The Old Coop she sits lonely, high atop the hill.
Reynard sheltered in her covert and breaking cross yonder field,
Took our hounds, and ‘gone away,’ the huntsman's horn did cry,
Then down the hill, across the creek, the field did gallop by.

The Old Coop sits overgrown, where our young love once stood.
He knelt down in front of it and promised that he would
Be faithful and be true, with me spend all his days.
Claimed me for his bride on that Boxing Day.

The sunshine is now fading, the farmhouse lights turn low,
And though she sits forgotten, from brambles she still peeks
This good old friend of mine, fond memories she speaks.

Posted September 11, 2019

Squire Osbaldeston: A Sporting Prodigy

Hunting Days of Yore

squire osbaldeston.Sir Frances Holyoake Goodricke.1830.John FERNELEYSquire Osbaldeston, MFH (foreground) on Ashton, with Sir Frances Holyoake-Goodricke on Crossbow, 1830, hunting the Pytchley in Melton Mobray, Leicestershire, England. Oil painting  by John Ferneley

London-born in 1786, George Osbaldeston was a natural athlete. He rowed for various schools that he attended, including Eton and Oxford, neither of which he matriculated. He assiduously avoided academic work, but set high standards for rowdy behavior and was expelled from most of these fine institutions.

He was an outstanding cricketeer, bowling and batting as an amateur in numerous important matches. In 1818, however, he was barred for life from membership in a club as the result of an intemperate outburst, effectively finishing his career in important cricket matches.

He was a noted shot, once shooting ninety-eight pheasants with one hundred cartridges. On one occasion, when gambler Lord George Bentinck fired his pistol in the air while watching a race, Osbaldeston sent a warning shot cleanly through Bentinck’s hat. Perhaps this was the race after which he fought a duel with Lord Bentinck, or perhaps it was another. In either event, no one was injured and the pair eventually reconciled.

He rode winning horses in races on the flat and in celebrated steeplechase meets. He engaged in carriage races, endurance races, and he also bred racehorses. In an endurance race in 1831 at Newmarket, he rode two hundred miles in eight hours and forty-two minutes, using twenty-eight horses—an average of nearly twenty-three miles per hour. But his great passion was foxhunting.

Osbaldeston was only six when his father died, and he was brought up mainly by his mother. She was an extravagant political hostess and squandered much of his inheritance. For most of his life, he engaged in trying to win bets and purses in sporting competitions to recover his lost fortune. In the end, however, his winnings were vastly overshadowed by his gambling debts and he died almost penniless.

Pressured by his mother and a local Whig politician, he stood for Parliament against his wishes and was elected. No surprise to him, he found it a complete bore and scarcely ever attended. He was much more engaged in hunting, racing, and shooting. At the next election, he resigned.

squire osbaldeston.cropGeorge Osbaldeston, portrait attributed to Francis GrantHe had his own pack of hounds from the age of sixteen, and was Master of nine hunts, including the Atherstone (1815–17), the Quorn (1817–21, 1823–27), and the Pytchley (1827–34). While he was regarded by contemporaries as one of the best sportsmen of his generation, he was not the easiest man to get along with.

At age twenty-five, he was engaged to carry the horn at the Burton when the young Lord and Master, a year younger than Osbaldeston, died. In his adventurous manner, it is said that he “soon fell out with everyone except the foxes which he pursued with great noise, energy, boastfulness, courage and determination, to the far corners of the country.”

Squire Osbaldeston wasn’t the only Joker in the deck of sporting Englishmen. During his period as Master, the hunting fields were wildly boisterous and unruly. This example is from Osbaldeston’s autobiography, published in 1926, many years after his death. It recounts one of many such experiences as Master of the Quorn.

“We found in the neighborhood of Rolleston, and came away with a tremendous scent. Leaving Quenby Hall to the left, the fox ran straight for Ashby Pastures. About a mile before you reach the Pastures there is a brook at the end of a very large field; the hounds had never come to a check up to this point, and had run so hard that out of a very large field only Lord Plymouth, Mr. Blunt and myself were still with them, the rest being completely beaten. We had to jump a low rail into the field before mentioned; and one hound, from what cause I don’t know, separated from the pack and was in the act of taking it to join the rest when Mr. Blunt rode over him. I had only just before particularly warned him about doing this, telling him if he did so I should stop hounds. In the very act of doing it he cried, “D— the hound!” and snapping his fingers at me, added, “”You can’t stop them!
“I answered that I would soon show him whether I could or not, and galloping as fast as my horse would go, headed them just before they reached the brook and stopped them. Lord Plymouth came up and entreated me to let them hunt the fox, as he must die soon, and this was the most glorious run he had ever seen in his life, and over the best country. I told him I was always as good as my word. I said it certainly distressed me exceedingly to act as I did, but to be defied and have my authority flouted by one of the most reckless of my field was sufficient reason to take such strong measures. It is right to say that when we met next day, in the Harborough country, Blunt came up to me and made a most ample apology. We were always very good friends both before and after this unfortunate occurrence. Men get excited in the heat of a good thing with hounds.”

The excesses of Squire Osbaldeston’s sporting life were matched equally by his love life. He attempted to seduce his mother’s friend, Lady Monson, claiming that she was the one woman he had ever really loved. Staying at the house of a friend, he seduced both daughters on the same night. It is rumored he had a son by a Miss Green, a high-born but illegitimate prostitute. In 1851, at the age of sixty-five, he married one Elizabeth Williams and was able to live in her house at Regent’s Park.

A friend and rival commented, "He was open-hearted and trusted others; he was constantly deceived and robbed, and when his affairs were getting into confusion, he had not the moral nerve to pull up in time; nor had he a sufficiently business-head on his shoulders to guide him safely out of his troubles." Squire Osbaldeston died on August 1, 1866 in London at the age of eighty, leaving precious few stones unturned.

Posted September 9, 2019

Andre Pater: An American Journey

pater at headley whitneyOil painting by Andre PaterArt

The Headley-Whitney Museum in Lexington, Kentucky will mount a retrospective exhibit of the impressive work of Andre Pater. Sixty-six equine, sporting, and recent Native American works borrowed from private collections will hang from Friday, September 13 to Sunday, November 17, 2019. The closing day will coincide with the Keeneland Sporting Art Auction in that city.

Mr. Pater will give a talk on Saturday, September 14, the first full day of the exhibition. He has been described by many as the heir to the late Sir Alfred Munning’s throne, and a glance at his racing and hunting works are convincing evidence that the comparison is valid.

In 2017 Pater’s one-man show at the National Sporting Library & Museum in Middleburg, Virginia, “In a Sporting Light,” displayed a collection of his works from around the country that exhibited his mastery of the use of light and texture, and his seemingly effortless accuracy with anatomy and movement—be it equine, foxhound, or human. Pater possesses that rare ability to portray those subtle postures and attitudes in his living subjects that translate into realism, even when daubed in broad, bold brush strokes.

His works have been fetching the highest prices of all living painters, European or American. His foxhound and racing paintings in the 2018 Keeneland Sporting Art Auction, brought from $25,000 to $40,000, putting Pater squarely in a league with the masters of recent centuries.

Born in Poland, Andre Pater graduated Summa Cum Laude in architecture from the Krakow Academy of Fine Arts and came to New York. While working for a time as an architectural designer at a firm in Dallas, he was drawn to the Arabian horse world there. He’d been familiar with the breed from Poland, which has a rich tradition of Arabian breeding, and had drawn and painted Arabian horses for years. Considering his exceptional talent for fine art, those painting excursions must have exerted a powerful influence on the young man’s future. He moved to Kentucky in 1988, Thoroughbred breeding country and a sporting world of racing and foxhunting. Those subjects as well as cattle and wildlife absorbed his creative urges.

Pater’s list of clients is impressive, from ambassadors to sheiks to sporting institutions. In 1999, the Keeneland Racetrack in Lexington commissioned him to create a series of top stakes winning jockeys and owners over the past sixty years. The resulting pastels have been a hit at the track, and numerous life-style magazines have featured Pater and his work.

At the 2016 Keeneland Sporting Art Auction, a Pater pastel fetched the highest price of all the works sold. The artist was there to witness a spirited bidding war for his magnificent painting, Red Arrow, a Lakota warrior, circa 1870, draped in a buffalo robe and wearing a buckskin war-shirt decorated in locks of horsehair and scalps along his arm. The hammer fell at $276,000 for Pater’s Red Arrow. The Headley-Whitney exhibit will surely be one worth viewing.

Posted September 5, 2019

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Coyote In the Mist: A Fleeting Engagement

Subscribers’ Space

coyote.crop.sheila armstrong hodgsonIllustration by Sheila Armstrong Hodgson

The primal fears of our ancestors remain not that far beneath the surface of our psyche. We think of ourselves as sophisticated human beings. Superior to the animals around us. We communicate well between ourselves. But can we cross that border to reach understanding with other wild species? I had an incident that challenged my rational mind and brought to the surface some deep, dark fears from the primeval past.

It was early November, the time of year when I like to get my small country property tidied up and put to bed for its long winter sleep. I had been tied up with city matters for most of the day and returned home with just enough daylight hours left to finish some cleanup work on the three-acre field at the back of the property. This remote little idyl borders on the cedar swamp which marks the property line to the west.

Throwing off my city attire, I slipped on my favourite worn-out and grubby coveralls that my wife has long been trying to put on the burn pile, only to have me rescue them before they go up in smoke.

I had left the tractor outside the shed with the bush hog still attached. It was just a matter of a few moments before I was happily on my way down the farm lane to finish the job on that little field that we had decided to keep rough and dedicated to wild flowers. It wasn’t big enough for hay or other feed crop. Besides, milkweed had become established around the edges and an outcrop of rocks in the middle makes it unsuitable for cultivation. During the months of September and October we enjoy the migrating Monarch butterflies which use it as a fast-food stop as they set out in the direction of their winter destination in the forests of central Mexico.

It had been a warm day for November but the temperature was dropping rapidly as the sun approached the horizon. The moisture from the cedar swamp rose to meet the colder air above, causing patches of mist to form. A gentle breeze wafted through the opaque areas so that one moment the air was clear only to have visibility reduced to just a few feet as the tractor passed into another foggy patch.

With daylight fading, I wasted no time getting back to my trimming of the frosted growth of wild plants. The mulch that the bush hog created would rot over the next few months and help to improve the fertility of the thin soil for next year’s growth of grasses, weeds and wildflowers. While this was true, there was still a little bug inside my head that said the property looked better if it was neat and tidy. From this you can conclude that a bit of the urban householder remained in me which placed appearance high on the priority list. Keeping up with the suburban Joneses is a competitive challenge that still lingered.

I engaged the drive shaft of the powerful mower to the p.t.o. on the tractor and started down the line of where I had left off the weekend before. Up and down in neat rows, the wild and haphazard growth of the long summer months was reduced to orderliness.
With just two or three passes left to go, I felt a strange sensation.

I was not alone.

At first, I told myself I was imagining it or perhaps one of the dogs had come down from the house to see what I was up to. A glance over my shoulder confirmed that neither Simon nor Sallie, the two Jack Russells, were there. Since they are both white, they would have been easy to see in the gloaming.

I turned the steering wheel for one final pass down the length of the field, pleased with the accuracy of the pattern of straight lines I had created. And there it was again, that sensation of not being alone. I felt uncomfortable. The hairs on the back of my neck felt like they were standing on end. Of course, this did not actually happen, but it is very true that this sensation can be felt when something unknown threatens. Perhaps this is the same reaction a dog displays when the hackles on its back rise as a result of some impending threat. Whatever its origin, the sensation is real in humans even though the physical display is lacking. Maybe it is a reaction to the adrenaline rush as a fight-or-flight decision has to be made.

A gentle breeze wafted across the field and the mist cleared enough for me to detect movement in the bottom corner where the cedar trees have taken over from the border growth of milkweed. I stopped the tractor and switched off the ignition. Another puff of wind and my vision improved.

Indeed I was not alone. Standing just thirty metres away was a full-grown coyote. We locked eyes and remained this way for what seemed like ages but was probably just a minute. I presumed it was a male as he was surprisingly long-legged and muscular. I had seen other coyotes on previous occasions suffering from mange and in distressingly undernourished condition, but this fellow was in good health.

He stood his ground, as I did mine. At that moment we were two equals. In his gaze I read that he regarded me as an intruder on his territory. I was a fellow creature and he was curious about what made me tick. He was not afraid and wanted to know more about me. I, too, wanted to understand more about him but I was afraid. I stayed on the tractor, glad to have my iron horse beneath me, ready to beat a retreat on my command. Upon later reflection, I realized that my fear was unreasonable, but childhood nightmares of a deadly game of Russian Roulette involving a pack of hungry wolves pursuing an overloaded troika galloping through the snowy Russian forest remained not far beneath the surface of my mind.

When reason returned, I realized that this coyote must have been the culprit who had killed and eaten the tom turkey I had heard drumming in the bush earlier in the spring. The bird was elusive but I had caught a brief glance of him standing on a log with his tail feathers spread out like a lady’s fan. This handsome bird had fathered a fine brood of young turkeys that I had seen while riding in the back fields on my horse, Danny, just a week or so back. The hen bird and her half-grown family were still alive, but last month I had found the bones and large wing and tail feathers of the dad scattered in a clearing in the bush. No wonder this fellow looked so healthy with a tasty meal like that under his belt

I felt a puff of wind pass by and the mist rising from the swamp waters rolled across a curtain of obscurity. The mutual interview ended.

When next the air cleared, the stage was empty. He had melted into the screen of trees as quietly as he had appeared. I was left alone on the tractor gazing at a corner of the field with it’s neat rows of mown weeds. My spectator, my companion, was gone.

I turned the ignition key on the tractor, disengaged the driveshaft to the bush hog and headed back to the farmhouse. Shadows were lengthening and I was looking forward to a log fire and a warm supper. I reviewed my encounter with the coyote and wondered if he was also thinking about our little tête-à-tête, and whether he too would find his supper on his way home. Perhaps an unwary rabbit or, if his luck failed him, he could dig out a couple of field mice on the bank by the creek. If worse came to worse, he would have to be satisfied with eating some of the fallen wild apples that still lingered on the ground this late in the autumn.

When he eventually returned to his den, curled his tail around his nose, and settled down for a few hours before his next pre-dawn hunting excursion, would he wake to regard me as his natural enemy, safe enough when sitting on my smelly iron horse, but to be avoided at all costs if I carried one of those loud sticks which dispensed flame and pain? Or was I just another strange creature that lived in his world and with whom he had tried to communicate and reach an understanding?

I like to believe that each of us had tried hard to make a connection. That we had both struggled to do so. We had come close, but the inter-species barrier had not been overcome. Our meeting of the minds remained one step too far. It had been an inconclusive but thought-provoking encounter for which I am grateful.

Posted September 4, 2019

English-born Derek French grew up in Kent through the years of World War II, served as Master of the Eglinton and Caledon Hunt (ON) from 2000 to 2007, and is the author of Spirit: The Lighter Side of Life in Wartime Britain, available through Amazon.

A Woman’s Place

salley mcinerney and cort.smallThe author, a hunt coat, a stirrup cup, and a horse named Cort.Our Hunting World

I reached into the left, front pocket of my foxhunting jacket, a vintage black and grey-flecked wool frock made by Brittany Riding Apparel of New York. My fingers found something thin and soft—a faded blue pack of ten-cent stamps with an enthusiastic message from the postal service about using your zip code.

“Help us give your letters top speed.”

Five-digit zip codes were introduced in 1963; ten cent stamps were issued in the early 1970s; I was issued in 1955.

I inspected the stamp book further. What is the story of the stamps? And the story of a riding jacket I had been given by my mother on Christmas Day, 1972, but had never worn?

It’s the story of a woman’s place.

mcinerney stampsFound in the pocket of her hunt coat, forty-four years later.

No, I take that back. It’s the story of the many places a woman finds herself before she’s back in the place she loves best, before she comes full circle and finds herself where her earliest memories were made.

For me, that is in the saddle aboard a handsome four-legged fellow named Cort on a biting cold morning in the vast natural beauty that is thousands of acres of foxhunting country in Camden, South Carolina.

The air’s still damp from the passing night, but the ground is softening to the sun’s rising. Horses stamp their hooves, clear their wide nostrils with great, loud snorts. A researcher in France recently suggested that these snorts indicate positive emotions. Indeed, the horses are ready for the hunt to begin.

The huntsman sounds her slim copper horn. The thirty-some foxhounds lead the charge into the woods, scouring the territory, searching for scent, signaling to one another what they have found, “honoring” the discovery of a senior hound whose nose knows best.

And the chase is on. It’s a chase that’s been going on for centuries. Around the world. Here in America. In the tall pines of Camden.

I grew up riding horses. Sensible farm ponies to start. More complicated creatures as I progressed. As a young girl, I foxhunted with The Camden Hunt, established in 1926, but the boundless joy of that sport came to an abrupt end in September 1972 when I was packed off to a boarding school in North Carolina.

I’d been riding too much. Studying too little. Adolescence was difficult. Boys terrified me. Public schools were in racial upheaval. My parents deemed it time for me to go.

That Christmas, when I returned home from school, the handsome hunting jacket was underneath the tree. Its collar was adorned with a band of gold wool, indicating that I had been awarded my “colors” by the Camden Hunt.

Too little, however, and too late. Life intervened. A bad riding accident in college didn’t help. I would not wear that jacket or ride with The Camden Hunt for another forty-four years—a long time. Long enough to have been in many a woman’s place.

Long enough to get a college degree, get married, get a job, turn it into a career, have children, raise children, own homes, sell homes, move from this state to that state, keep a marriage going, keep hoping to win the lottery, have friends, lose friends, find them again, write a book, take care of countless pets, watch parents grow old, lose parents, hope you’ll find them in the hereafter, watch children stumble, get up, grow into adults and move into their own lives and then—only then, at least for me—did I feel this old place beckoning and realize the opportunity was mine to finally wear that wool jacket.

I started with ‘refresher course’ riding lessons. My muscle memory and instincts were intact. Then my husband and I moved to Camden—a community steeped in equine history and sport. A horse named Cort came into my orbit. He was young, kind, and sensible. He had never foxhunted, but he could jump the moon. And he was willing ... willing to do what I asked.

With a few alterations the hunting jacket fit, and on a cold morning in November, several years ago, I put it on.

Finally, I had arrived at an old, beloved place. It’s a place where the mornings are cold, the fog deep and thick in the woods. It’s a place where hounds are long and lanky, noses to the ground, charging through the underbrush. It’s a place where horses are sturdy and sure-footed, alert to everything around them. It’s a place where humans like to think they are in charge, but in truth, where wily foxes and stealthy coyotes run the show—circling in swamps, bursting through a line of trees, suddenly tiring of the escapade and disappearing into thin air.

After forty-four years, it has become my place again, though it’s not the same place as it was so long ago. On a recent hunt, after a grueling stretch of galloping, I pulled my dear red horse to a halt and collapsed wearily over his withers. My legs felt like rubber. My heart pounded. My breath came in gulps. A friend and her pony pulled up beside us. She laughed at my prostrate position in the saddle.

“Well now you know what it’s like to be shot out of a cannon,” she said.

Yes, I do, but I am not a circus performer. This new place where I find myself comes with age, with knowing that I am no longer young, no longer a fearless sprite bouncing off the ground like a rubber ball after a fall from a horse. I am aware of the danger, the unpredictability, the suddenness of a sharp turn or a screeching halt, the breadth of a big jump, the blistering speed.

In the cold air, I say a prayer for safety, for using my good sense and for Cort using his. Then, I press my heels deeper into the stirrups, anchors on either side of me. My body synchs with the leather saddle, the shape of my horse. I grasp the reins, the feel of the oiled leather so soft and right. I reach for Cort’s shoulder, rub my hand against his bone and muscle. I talk to him. His ears flicker backwards, listening. I trust him. I believe he trusts me.

The huntsman’s horn sounds and we set out into this most perfect, returned-to place. A place where an old riding jacket has been altered around the waistline and where a book of ten-cent stamps remains a mystery. I cannot say why it is there, but it stays in the jacket’s front pocket as a talisman—a thin, soft reminder of many years and this woman’s many places.

Posted August 30, 2019

Salley McAden McInerney is a former columnist for The State newspaper in Columbia, S.C. and author of  Journey Proud, a novel based upon growing up in Columbia in the 1960s.This story was previously published in Sporting Classics magazine.