Fox Hunting Life with Horse and Hound
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FHL WEEK, Feb. 18, 2023

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Hound Trials in the Georgia Pines

Hunt Reports

Belle Meade Hound Trials Photo by Allison HowellBelle Meade Hound Trials 2023. Photo by Allison Howell.

Here is an account from the guest huntsman of the recent Performance Trial hosted by Belle Meade in Georgia. There were nine packs that competed: Belle Meade Hunt (GA), Bridlespur Hunt (MO), Bull Run Hunt (VA), Goodwin Hounds (NC), Goshen Hounds (MD), Mill Creek Hunt (IL), Midland Fox Hounds (GA), Rolling Rock Hunt (PA), and Tennessee Valley Hunt (TN). Steven Thomas, MFH is the Huntsman for the Fort Leavenworth Hunt in Kansas and had the pleasure of being the guest huntsman of the combined pack. Read below to hear what this huntsman thought of the weekend.

 Belle Meade Hound Trials Photo by Allison Howell 2Early Morning at the Belle Meade Hound Trials. Photo by Allison Howell.

The 2023 Belle Meade Performance Trial was a success by every measure possible! Nine packs sent twenty-two and a half couple of their best hounds to come together as a single unit and made their huntsmen and masters proud. Day one started with mixing the pack in the BMH kennel. They quickly settled together and, thanks to a lot of biscuits, made friends with the guest huntsman in short order. Then it was a quick hack to the first covert. The entire pack was very responsive to the voice and horn.

We drew an area known to contain deer to ensure that the pack was steady on any improper game and that there were no problems. We then moved on to a wonderfully dense covert, but there was an opening behind a beautiful field that allowed the judges and fields to watch hounds work and come together. After a bit of time with the cold line, hounds were put back into the covert and very quickly found what they were looking for. A symphony of sound followed and a fast and furious race to keep up with the pack. Eventually, the circle became tighter and finally halted, with a single voice signaling the end of the chase. Hounds that over-ran the line quickly came back and the bulk of the pack was together to get rewarded by a grateful huntsman.

Belle Meade hound trialsAmanda Siegner with the combined pack at the Belle Meade Performance Hound Trials 2023. Photo by Allison Howell.

After a rest and water break, the next cast once again developed into a hot line that divided the pack. Since we had a fantastic crew of both mounted and road judges, the decision was made to let the judges score each group. Each pack was eventually stopped as they reached road boundaries. With plenty of scores and a second day ahead for hounds and horses, the decision was made to call the hunt.

Expectations were high for day two as cooler weather moved in but topping the first day was unlikely. There was a clear difference in the scenting as we cast into the first covert. Hounds were trying hard but with only intermittent openings they started casting themselves wider in order to find. So, with very little effort they were packed up and taken across the hardball to another of BMH’s beautiful coverts. It wasn’t long until they hit again and reproduced the prior day’s music! This time, the pack seemed to be on just one coyote but eventually front pulled far enough ahead that the decision was made to stop and collect those hounds falling behind. Horses and riders were hot and panting so staff held up the front, the hunt was called and everyone hacked back to Boots Hall to take a break and wait for the final results.

It was an honor to serve as the guest huntsman for this fabulous event. Congratulations to all the hunts who participated and a special thank you to everyone at the BMH hunt who made it possible. You truly are a family and this was an especially poignant time as you had just lost a treasured member, but I think we all felt we were still under her watchful eye (please see our tribute to the late Mrs. Jean Derrick here - The Southern Belle of North American Hunting).

Belle Meade Hound Trials Photo by Allison Howell 3The judges for the Belle Meade Hound Trials: Epp Wilson, MFH, Angela Murray, MFH, Nikki Merle-Smith, Rosie Merle-Smith, xMFH, Steven Thomas, MFH, Joel Merle-Smith, MFH, Jennifer Buckley, Dr. Gary Wilkes, MFH, Grosvenor Merle-Smith, xMFH, John Tabachka, and Ed Maxwell, MFH. Photo by Allison Howell.

Allison Howell took some lovely images from the weekend. If interested, check them out here:Belle Meade Performance Trial 2023.

Orginially Published on February 11, 2023.

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