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What follows is foxhunting’s version of musical chairs.
This flying fox was captured in mid-flight by the lens of photographer Douglas Lees. Click for a Photo Gallery of the Piedmont Fox Hound’s meet at Blue Ridge Farm with first whipper-in Neil Amatt temporarily carrying the horn for injured huntsman Spencer Allen.
Posted February 9, 2015
In the last issue of FHL WEEK, Kate Samuels wrote about what eventing horses can learn by going foxhunting. Your editor was reminded of an article we published back in 2010 that turned that question on its head somewhat. We had asked Olympic three-day medalist James Wofford what foxhunters can learn from eventers. As we are now in that part of the hunting season when a traveling fox may take us for the longest and most arduous run of the season, we thought it would be worthwhile republishing Wofford’s advice.
For most of us field members, perhaps one of the greatest single factors influencing the joy we experience in a day’s hunting is our riding ability. The more competently we are able to cross the country on our horse, the closer we come to a totally fulfilling experience.
Since eventers know just a bit about crossing the country, we asked instructor, team coach, author, and Olympic medalist James Wofford to discuss some of the principles of his particular discipline and how they might be applied to the hunting field.
Stuart Grod—popular field member of the Fairfield County Hounds (CT)—has retired after forty-three consecutive seasons hunting in the first flight. A retirement party was held in Stu’s honor at the hunt’s clubhouse on November 22, 2014, where well-known food and travel author Michael Stern read a poem he composed for the occasion.
"Build a bridge with your hands on the mane;"
"Trot smooth as you head for the jump;"
"Go light when your hands hold the reins;"
"And don't crowd on the lead horse's rump:"
Just some of Stu's tips I've acquired
Since I started to ride with you folks.
I'll miss you up there, you strange country squire
With your bright eyes, your wisdom, and jokes.
The odyssey of Live Oak Charter—the frightened foxhound that escaped from the Virginia Foxhound Show last May, traveled from Leesburg to Middleburg (more than twenty miles as the crow flies), crossed two major four-lane highways, subsisted on whatever food he could find, lost part of his tongue and shattered his jaw—finally ended after six long months in Hollywood’s finest style.
Charter has been adopted by the vet tech that cared for him at Blue Ridge Veterinary Associates. He lives on a hundred-acre farm, sleeps on his new owner’s bed, and runs long distances with him every day. Charter’s survival literally “took a village,” and Live Oak MFHs Daphne and Marty Wood, who supported and monitored the efforts of so many dedicated people from afar, couldn’t be happier.
The recently held Theodora A. Randolph Field Hunter Championship in Virginia is a unique competition. It differs from the more usual one-day hunter trial in which foxhunters ride individually over a course of obstacles, often including lead-overs, trot fences, fast gallops, and hold-hards.
In the Theodora A. Randolph Championship format (see Susan Monticelli’s report in separate article), field hunters are observed by mounted judges for several days during a series of actual foxhunts behind different packs of foxhounds. The judges’ task during these hunts is to select those horse/rider combinations they wish to see in a final day of competition. The finals, held each year at Glenwood Park in Middleburg on the morning of the Virginia Fall Races, consist of a mock hunt following a Field Master over a course of obstacles, and then individual tests similar to those in a hunter trial for the final ten or so selected.
While some avid and capable foxhunters believe that foxhunting is not a competitive sport and decline to participate, and while I can appreciate and respect their view, I also see benefits from these competitions. From one aspect, it’s a great value. If you want a hunting holiday in Virginia, you get to hunt with four different packs for an entry fee of not much more than the cost of a single cap at some of these hunts. And parties all week to boot!