Fox Hunting Life with Horse and Hound

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Piedmont Fox Hounds

piedmont

Loudoun County, Virginia

Website:


nafhc.ch1Laurie Ambrose and Stretch from the Piedmont Fox Hounds won the 2014 Mrs. Theodora A. Randolph Field Hunter Championship. / Douglas lees photo

In a hark back to bygone days, the Theodora A. Randolph Field Hunter Championships combine a whirlwind week of foxhunting and socializing against a backdrop of sporting estates, well-bred foxhounds, and passionate foxhunters. Always held the last week of September and ending the first weekend of October, this year's event attracted seventy-four entries with a brilliant card of hosting hunts: Orange County Hounds, Blue Ridge Hunt, Loudoun Fairfax Hunt and the Piedmont Foxhounds. Judges ride alongside the field to observe the competitors in action before selecting several riders each day, based on how well their horses performed, for the finals on Saturday. Every hunt hosted a tailgate, and there were social functions every evening.

Foxhunters from twenty-two hunts and eight states rode in the event: Andrews Bridge, Belle Meade, Blue Ridge, Bull Run, Casanova, Deep Run, Elkridge-Harford , Farmington, Glenmore, Hillsboro, Keswick, Loudoun Fairfax, Lowcountry, Middleburg, Newmarket-Middletown Valley, Old Dominion, Orange County, Palm Beach, Piedmont, Snickersville, Warrenton, and Whiskey Road. Riders came from Florida, Georgia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia. The six judges were Helen Brettell, Middleburg; Snowden Clark; Liz McKnight, ex-MFH, Elkridge-Harford; Ginny Perrin, MFH, Deep Run, and the husband-and-wife team of Lincoln Sadler and Cameron Sadler, MFH, Moore County.

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The latest report on the one Live Oak foxhound still on the lam is that he has made an art of his early retirement. Daphne Wood, MFH reports that Charter is alive and well, though thin. It turns out that the kind kitchen employees at the Middleburg Tennis Club on Zulla Road have been putting out kitchen scraps for him. The good news is that this regular source of food has probably kept him safe from roaming and crossing roads, but it has also made it unnecessary for him to venture into the trap that has been baited to secure him.

With Piedmont huntsman Spencer Allen on vacation, first whipper-in Neil Amatt has been deputized to capture the escapee. The plan is to send Amatt to the kitchen with a Spanish-speaking member of his posse to request that the kitchen scraps be turned over to him for baiting the trap.

Daphne's fondest wish is to now “end this ordeal for all concerned”! She hopes to be soon able to send a concrete expression of her gratitude to Piedmont “to thank them for the endless efforts they continue to make to bring this to a happy ending.”

Posted June 25, 2014

 

neilmorris.portrait.leesNeil Morris hunting a stakes-winning hurdle horse at Orange County / Douglas Lees photoNeil Morris is a new Master of the Orange County Hounds (VA). Morris joins current Masters John Coles and Malcolm Matheson in leading this, one of the most prominent hunts in the country.

“I’m so happy to have him,” said Coles. “Neil can do anything in this job that anyone could want. He’s a great guy, a great horseman...he’s made to order ”

Better known perhaps for his association with winning race horses he has trained for Kinross Farm, such as Grade I Stakes winner Sur La Tete; Virginia Gold Cup winner Miles Ahead; and Virginia-bred Researcher with winnings in the seven figures, Morris is at the same time an avid foxhunter. He hunts his steeplechase horses regularly and credits that time off in the field with providing the bottomless stamina his horses so often display on the race course.

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One of the two unentered Live Oak foxhounds that were spooked upon their arrival at Morven Park for the Virginia Foxhound Show last May has been recovered. Perfect, who never left the Morven Park area, was finally secured in a box dog trap.

Her companion in flight, Charter, has been more adventurous in his travels. He has been seen on Zulla Road in Middleburg, and Piedmont huntsman Spencer Allen has been feeding him but hasn’t yet secured him. So long as Charter stays off the busy roads, chances are he will soon be in good hands as well.

A much-relieved Daphne Wood, MFH, Live Oak Hounds (FL), has expressed her gratitude to the Morven Park staff, retired huntsman Kevin Palmer, Piedmont MFH Tad Zimmerman, and Piedmont huntsman Spencer Allen for their continued efforts on behalf of these young hounds.

Posted June 11, 2014

 

piedmont14.open timberRunning for the Rokeby Bowl are (l-r) winner Dakota Slew (Robert Walsh up) and Zulla Road (Woods Winants up). / Douglas Lees photo

Virginia point-to-point fans were treated to a full weekend of racing on March 22 and 23, 2014. The Piedmont Fox Hounds Point-to-Point went off as scheduled on Saturday and the Blue Ridge Hunt races, postponed from their original date, were held on Sunday. In a spirit of cooperation, races over fences were split so that Piedmont ran timber races and Blue Ridge ran just hurdle (brush) races, thus assuring a good field of entries for each specialty.

In the Open Timber Race, Zulla Road (Woods Winants up) set the pace for the first mile, but Dakota Slew ridden by Robert Walsh took control from there to the wire. Skunked ran a strong second, but Dakota Slew in prevailing notched his second consecutive Rokeby Bowl win. Dakota Slew is owned by Magalen Bryant and trained by Richard Valentine. Ms. Bryant shared last season’s Virginia Leading Owner title with Pennsylvanian Irvin Naylor. Although Winants pulled up Zulla Road in that race, the fourth on the card, he had earlier shown his 2013 Virginia Leading Rider form by winning the first two races of the day, Maiden Timber and Amateur Highweight Timber.

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neil.amatt.kleckNeil Amatt, professional whipper-in, Piedmont Fox Hounds (VA): “Anticipation, punctuality, how you present yourself—all these things are drilled into you in the English system. You start in the kennels, and you have to really want it before you’re even allowed on a horse.” / Nancy Kleck photo

With the start of a new season just around the corner, we bring back this article, first published in 2013, not only for the benefit of all new and aspiring whippers-in, but also for those field members who wish to appreciate all that happens in the hunting field.

Last season, after forty-five years of hunting, I witnessed a simple act of sophisticated whipping-in that left me shaking my head in admiration. For a huntsman or an experienced whipper-in, it was perhaps no big deal.

My hunt fielded an all-new professional staff last season—huntsman and whipper-in—both of whom were learning the country on the fly. Hounds had checked in a thick covert, and we in the field could see them, heads down, trying to recover the line. The whipper-in came galloping by headed for the end of the covert.

“Over here,” called the Field Master, pointing to a concealed trail. “You can get in over here.”

The whipper-in came back, talked urgently to the Field Master, then turned his horse and continued in the direction he was originally going.

After the meet I asked him what that exchange was all about.

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