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!
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.
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