Fox Hunting Life with Horse and Hound

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Piedmont Fox Hounds

piedmont

Loudoun County, Virginia

Website:


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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nancy dillon.callarNancy Dillon has taught children to ride and hunt for nearly half a century. / Liz Callar photo

Nancy Dillon is a living, legendary treasure of the Piedmont Fox Hounds in Virginia. She is the longest subscribing member of the hunt, having started hunting at age eight in 1943. For nearly a half century she has taught and led more children into the hunting field than anyone can count. Her truck and trailer pulling into the meet have been likened to the car at the circus where the clowns just keep coming out.

On Friday, November 8, 2013, the hunt threw a party at Buchanan Hall in Upperville to screen a specially-produced documentary—Lessons in the Piedmont—in tribute to Nancy. Throughout this beautifully-produced and heart-warming film, children (some grown, others still growing), Masters, hunt members, and citizens of the community expressed their love for this woman and their heart-felt appreciation for what she has done to instill a love of the sport, respect for the land, and personal values to generations of children.

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neil amatt.2013.al cookHorn Blowing Championship trophy is presented to Neil Amatt by Richard Hornberger. Ringmaster is John Franzreb. / AlCookPhoto.com

Neil Amatt, whipper-in to the Piedmont Fox Hounds (VA), won the 2013 North American Horn Blowing Championship on Monday, October 14. This final horn blowing competition of the season is held annually during Hunt Night activities at the Pennsylvania National Horse Show in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Hunt staff members across North America qualify to compete for the championship by winning a horn blowing contest at any one of the MFHA-sanctioned hound shows held the previous spring.

Previous winners have been Andrew Barclay, Sam Clifton, Emma Downing, Steve Farrin, Tommy Jackson, Brian Kiely, Ian Milne, Charles Montgomery, Adrian Smith, and John Tabachka.

A perpetual trophy engraved with the name of each year’s winner remains on permanent display at the Museum of Hounds and Hunting at Morven Park in Leesburg, Virginia.

Posted October 17, 2013