Peter Hitchen, MFH, died January 12, 2015 from complications stemming from injuries sustained in a fall in the hunting field a month earlier. He was seventy-six. At the time of his passing, Peter was serving in his twenty-seventh season as Joint-Master of the Potomac Hunt (MD).
Peter was born in England but didn’t start foxhunting until he emigrated to the U.S. in 1962. After settling in the Washington, D.C. area, Peter was introduced to the sport by a friend. He also met his bride-to-be, Nancy Tilton Orme of Leesburg, Virginia, who also encouraged his involvement with hunting to hounds at The Loudoun Hunt.
From that time on, Peter never let anything interfere with his maturing love of and passion for foxhunting. After many seasons of whipping-in at the New Market/Middletown Valley Hounds (MD) and later at The Potomac Hunt, Peter joined Irvin L. (Skip) Crawford as Joint-Master of Potomac in 1987. With huntsman, Larry Pitts, they oversaw the development of what is unquestionably one of the premier packs of American foxhounds in the United States, giving good sport to their members and garnering championships and grand championships at the hound shows year after year.
My first Opening Meet has been about a year in the making, and I can hardly believe I’m here. By here, I mean standing on top of a log, cursing my horse, who, instead of standing quietly for me to remount, has decided to leap over the log while I try to stay calm and not burst into tears.
It’s been a trying weekend so far.
My borrowed horse, Seven Up, is completely sick of me after I spent a total of six hours Friday night and Saturday morning grooming the living bejezus out of him. Up to this point, I never had to braid for any kind of equestrian event, so on Friday night I arrive at the barn around 6:30, brush and bathe him, and separate his mane into little sections.
For the second time* in history, a Penn-Marydel foxhound was judged Grand Champion of the Virginia Foxhound Show. The William W. Brainard, Jr. Perpetual Cup was presented to Golden’s Bridge Phoenix 2012 at Morven Park in Leesburg on Sunday, May 25, 2014. Golden’s Bridge huntsman Ciaran Murphy showed the Champion.
The following weekend, for the first time in foxhound history, the same Penn-Marydel repeated his stunning Virginia victory by being judged Grand Champion of Show at Bryn Mawr.
The Penn-Marydel as a breed is justifiably loved by its admirers for a number of reasons—nose, voice, biddability—none of which includes a reputation as the standard for foxhound beauty. Yet Golden’s Bridge Phoenix prevailed over the usual suspects so often in the Virginia lineup for the final class of the day: Live Oak Hounds (FL), Midland Foxhounds (GA), and Potomac Hunt (MD). At Bryn Mawr, Phoenix topped the other breed champions from the Blue Ridge Hunt (VA), Potomac Hunt, and GreenSpring Valley Hounds (MD).
For once in the thirty-nine-year history of the Maryland Foxhound Club’s annual puppy show, the weather-gods cooperated. On a marvelously sunny day, supporters of twelve foxhound packs and seven foot hound packs met on the lawn of Tim and Vicki Shaw’s lovely home to show the products of their breeding programs. The show is restricted to unentered hounds as well as the stallion hounds and brood bitches that produced these hounds.
With one ring devoted to foxhounds and another devoted to foot hounds, Jeff Blue, MFH of Middleburg Hunt (VA) and Bob Dougherty, MB of Hidden Meadows beagles and ex-MFH and huntsman of the Plum Run Hunt (PA) had a full day of judging to do. A total of 141 foxhounds were entered and 73 foot hounds went through the rings. In the only combined class of the day, nineteen young fox and rabbit hunters paraded before both judges in a really tough junior handler class. No doubt Masters Blue and Dougherty worked their hardest to pin that class!
Professional huntsman Larry Pitts was recognized at the recent MFHA Staff Seminar held in Lexington, Kentucky, April 12 to 13, 2014. After a dinner for the two hundred attendees, Larry was presented with the annual Ian Milne Award for his exceptional contributions to the sport of foxhunting.
While the sport of foxhunting may, as many say, revolve around the foxhound, I suggest that the heart and soul of our sport is the professional huntsman. Professionals like Larry preserve the superlative foxhound bloodlines for breeding, and they maintain the standards for the care and training of hounds in kennel and the handling of hounds in the field. All hunts—whether high-octane or small farmer’s pack—and all huntsmen—whether professional or amateur—benefit from their breeding acumen and their examples of practice.
Here is a real-life example of how the professional huntsman exerts his or her influence upon our sport in kennels far beyond his own. Epp Wilson, MFH and huntsman of the Belle Meade Hunt (GA), reached back to his teen years and his first meeting with Larry Pitts in this vignette.