The venerable Virginia Foxhound Club—the team that brings you the Virginia Foxhound Show each year—is celebrating its sixtieth anniversary. It seems timely to look back, evaluate the importance of hound shows in the overall scheme of foxhunting, and convince those with a passion for the sport that their membership in the Virginia Foxhound Club, no matter where in North America they hunt the fox or the coyote, is an investment that will benefit all fox hunters and their hunts.
The Virginia Foxhound Show, the largest hound show in the world, brings foxhounds of all types and all strains to the flags for viewing, comparing, and judging. Whether a Master or huntsman is seeking certain bloodlines, or an outcross to introduce hybrid vigor to the gene pool within his kennels, he sees such hounds at Virginia. And he has the opportunity to socialize and chat, in a magnificent setting, about the merits and traits of the canine objects of his desire. With your support, the best matings may continue to be made in Heaven, but they’ll be arranged in Virginia!
We invite readers to fill us in on any moves that we’ve missed. We also invite you to send us a personal profile on any of these huntsmen that we can publish as a feature article. Or, just send us the information, and we’ll write the story. Use the “Contact Us” link that appears at the bottom of every screen to communicate directly with me, and be sure to include your phone number.
What follows is foxhunting’s version of musical chairs.
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 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!
When George and Jeanie Thomas organized their hunt twenty years ago near Aiken, South Carolina, they expressed their philosophy in naming it. Why Worry Hounds they called it, and now, after twenty years of managing hounds, horses, and country by themselves, they have made some organizational changes to re-establish that philosophy.
With George busier in his day job and Jeanie having conquered some pesky physical issues, the couple has taken steps to ease their burdens by bringing on board two well-known, immensely capable, and passionate foxhunters ready and wanting to shoulder a share of the responsibilities—Randy and Robin Waterman.
Randy, ex-MFH and former huntsman of the Piedmont Fox Hounds (VA), has been named huntsman of the Why Worry Hounds. Robin, who whipped-in to Randy at Piedmont, joins George and Jeanie as Joint-MFH at Why Worry and will whip-in to Randy.