The MFHA Hark Forward Performance Trial Series took participants to the prairies of middle America, a unique experience. I love the traditional hunt countries on the East Coast with large forests and big open fields, and I also love the totally different experiences of hunting in land where it is so wide open you can literally see for miles in every direction. Here, in the wide open expanse of the Kansas prairie, field members get to see most all of the hound work.
Mission Valley Hunt (KS) hosted this Foxhound Performance Trial over the weekend of March 2–4, 2018. Five hunts from the Midwest competed. In addition to Mission Valley, hounds were entered from Bridlespur Hunt (MO), Fort Leavenworth Hunt (KS), Mill Creek Hunt (IL), and North Hills Hunt (NE). Guest huntsman was Angela Murray, MFH, Red Rock Hounds (NV).
Honorary huntsman Jennifer Hansen credits the Woodbrook Masters who encouraged her to take hounds on a one-thousand-mile trip (each way!) from Washington State to Southern California to participate in the Western States Hound Show. It was the first time that Woodbrook had shown hounds in many years, and it was the first time Hansen ever showed hounds. And she took home the Grand Champion Foxhound of Show, Woodbrook Kent 2014.
“I was as nervous as I could be,” said Hansen, but “I was so proud of Kent who held his stern high all day. [Judge] Mr. Pitts said, ‘That hound just can’t stand bad!’”
Last year, while hunting with the Red Rock Hounds (NV), I met Renee and Kail Mantle from Big Sky Hounds in Three Forks, Montana. Kail gave us a bucking horse lesson one day before hunting. This Montana cowboy, who hunts in chaps and cowboy hat, had sat calmly to his horse bucking crazily above the sagebrush and had seriously impressed me.
When a group of these Western foxhunters invited me to accompany them to Ireland this year, I jumped at the chance. These were fun people---more than a little crazy, and I wondered if anyone had warned the Irish!
I also wondered if my companions knew what they were getting into. I had hunted the big Irish walls and hedges in 2000, and I came home with newfound respect for anyone who hunts regularly in Ireland. It is challenging country, and their version of foxhunting is an excuse to run and jump really big fences.
I want to tell you about Lynn Lloyd’s Red Rock Hounds and the country they hunt as a short introduction to our feature story, "How Old Hounds Pay Their Keep at Red Rock." In that story you’ll read how Lynn ingeniously transformed her elderly hounds from a burden to an asset! The old hounds pay their way by increasing membership and caps, and they throw off side benefits by helping to train young hounds and staff. And I have to believe that many hunts could do something similar to their own benefit.
The Red Rock foxhounds hunt the coyote over the high desert of Nevada, near Reno, where cowboys in dusty western hats, vests, and chaps lope after hounds in their Western saddles stirrup-to-stirrup with properly attired foxhunters posting to the trot in their English saddles.
Most hunts are beset by similar problems: what to do with old hounds, how to attract more members, how to pay the bills, how to train staff, how to train young hounds. Lynn Lloyd, MFH and huntsman of the Red Rock Hounds (NV), found that the solution to one problem provided the key to solving several others.
What to Do with Old Hounds
The average hunting life of a hound is perhaps six or seven years. That means it is retired from the pack at age seven or eight. Beyond that age, most hounds start falling behind the pack, lacking the foot and endurance to maintain the pace over a full hunting day.
But with several years of life still remaining for the retired hounds, most hunts are hard-put to expend their limited financial resources to keep and maintain them. And here’s where Lynn Lloyd found a way to turn a burden into an asset.