Having been a member of many fields in many hunting countries, the huntsman has always been my hero. From the time we mount up and for the few hours that follow, it is the huntsman who is most directly responsible for our day’s sport.
One might well argue that the hounds have something to do with it, and this I grant. But the pack is the product of the huntsman, and, since the level of sport depends on how hounds perform in the field as a pack, it all comes back to the huntsman.
Here’s our annual report on the recent moves of huntsmen Neil Amatt, Martyn Blackmore, Tony Gammell, and Sam Clifton.
As the new season gets underway, Foxhunting Life updates its March 31 report on the recent moves of huntsmen across North America.
Ashley Hubbard is the new huntsman for the Green Spring Valley Hounds (MD). Hubbard has served as kennel huntsman for the Fox River Valley Hunt (IL) for nearly ten years, assisting Tony Leahy, MFH, and carrying the horn when necessary.
“Tony didn’t want to lose him,” explained Duck Martin, MFH at Green Spring Valley, “but he thought this would be a good opportunity for Ashley.”
Since the end of World War II, Green Spring Valley has had just four huntsmen: Leslie Grimes, Andrew Barclay, John Tabachka, and Sam Clifton. Both Grimes and Barclay have been enshrined in the Huntsmen’s Room at the Museum of Hounds and Hunting.
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.
Talk about experience. Hugh Robards has spent fifty-three years in hunt service. He whipped-in to some of the legendary huntsmen in England—Brian Gupwell at the Eridge (later to become huntsman for the Duke of Beaufort), Percy Durno and Captain Ronnie Wallace at the Heythrop, and Charlie Wilkin at the Wynnstay.
Upon Captain Wallace’s recommendation to Lord Daresbury, MFH of the County Limerick Foxhounds, Hugh moved to Ireland to take up his first post as huntsman. There he remained for twenty-seven seasons showing world-class sport to the Irish—none keener—and visiting sportsmen and women from around the globe.
After parting from the Limerick, he came to the U.S. to help rebuild the Rolling Rock Hunt (PA), remaining there as Master and huntsman until 2007. From Rolling Rock he moved to the Saxonburg Hunt (PA) where he served as huntsman until coming to the Middleburg Hunt last year as first whipper-in to huntsman Barry Magner. (Barry is moving to Australia this season, and we hope to catch our readers up with him in another article.)
“Hugh continually reinvents himself because of his love for his work,” said Juli Robards, his wife. “Transcending change is one of his great qualities, and I’m unabashedly one of his biggest fans!”
Those who have hunted behind him are big fans as well. Tony Leahy, who grew up in Ireland, is first vice-president of the MFHA and serves as Master and huntsman of the Fox River Valley Hunt (IL). “Hugh is without question one of the best huntsmen I’ve seen,” said Tony. “I remember hunting behind him at Limerick, and I’ve seen him do amazing things!”
Huntsman Robert Taylor hasn’t had a good rest in five years. He’s been hunting two separate packs of foxhounds in Maryland—the Goshen Hounds as Master and amateur huntsman and the New Market-Middletown Valley Hounds as professional huntsman. Huntsman Ken George has been driving hounds and horses six hours each way twice a week from Kansas to Iowa to hunt hounds in both states. Huntsmen love what they do, but each season ends with changes in the wind.
As this hunting season draws to a close, we see huntsmen on the move again. Starting in the north and progressing southward then west, here’s what we know so far; please let us know who we’ve left out.