Fox Hunting Life with Horse and Hound

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evaa smithwick2.leesEva Smithwick and Hey Doctor / Douglas Lees photo

Eva Smithwick captured the Leading Trainer title on the Virginia Point-to-Point circuit this year. It was her and husband Speedy Smithwick’s first year back in Virginia after seventeen years in Kentucky training on the flat tracks. As if being a top trainer doesn’t keep her sufficiently busy, she’s agreed to hunt hounds for Snickersville this season.

The Snickersville foxhounds hunt over Sunny Bank Farm in Middleburg, home of the late Dot Smithwick. Eva, having returned to Sunny Bank with Speedy to continue his mother’s training business, just couldn’t say no to MFH Greg Ryan.

“Greg is a persistent fellow,” said Eva. “Every time the dinner conversation turned to the question of who would hunt hounds this year, Greg would stare at me.”

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DSC 3334Judge Barbara Batterton presents the championship trophy to Elizabeth Green, riding Gold for Glory. / Liz Callar photo

Elizabeth Green, representing the Piedmont Fox Hounds (VA), rode Shelby Bonnie’s Gold for Glory to victory in the Theodora Randolph Field Hunter Championships of America. The trials, founded in 1989, are named for the late Master of the Piedmont, so it is particularly fitting when a Piedmont horse and rider win the championship.

The week-long event attracts foxhunters from across North America. Entries ride with up to four different area hunts over a five-day period, and horse and rider pairs are selected to compete in the final tests and mock hunt by a team of mounted judges. The finals were held on October 7, 2012 at the Glenwood Park Race Course in Middleburg as part of the Virginia Fall Races weekend program.

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7Connor PoeConnor Poe whipped-in with Robyn Harter. / Middleburg PhotoLike most days at Nelson Gunnell’s Banbury Cross we expected a large field. But this was Junior Day—a day when the juniors take over the positions of staff and make all the calls. So the group that gathered for this nine o’clock meet was huge. I’m not sure, but I heard rumors there might have been eighty people out to hunt. We had fifteen couple of Penn-Marydels and Penn-Marydel crosses under open skies, with temperatures warming to sixty-eight degrees.

Don’t get me wrong; I like a large field. I want visitors and guest alike to see what one of the best packs in Virginia can do. But at some point it can get too large! We had a first field, second field, and a beginner field for children. We also had, besides the Field Masters, field stewards in the back to help along those who might fall out, to check gates and riders, and generally to keep order at the tail of the field.

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stonewall.liliLili Wykle, MFH and huntsman, Stonewall HoundsOn Tuesday October 19 we welcomed Todd Kern and fourteen of his Snickersville Penn-Marydel crosses to join the Stonewall Hounds (VA) for a weekday hunt. Todd was coming this way with a horse for one of is his whippers-in, Julia Bayliss, who is currently attending Sweet Briar college and hunting with us. This was very exciting for Stonewall because we had never hunted our country with a joint pack. Adding his seven couple to our eight-and-a-half couple made for a nice size pack.

Todd anticipated a good run on something besides red fox, his usual quarry. He wanted to get his hounds on game that they normally don't hunt, such as gray fox or bobcat or coyote. We have that type of varied game (and even an occasional bear) in our country and not many red foxes.

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conner_and_lawyerHuntsman David Conner and Rockbridge Lawyer 2008.              Jan Sorrells photo

Rockbridge Lawyer 2008 and his littermate Lead scored a one-two punch at the Carolinas Foxhound Performance Trials on March 26 and 27 in Hoffman, North Carolina. Competing against hounds from twelve other hunts, the Rockbridge pair finished first and second respectively after two days of hunting. We talked to Conner about his handsome and talented hound.

Trial organizer Fred Berry, MFH of the Sedgefield Hunt, has been actively involved in foxhound performance trials for years—first judging, then organizing. As a result of Berry’s considerable experience, he has introduced some interesting new wrinkles into the management of his trials to improve both the hunting and the experience for the field.

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