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Foxhunting Life with Horse and Hound

 

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Norm Fine's Blog

Looking at the Huntsman

nodh.klmNo hunting all summer. The huntsman must be having himself a nice vacation, right? Wrong. There’s an old saying that “most foxes are killed in kennel,” meaning that all the good work you see in the field during the hunting season is established during the off-season in the training of the young entry and in the making of the pack. Feed, care, routine, discipline, and exercise through the hot summer months all add up to performance in the field. Then there’s the whelping and care of the puppies who will be entered not this season, but the next. All told, summer is an exceedingly busy time for any huntsman who plans to field a high mettle pack of hounds and show good sport.

As the summer weeks slide by and the start of the informal season approaches, Foxhunting Life will have a look at the huntsman in the next few issues, including some of the legendary huntsmen of the past to see what they had to teach us about the handling of hounds in the field. Chances are, when the season comes alive, you will see your own huntsman employing similar techniques in the handling of his or her hounds in pursuit of the quarry.

Hounds

The Tom Smith Cast

tom smith castHounds speak confidently in covert; the whipper-in on the far side lifts his cap to the sky; and hounds burst into the open in full cry.

Suddenly all of life is in motion. Your head fills with the sights and sounds of the chase—the cry of hounds, the huntsman’s horn, the thud of hooves, the wind in your ears. Bliss. Then it all goes quiet.

The pack fractures, hounds searching for the lost line. The huntsman gives them a chance to recover it on their own. He doesn’t want the line to go cold, nor does he wants hounds to lift their heads and look to him for help every time they are at fault. Hounds make their own swing. The huntsman weighs all the factors—wind, scenting conditions, time passing, landscape, how the foxes have run here in the past. He decides to make a cast.

Hunt Reports

The Drag Hunt that Brightened My Season

coopershill.toneryJames Tonery on Starlight, 17-h Irish Sport Horse

The Grallagh Harrier hounds that I follow in County Galway, Ireland had more than enough sport last season, but for us riders, hunting was hampered with the deluge of rain that fell from the heavens. No God would send such volumes of rain on any huntsman; there must be other forces at work here.
 
Because of the rain, I was able to hunt on open ground only three times. The rest of the hunting was done in forestry, where the hounds could have plenty of sport. To say I was frustrated is an understatement, but to be fair you could not expect to enter a farmer's land when it was under all that water.

Regardless, I have a lot to be joyous about. My hunt nominated me for being the best subscriber, having brought many newcomers to the sport from the U.S. and other parts. And, with all the water in the ground, I learned that the drag hunt has advantages to offer!

Norm Fine's Blog

What's New in Hunting Head Wear?

H2000-NavyH2000 / Courtesy Charles OwenCan a foxhunter make use of modern materials and technology for a safer riding experience, yet maintain the traditional look of the hunting field? This has been an ongoing challenge.

With foxhunters representing but a small subset of the total market for riding helmets, it makes good business sense for helmet manufacturers to strive to distinguish and brand their product offerings with stylish new shapes, medallions, stripes, and other decorative touches, none of which resembles anything that would have been acceptable in the hunting fields of even twenty years ago.

Correct hunting attire of the early twentieth century called for men and women field members to wear hunting derbies, with men switching to top hats when in formal attire. Later in the twentieth century, both men and women field members were moving toward the wearing of the iconic hunt cap in the field, traditionally correct only for Masters and staff. The rationale was that hunt caps, covering more of the head, were believed to be safer than derbies and top hats. In the interest of safety, most Masters put up little resistance to this migration.

We recently published a story about Caroline Treviranus, whose accident during the 1978 Three-Day World Championships rapidly spurred equestrian organizations to mandate the wearing of approved safety helmets during competition. So it was that when Caroline started managing my hunting stable some years later, I was still wearing the traditional hunt cap in the field.

Constructed of laminated fabric stiffened with shellac and glue, with no chin strap to keep it on my head in the event of an unscheduled dismount, it provided scant protection compared to the new approved helmets. Caroline, in the interest of job security (and perhaps even my health), commenced nagging me about wearing a safety helmet with harness to go hunting.

Juniors

A Hunting Trio

kristin warrington.uspcFoxhunter/Pony Clubber Kristin WarringtonKristin is the winning author in the 2014 Hildegard Neill Ritchie Foxhunting Writing Contest sponsored annually by the United States Pony Club. The contest is open to all D- or C-rated Pony Club members, whether or not they have hunted. Kristin is a C-1 from the St. Augustine Pony Club, Delmarva Region, and here's her winning story.

The Fox
The grass is frosted over in the shady areas where the woods touch the long sloping fields. As I trot along, tense and listening, I notice the familiar trails through the trees and undergrowth are wearing recently made hoof prints and accessorized by a lone, twisted horseshoe that seems to have come off an unlucky rider’s mount. They have already been through this way several times, but that is part of my plan. I like to lead them in monotonous circles, repeatedly using the same paths, and drag it out until they are almost desperate enough to call off the hounds and begin a new search, then I take a sudden sprint through an open field allowing them to see me long enough to call out, “Tallyho!” and try desperately to gather up the hounds who are still off in the woods sniffing out my scent. I decide upon this familiar strategy and take a sharp turn up into a large field. I take a quick survey of the surroundings, and feel a sudden gust of courage take over me. Heart pounding with thrill, and my mind marveling at the sheer cleverness of my evasion from my predators, I dash madly between the crowd of horses’ legs.

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