Foxhunting Life with Horse and Hound


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Hunt Reports

See You at Second Horses

This hunt report—a short but informative excerpt from Chapter 3 of Barclay Rive’s new book, See You at Second Horses—harks back fifteen years to when Barclay accompanied Rosie and Grosvenor Merle-Smith to England. The book recounts their hunting adventures during that trip and is available from Horse Country Saddlery, Warrenton, Virginia.

At the time, Grosvenor was Master and huntsman of the Bull Run Hunt (VA), and Barclay whipped-in to him. Barclay also whipped-in to the Keswick Hunt (VA)—sometimes to both hunts on the same day when Keswick met in the morning and Bull Run in the afternoon!

barclay rives.fernie meet.rosie merle-smithThe author on Bruno at the Fernie meet at Billesdon / Rosie Merle-Smith photo

Julie and Colin brought our horses down the ramp out of the box. We had our first experience of what became a familiar routine: stepping up the ramp and using it as a mounting block for the horse led up beside it. I usually had to shorten my stirrups. Colin had to hold on to the horse’s head until I was done, because they were ready to go as soon as they felt weight in the saddle. Julie gave me instructions as I mounted a big bay.

“This is Bruno. He prefers a longer rein to a shorter one. He hunts with the Fernie every Saturday, so he knows his job.” This was her diplomatic way of telling me to stay off of the horse’s mouth and let him take care of me. I thought Bruno looked like he should be pulling a cart, but I was ignorant. He was a brilliant field hunter. An excellent teacher, Bruno was what American horse dealers call a packer, meaning he could pack me around as if I were a sack of grain. He was calm at checks, but ready to run and jump when the need arose. Sporting author Michael Clayton in Endangered Species reports that English foxhunters say the ideal hunting horse should have “the head of a duchess and the arse of a cook.” Bruno had plenty of muscle behind, and while his head was hardly elegant, he possessed beautiful brains.

Grosvenor, Rosie and I headed down the road where hounds had gone. Julie called to us, “See you at Second Horses.”


Hedge-Hopping in England

My top moment of any Blackthorn & Brook holiday comes as our guests pull up after a run having encountered their first hedge. They make a fuss of their horse, turn to me and grin.

“I see what you mean about sitting up!” is a recurring comment.

Hedge-hopping is a much discussed feature of our holidays. The subject is met with excitement, trepidation, anticipation, fear, bravado, and everything in between, as it really is an unknown quantity for the majority of our American guests.

With this in mind, we have put together a short video and accompanying blog below, explaining a little of how we prepare ourselves and our horses for popping the hedges in style. What follows is a collection of basic principles that work for us. If anyone has questions or comments—challenges, improvements, ideas—we'd love to hear from you.

Norm Fine's Blog

Thoughts on Field Hunter Competitions

nafhc14.winnerA competent horse and rider, confidently and comfortably crossing the country: what we all aspire to! Laurie Ambrose and Stretch, winning the Theodora A. Randolph Field Hunter Championship in Virginia.  /  Douglas Lees photo

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!


Piedmont Pair Are 2014 Field Hunter Champions in Virginia

nafhc.ch1Laurie Ambrose and Stretch from the Piedmont Fox Hounds won the 2014 Mrs. Theodora A. Randolph Field Hunter Championship. / Douglas lees photo

In a hark back to bygone days, the Theodora A. Randolph Field Hunter Championships combine a whirlwind week of foxhunting and socializing against a backdrop of sporting estates, well-bred foxhounds, and passionate foxhunters. Always held the last week of September and ending the first weekend of October, this year's event attracted seventy-four entries with a brilliant card of hosting hunts: Orange County Hounds, Blue Ridge Hunt, Loudoun Fairfax Hunt and the Piedmont Foxhounds. Judges ride alongside the field to observe the competitors in action before selecting several riders each day, based on how well their horses performed, for the finals on Saturday. Every hunt hosted a tailgate, and there were social functions every evening.

Foxhunters from twenty-two hunts and eight states rode in the event: Andrews Bridge, Belle Meade, Blue Ridge, Bull Run, Casanova, Deep Run, Elkridge-Harford , Farmington, Glenmore, Hillsboro, Keswick, Loudoun Fairfax, Lowcountry, Middleburg, Newmarket-Middletown Valley, Old Dominion, Orange County, Palm Beach, Piedmont, Snickersville, Warrenton, and Whiskey Road. Riders came from Florida, Georgia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia. The six judges were Helen Brettell, Middleburg; Snowden Clark; Liz McKnight, ex-MFH, Elkridge-Harford; Ginny Perrin, MFH, Deep Run, and the husband-and-wife team of Lincoln Sadler and Cameron Sadler, MFH, Moore County.

Hunting Days of Yore

British-Inspired Rabbit Hunt Took an Odd Turn

california hare.audubonCalifornia hare by John J. Audubon

The early part of the last century saw the people of Riverside, California looking towards Great Britain for inspiration for their leisure activities.

This was chiefly because of the many British immigrants who had begun arriving here about 1889, primarily to invest in, among other things, the fast-growing orange industry. English customs were held in the highest esteem, especially among socially ambitious Americans, Tom Patterson wrote in his book, A Colony for California.

Riversiders engaged in such British activities as polo, high tea, and foxhunting. The latter did not usually include a fox, because foxes were not common in the area. Instead they substituted a more common animal, the jackrabbit. These hunts were conducted wherever a large area of open land could accommodate horses, hunters, hounds, and the prey.

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