Fox Hunting Life with Horse and Hound

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Blue Ridge Hunt

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The Blue Ridge Hunt was organized in 1888, but this gently rolling grassland in the Valley of the Shenandoah echoed to the music of hounds, the huntsman’s horn, and the rhythm of galloping horses long before that time. A youthful George Washington regularly followed the hounds of his friend and employer Thomas, sixth Lord Fairfax nearly three hundred years ago over the very same hills and fields and along the same twists and turns of the Shenandoah River as do the Blue Ridge hounds today.

Website:  www.blueridgehunt.org

As we approach the 2017/2018 season, Foxhunting Life makes its annual report on the recent moves of eight huntsmen across the North American hunting countries.

hughjulierobards.cropped.cancelliRetiring huntsman Hugh Robards, wife and first whipper-in Julie, and the foxhounds of the Middleburg Hunt / Chris Cancelli photo

Round I:
Hugh Robards’ decision to hang up his hunting horn after fifty-five seasons in hunt service got Round One underway. Fully half of those seasons, and certainly the most visible, Robards spent in Ireland’s challenging ditch-and-bank country as huntsman for the County Limerick Foxhounds. There, he provided world-class sport for Master Lord Daresbury (whom he succeeded as huntsman), the hard riding members, and a constant stream of hunting visitors from around the globe.

For the last three seasons, Robards has carried the horn for the Middleburg Hunt (VA). As difficult as his personal retirement decision must have been, the Middleburg Masters and members paid Robards such a stirring tribute at their Hunt Ball that he had to have felt the sincere respect and affection in which he was held, notwithstanding his short tenure there. The members made certain that the ball revolved about him with mounted photographs of his career, the showing of a specially produced video, and speeches—sincere and well-earned, to recognize an illustrious career.

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booth malone.rush hourRush Hour by Booth Malone

In concert with the Virginia Foxhound Club and the Museum of Hounds and Hunting, selected members of the American Academy of Equine Artists (AAEA) have been organized by Academy President Booth Malone to produce a body of artwork for a foxhunting art show.

The idea for the show was conceived by Mrs. Ned “Nina” Bonnie (KY) and Michael Tang (CA). Every MFHA-registered foxhunting club in Virginia will be represented in sculpture and/or in painting by one or more of North America’s leading contemporary sporting artists. The art show will be hung at Morven Park in Leesburg over the Virginia Foxhound Show weekend in May of 2018.

The art show will happily coincide with Hark Forward, the MFHA-sponsored international foxhunting celebration also scheduled for next season. This initiative is the creation of newly-elected MFHA President Tony Leahy, who wishes to recapture the enthusiasm of all North American foxhunters, as did the MFHA-Centennial celebration season ten years ago. Tony’s committee has already been hard at work laying plans for regional joint meets, foxhound performance trials, and field hunter competitions for the 2017/2018 season.

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graham on the stickpile.mediumClick image for larger version. / Joanne Maisano photo
Following the foxhounds of the Blue Ridge Hunt from their meeting at the Reid Family’s Stonebridge fixture the other day, photographer Joanne Maisano got herself in the right place at the right time. Camera in hand, watching hounds mark the stickpile, Joanne shot an action sequence that wildlife photographers dream about. Be sure to click the image for a larger version. You don’t want to miss the expressions on the faces of every living creature captured in that single moment. Not a word of text is necessary!

(Front to rear) fox, hounds, and huntsman Graham Buston

We’ve selected a series of photos from Joanne’s action-sequence to present a slide show of what transpired, and one version of what might have been running through the fox’s mind during its escape. Click on the readmore link (below, open to everyone), then click on the first image (below) in the sequence.

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fox.crop.houlistonClick image to enlarge. Mark Houliston shot the action with a Canon EOS 1D X, EF28-300 f3.5-5.6L IS USM shutter speed 1/1000th second

Two hours into the Blue Ridge Hunt meet at Fox Spring Woods Farm, huntsman and hounds were east of the meet and drawing north. I'm familiar with this area as I have walked much of the land with the Nantucket-Treweryn Beagles. I drove a half mile north to a clearing where foxes have been viewed in the past and waited. After two minutes of scanning the fields I saw a fox running towards me through a riding ring, down a hill and under two fences, finally turning east and disappearing over a hill as my camera captured every step. I lowered the camera, looked back to the west in anticipation of the arrival hounds and huntsman, and was greeted by a second fox that ran nearly the same line as the first. I followed the second fox from left to right, capturing every step. I lowered the camera once again and waited thirty seconds before hounds, whipper-in, huntsman, and finally the field took up the chase.

Posted December 23, 2016

jnafhc claire goff.betsy parkerClaire Goff riding Miss Congeniality was judged 1st Field Champion, 13 and over, of the 2016 Junior North American Field Hunter Championships at the finals hosted by the Iroquois Hunt. With Claire are (l-r) Dr. Jack van Nagell, MFH, host, and President of the MFHA; Marion Chungo, organizer; Douglas Wise-Stuart, MFH, Old Dominion Hounds, and co-founder of the event; Cathy Murphy, daughter of the late Pat Murphy, longtime Iroquois huntsman ; and Cindy Goff, Claire's grandmother and former member of the Iroquois field. And the cute dog is Bert! /  Betsy Burke Parker photo 

Junior foxhunters and their parents traveled from thirteen states to Lexington, Kentucky, where the Iroquois Hunt hosted the finals of the 2016 Junior North American Field Hunter Championships. Thirty-three hunts participated over the course of the informal season by holding qualifying meets from which the finalists were chosen by mounted judges. In thirteen years, the program has grown steadily in participation and geographically from its modest start involving a few hunts in Virginia.

The program is succeeding because it’s purpose rises above just competition. Founders Douglas Wise, MFH, Old Dominion Hounds (VA) and Iona Pillion from the Blue Ridge Hunt (VA) had a larger dream: bring children to new hunting countries, broaden their hunting perspectives, and open their eyes to the fact that these hunting countries don’t just happen to be there for them by chance, but have been nurtured and conserved for the perpetuation of wildlife, open space, and for those who treasure the natural world.

“We want these kids to know what a conservation easement is,” said Marion Chungo, one of the organizers.

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