Fox Hunting Life with Horse and Hound

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matthew cook2.cathy summers“My first knowledge of foxes began with hating them,” said Matthew Cook with a chuckle. "Working as a gamekeeper they were a pest.” / Cathy Summers photo“New” is hardly the word to use when writing about the sport of foxhunting in general, and even harder to use with a club as dedicated to tradition as central Virginia’s Farmington Hunt Club. Change is always a challenge! But our new huntsman Matthew Cook has been changing things all around since he arrived in Free Union three years ago—raising a new level of hunting sport with a growing list of firsts.

Cook entered Farmington hounds in the Virginia Hound Show in May, 2014 for the first time; he took a carefully picked few hounds to meet prospective foxhunting juniors at the local 4H club last spring, and he accompanied his daughter Pippa along with a group of Farmington juniors to compete for the first time ever at the finals of the Junior North American Field hunting championship in Lexington, Kentucky just last October. Most recently, he prepared Farmington hounds to compete in a foxhound performance trial at the Belle Meade Hunt in Thomson, Georgia in January 2017.

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bull runs spree

Bull Run’s Spree was the top scoring foxhound in the Belle Meade Hunt Foxhound Performance Trials held in Thomson, Georgia on January 20 and 21, 2017. Of thirty-six hounds competing, Spree won three of the four scoring categories: Hunting, Trailing, and Endurance. In the Full Cry category, he was second.* His combined score led the field in points.

Six foxhounds from each of six hunts competed—Belle Meade Hunt (GA), Bridlespur Hunt (MO), Bull Run Hunt (VA), Farmington Hunt (VA), Fox River Valley Hunt (IL), and Mill Creek Hunt (IL). The three top scoring hunts, based on the combined scores of their hounds from first to third, were: Bull Run, Fox River Valley, and Belle Meade.

Trial Huntsman Sam Clifton was called upon during the award ceremonies to announce his choice—the hound he’d most like to take back to his own kennels. Huntsman’s Choice is an honorary award and receives no official prize, but, as in past trials, Sam’s reasoning for his personal choice was worth hearing.

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PA national horse show1Windy Hollow Hunt Tops Hunt Team Competition. / Al Cook photo

Traditionally, Monday night is Hunt Night at the Pennsylvania National Horse Show in Harrisburg. This year, twenty-two hunt teams from thirteen hunts showed up in formal hunting attire on October 17, 2016 to compete in the evening’s highlight event.

As usual, the course featured a series of single fences to be jumped by each team with the emphasis on maintaining an even pace and equal spacing between the three horses, culminating with the last fence approached on the diagonal to be jumped by the three team members in unison. The winning team was from the Windy Hollow Hunt (NJ)—team members Holly White and sisters Emily and Jane Wiley earning the blue ribbon.

“We did not even realize we won. We couldn't believe it when we walked in and saw them holding up the blue ribbons,” said Jane Wiley. “We are dedicating the win to our pony, Bear, who died last night. He was thirty-one years old and was leased out to a young girl with special needs.”

The team didn’t have much time to practice. White has only been in the United States for a short time because she works for the United Nations and is based in Africa. “We are so thrilled! We have only been able to practice for a month because of my job,” said White. “I think we won because of our overall presentation. We really thought about the beginning and the end, and our horses jumped in good form. I think the combination of the two really helped us out.”

Emily Wiley, Jane’s older sister, was grateful to the Horse Show for dedicating a night to the Hunt Teams. “It's great that the Horse Show supports the sport of foxhunting and the great riders who participate. People should come try it!”


The overall Hunt Night Championship, based on points accumulated over all the classes for field hunters, went to the Farmington Hunt (VA), whose riders traveled four-and-a-half hours to participate.

“We were very surprised to win. We just came to ride and have a good time with our horses, and we won! How exciting is that!” said Elizabeth King, MFH and spokesperson for the hunt. “Last year we had one team, but this year we thought it would be great fun to have two. We've got great riders and we had such a great time. We'll be back again next year!”
 
The two teams from Farmington included King, Karen Bull, and Jeanette Fellows (Team 1) and Stephanie Gurlain, Elizabeth Uffleman, and Jennifer Daly (Team 2).

Now in its seventy-first year, the PNHS is one of the most historic horse shows in the U.S., featuring the best in the sport of hunters and jumpers and is the launching ground for many future Olympians. Fifteen thousand spectators, and a million live feed viewers enjoy ten days of top national competition as 1,400 top Junior and Adult competitors vie for eight national championships—including the prestigious Pessoa/US Hunter Seat Medal Final and the Neue Schule/USEF National Junior Jumper Individual and Team Championships. The top jumping riders and horses are expected to compete in the $100,000 Prix de Penn National Grand Prix on the final day of the show (October 22), presented by The Lindsay Maxwell Charitable Fund.

Since the show’s inception in 1947, the PNHS has donated $1.68 million dollars to the Harrisburg Kiwanis Youth Foundation and has donated $350,000 to local therapy and equine groups since 1999. Applications for grants are accepted throughout the year with action upon requests awarded in September.

Other Winners of Hunt Night, sponsored by Kinsley Construction were:  
Leading Lady Rider:
Molly Green of the Green Spring Valley Hounds (MD), Team 1

Field Hunters for Riders 35 Years of Age and Under, sponsored by the Hempt Bros, Inc:
Elizabeth Uffleman, Farmington Hunt, Team 2 riding JT

Field Hunters for Riders 36 Years of Age and Over, sponsored by Horseshoe Trail Farm, LLC:
Jennifer Daly, Farmington Hunt, Team 2 with Prize
 
Hunter Under Saddle - Gentleman, sponsored by Roundtop Mountain Resort:
 Dr. Csaba Magassy, Potomac Hunt (MD) riding Thunderbride
 
Hunter Under Saddle - Ladies, sponsored by Carol Copeland:
Molly Green, Green Spring Valley Hounds, Team 1 riding Co-Dependent

Posted October 29, 2016

pa national2Huntsman John Dean parades Radnor foxhounds to the delight of the crowd. / Al Cook photo

Mrs. Peter (Carol) Easter, MFH for twenty years of the Farmington Hunt, Charlottesville, Virginia, passed away on Tuesday, November 3, 2015, after a battle with lung disease.

Carol served the MFHA from 2006–2012 as District Director of the Virginia District. In addition to foxhunting, she competed in horse shows. She became active in long distance trail riding, winning several 50- and 100-mile rides sponsored by the Virginia Trail Riders, Inc., which organization she served as president for more than twenty years.

Carol was a devoted Labrador Retriever owner for more than fifty years and trained her two dogs, Bagel and Triscuit, to become Therapy Dogs. Carol and her dogs voluntarily visited patients at Charlottesville’s Martha Jefferson Hospital for many years.

She is survived by her husband of fifty-six years, Peter Easter; her children, Deborah Easter of Charlottesville, Douglas Easter and his wife Page of Charlottesville, and Brooke Maley and her husband, Dave, of Chattanooga, Tennessee; and her grandchildren, Owen and Elly Easter of Charlottesville, and Will and Emily Maley of Chattanooga, Tennessee.

A memorial service and reception in Carol’s honor will be held at 1:00 p.m. Saturday, December 19, 2015, at the Easters’ Springhaven Farm. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to the MFHA’s Hunt Staff Foundation, which provides grants to retired professional huntsmen in financial need. Mail donations to MFHA, Box 363, Millwood, VA 22646. Donations may also be made to Therapy Dogs International, 88 Bartley Road, Flanders, NJ 07836.

Click to send condolences to the family.

Posted November 18, 2015

vfhc1.loresMariah was "a great mover" with "perfect manners." / Richard Clay photo

by Betsy Burke Parker

Farmington Hunt rider Carolyn Chapman and her paint-cross mare Mariah claimed the coveted title of Virginia Field Hunter Champion on Sunday, October 25, 2015. In victory, she bested seventeen competitors, the best of the best, according to organizers, sent by ten of Virginia's marquis foxhunting clubs.

The Virginia Championship is widely considered the most competitive of a handful of hunter trial events offered around the nation each fall. The event was hosted at Old Whitewood Farm by the Orange County Hounds. Last year's winner from Orange County, Neil Morris, MFH, said he began organizing this year’s competition soon after his victory in October of last year.

Chapman partnered her black and white eight-year-old to earn the nod from the judges after three phases. “We both picked her out as a contender in the hack phase,” said judge Norman Fine, editor of the online magazine, Foxhunting Life. Co-judge Tommy Lee Jones, huntsman of Fauquier's Casanova Hunt, agreed. “She stood out. Great mover, perfect manners.”

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thumb cathy summers

Photographer Cathy Summers positioned herself perfectly to capture this image of Farmington Hunt’s (VA) first flight moving off from the meet at Hidden Fox Farm. Fortunately it was a still day, rendering the reflections as clear as the subjects. More photos can be seen on Cathy’ website.

Posted December 15, 2014