Fox Hunting Life with Horse and Hound

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Here you will find reviews of, selections from, and commentaries concerning books, many of which don't even appear on Amazon's radar. But what goldmines for the literate foxhunter!

See You at Second Horses

barclay rives.book See You at Second Horses, Barclay Rives, Aterlerix Press, New York, 2014, Paperback, illustrated, 184 pages, $13.50, available at retail outlets including Horse Country Saddlery, Warrenton, VirginiaThe foxes! Oh, the foxes! When Barclay Rives undertook a marathon of foxhunting in 1999, when he went out with nine English hunts in ten days, it seemed like there was a fox popping out of every covert.

Rives, an honorary whipper-in for the Keswick and Bull Run Hunts (VA), writes about his English sporting adventure in See You at Second Horses, a delightful read that puts us galloping behind some great packs in the glory days before the infamous Hunting Act of 2004 banned hunting with hounds in the traditional manner in England and Wales.

Rives is an avid hunter who once hunted one hundred days a season, sometimes going out with Keswick in the morning and Bull Run in the afternoon. Saying he was gung-ho is an understatement. He jumped at the chance to join his friends Grosvenor and Rosie Merle-Smith to hunt with packs dating back to the 1700s: the Quorn (twice), the Cottesmore, the Fernie, and others, including a foot pack—the High Peak Harriers—after rabbits.

Images of Opening Meet

Here's a poetic kaleidoscope of Opening Meet images conjured up by Martha Drum the evening before, while braiding her horse and cleaning her tack.

martha drum2Opening Meet! Hounds assemble
Veterans chitchat, newbies tremble

Chilly wind, sky clear blue
Scent on frost, turning dew

Youngest rider nods and yawns
Oldest recalls many such dawns

Gents and ladies grin and greet
Ponies yank to reach and eat

Scarlet coats, mounts in braids
Flasks, in case courage fades

Some in perfect kit adorned
Others serviceably well-worn

Green horse wheels and tries to buck
Old horse naps beside the truck

Drop Your Hands

tom firrTom Firr, huntsman to the Quorn, nineteenth centuryTom Firr indulged in a very big bit
(Always in pictures he’s seen using it),
“Plenty of iron; you don’t need to use it.”
“Yes, Firr—quite right, but so many abuse it!”

A light-mouthed puller’s a difficult horse,
A short-cheeked bridle will suit him, of course;
A snaffle’s the bit for a horse that takes hold
(At least, it’s all right if the rider is bold).

The acme of bliss when you’re hunting the fox
Is riding a horse who will jump off his hocks;
While quite the worst feeling, and one to be banned,
Is a horse who will only jump off his fore-hand.

Goodall's Practice: A Huntsman's Guide

goodalls practiceThe highest praise that can be given to a huntsman is for a fool to say, ‘We had a great run and killed our fox; as for the huntsman, he might have been in bed!”   –Lord Henry Bentinck

This week we look at another legendary huntsman of the past, William Goodall, huntsman in the nineteenth century to the Duke of Rutland’s Belvoir foxhounds (UK).
Goodall’s methods greatly impressed Lord Henry Bentinck, one of the leading MFHs of the day. Captain Simon Clarke, MFH of the New Forest foxhounds (UK) tells us that Lord Henry hunted three horses a day, kept copious notes, compared the best of England’s huntsmen, and thought William Goodall to be the premier huntsman in England.

When in 1864 Lord Henry sold his famous hound pack, he wrote a letter to the purchaser, Mr. Henry Chaplin, describing William Goodall’s hunting methods. The information in the letter so impressed Mr. Chaplin that, some years after Lord Henry’s death, he had it published under the title, The Late Lord Henry Bentinck on Foxhounds: Goodall’s Practice.

"Goodall’s Practice,” says Captain Clarke, “is the best treatise on hunting hounds ever written.” The revered Master and hound breeder Isaac “Ikey” Bell, the single individual most responsible for the modern English foxhound, is said to have had Goodall’s Practice painted on the ceiling over his bathtub. If you watch while hunting this season, you may see and recognize some of these same practices being used by your own huntsman. Here’s an extract.