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Horses

Cleveland Bays Come "Home" to Farnley

cb hunt farnley official callar farnley hosts 2013l-r: Organizer Peter Cook, Blue Ridge Hunt; hosts Hettie Mackay-Smith Abeles and Dr. Matthew Mackay-Smith; Denya Dee Leake, honorary whipper-in, Old Dominion Hounds, step-granddaughter of Alexander Mackay-Smith / Liz Callar photo,

It's been nearly seventy-five years since Alexander Mackay-Smith's Farnley Farm in White Post, Virginia was home to a herd of some fifty Cleveland Bays. In his travels, Mackay-Smith had discovered the ancient breed of coach horse in the northeast of England and became convinced they would make ideal field hunters. He imported breeding stock, encouraged Tom and Marilyn Webster of the Idle Hour Stud to buy and stand Rambler’s Renown (who was to become North America’s leading sire of Cleveland Bays), and re-introduced the endangered breed to a new generation of horsemen and women in this country.

Farnley was once again in its bay glory on Saturday, November 16, 2013 as a record number of twenty-one Cleveland Bays (seven purebreds and fourteen part-breds) gathered at the invitation of Mackay-Smith’s children, Hetty Mackay-Smith Abeles and Dr. Matthew Mackay-Smith; Cleveland Bay breeder Peter Cook; and the Masters of the Blue Ridge Hunt for a celebration of the legacy that Farnley has left to the Cleveland Bay breed in North America.

Hetty Abeles and Dr. Matthew Mackay-Smith greeted the Cleveland Bay delegation and welcomed them back to Farnley as they assembled for a photograph in front of the house. Blue Ridge Joint-Master Anne McIntosh gave the official welcome on behalf of Joint-Masters Linda Armbrust and Brian Ferrell, after which participants divided into three flights and trotted up the lane to the first covert.

Macy the Foxhunting Mule Is a Keeper

macy the muleIt’s the ears, of course. At a walk, the long, warm-brown ears swing with metronomic precision forward and back, forward and back, to her hoof beats. At the trot, they stiffen forward, and at a check they go into neutral, except when something catches her attention. Then she points with them, head up.

Macy the foxhunting mule is an eight-year-old, 15.2-hand molly (or mare) with zebra markings on her hocks and knees, a dorsal stripe, and a cross on her withers. Her coarse dun hair and sparse tail are more similar to her donkey father than to her quarter horse mother.

She is owned by Suzanne Dow of Dundalk, Ontario, honorary whipper in of the Eglinton and Caledon Hunt and  MFH of the Bethany Hills-Frontenac Hunt from 1998 to 2004. Suzanne kindly offered to let me ride Macy for a Monday hunt recently, and I took her up on the offer. A landowner issue caused the hunt to be cancelled, but we did go out for a trail ride so I could sample the virtues of a mule. There are many.

Mr. Mellon's Tribute to the War Horse

civil war horse2

Appalled as we are by the human death and casualty figures resulting from the Civil War, less known is the fact that well over a million horses died in service during that conflict. Many of those horses, belonging to officers and cavalrymen of both sides, must have carried their riders after foxhounds in happier days. 

The late Paul Mellon believed that these animals deserved to be remembered, and he determined to create an authentic memorial for them. The result, a product of artistic genius coupled with painstaking research, is an exceedingly moving piece of sculpture. Any foxhunter or horse lover will be well-rewarded by a visit to the National Sporting Library and Museum in Middleburg, Virginia or to the U.S. Cavaly Museum at Fort Riley, Kansas to see either of the two castings from the original mold. (-Ed.)

The sculpture of the war-weary Civil War horse in the courtyard of the National Sporting Library had its origin in the mind of the late Paul Mellon.

In 1994 Mr. Mellon received a book for his eighty-seventh birthday titled The Cavalry Battles of Aldie, Middleburg and Upperville, June 10-27, 1863 by Robert F. O'Neill, Jr. O'Neill had conducted an enormous amount of research through books and newspapers of the period and letters and diaries of the participants that vividly brings those seventeen days to life. Reading of battles and bloodshed of human and horse right in this community had a profound effect on Mellon.

Tracy Cover's Brandywine Is Virginia Field Hunter Champion

TraceyTracey Cover receives Championship trophy from (l-r) Catherine Berger and Linda Armbrust, MFH. / Betsy Parker photo

Tracey Cover from the Middleburg Hunt swept the boards at the 2013 Virginia Field Hunter Championship on Sunday, October 20 with her elegant bay, Brandywine. Judged Best Turned Out early in the day, she went on to win the 2013 Virginia Field Hunter Championship against a highly competent field of riders on some brilliant field hunters. The event had been postponed one week due to a three-day rainfall that dumped seven inches of rain on Virginia’s hunting country.

This year’s championships were hosted by the Blue Ridge Hunt at Woodley in recognition of Barbara Batterton’s win on Linda Armbrust’s Nicki in 2012. Woodley, the home of Brooke and Michelle Middleton, is the well-known venue for the Blue Ridge Hunt Point-to-Point Races and the Blue Ridge Fall Races. Spectators are able to view nearly the entire racecourse panorama from a gently rising hillside along the eastern edge of the course.

2013 North American Field Hunter Championships Survive Summer Temps

nafhc13.teresa.callar2013 North American Field Hunter Champion Greyland Woods, owned by Karen Mantz and ridden by daughter Teresa Croce, jumps to victory over Judge Jean Derrick's scarlet coat (Belle Meade colors). / Liz Callar photo

Blistering hot weather visited Virginia for the past four weeks. While not unusual this time of year, the length of the hot spell, with temperatures hovering in the high eighties and even reaching into the low nineties, has proved miserable to man and beast alike, but it failed to deter foxhunters who entered this year's North American Field Hunter Championships.

On Monday, September 30, the Championships began at Keswick. Hounds met at Glenwood, a fixture in the neighborhood of James Madison's Montpelier, outside the town of Orange. Contestants from as far away as Florida and Georgia traveled to compete in the event, as well as to enjoy early autumn hunting in Virginia. They were not disappointed. Keswick huntsman Tony Gammell provided a fine day of sport in the lovely rolling countryside as hounds ran across the nearby road, back again, and beyond the fixture into a scenic expanse of woods and cornfields. Afterward, everyone enjoyed a tailgate as five contestants were selected for the finals.

On Tuesday, October 1, hounds met at Owl Run Farm in Warrenton, home of Casanova Hunt Joint-Master Mrs. Joyce Fendley. Previously the home of Donna and Jack Eicher, huntsman at Rombout and later Farmington Hunt, the grounds include a lake and a cluster of graceful weeping willows out front. The residence and barns all exude the charm of old Virginia Hunt Country—weathered stone, stout board and batten, low eaves and metal roofs. A special surprise awaited the field this morning when shortly after casting hounds, an eruption in a cornfield revealed that hounds had encountered a black bear! Fortunately, the pack obeyed their orders to ignore the bear as it beat a hasty retreat. The remainder of the morning proved quieter, and as the field hacked in, Mrs. Fendley positioned herself, as she always does at the end of a hunt, such that she could personally thank everyone in the field as they passed by on their way to their trailer. This small but thoughtful act is just one of many that make hunting in Virginia so special and unique. It was a hot, thirsty, and tired field that gathered under a tent to drink and devour a delicious crab dip while recalling the excitement of having gone on their first bear hunt! This morning, six finalists were announced.

Legendary Show Jumper Snowman Took the Kids Foxhunting

SnowmanAndHarry300dpiSnowman and Harry de Leyer. Painting by Joan Porter Jannaman, courtesy of the International Museum of the Horse, Kentucky Horse Park

Harry de Leyer’s first look at Snowman was between the slats of the truck bound for the killers. Harry had had trouble with his old station wagon, and he arrived late to the horse auction in the Pennsylvania Amish farming country. It was over, and there was only one trailer left in the parking lot. It was always the last trailer to load.

Midst the fearful and fidgeting horses crowded together on the bare floor for their last journey, one plain-looking gray stood apart for his calmness and self possession. Harry had driven to the auction in the hope of finding an inexpensive school horse for his riding students at the Knox School on Long Island, so he asked the trucker if he could see the gray. The gelding was missing a shoe, had bloody knees, and rubs on his chest from a heavy harness, but he was well-made and had a kind eye. The trucker had paid the “killer’s price” of sixty dollars. Harry was indecisive, but something in the horse’s composed demeanor spoke to him. Harry paid the man eighty dollars—the most he had planned to bid for any horse—and took him home.