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Norm Fine's Blog

Dartmoor and Doyle

dartmoor ponies.janetladnerJanet Ladner photo

Photographer Janet Ladner was out following the Mid-Devon Foxhounds when she came across these wild ponies taking shelter from the snow. I have hunted on Dartmoor, in England’s West Country, and found it to be a fascinating landscape of bleakness and beauty, with visible reminders of cultures that serially take one back in time all the way to prehistory. While hunting, one comes across ditches left by tin mining activity that began in pre-Roman times and continued to the twentieth century, evidence of farm tillage going back to the Bronze age in the parallel rows running across the slopes, and standing stones erected in prehistoric times. During quiet moments when hounds check, one can allow the imagination to soar.

For me, Dartmoor also conjures memories of cold winter boyhood days at home, reading the spooky mystery, Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle. It was the third of his Sherlock Holmes novels to be published, and this Dartmoor mystery filled my young head with delicious terror.

By coincidence, Janet Ladner’s photos of the ponies on Dartmoor arrived just as writer/editor Steve Price sent me this foxhunting poem, written by Arthur Conan Doyle. A confluence of Dartmoor and Doyle. Who knew he wrote such poetry?

Bull Run Hunt On a Spree at Belle Meade

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.

Any Reasonable Horse

This is the first story (and the shortest) of thirty-two short stories from Foxhunting Adventures: Chasing the Story by Norman Fine, The Derrydale Press.

thady ryan.cropMaster and huntsman Thady Ryan, whipper-in Tommy O'Dwyer, and the Scarteen hounds at Knocktoran Bog (1982) from a print of the oil painting by Peter Curling

When the nights turn crisp and the dinner talk turns to tales of foxhunting, I like to share a bit of philosophy imparted to me by that special animal—part horse, part cat, and all heart—the Irish hunter. That remarkable creature understands something of the flavor of life. He never allows natural caution, reticence, or conservatism to limit his perception of what’s possible.

The Scarteen hounds were hunting a most unusual piece of country in Kilcommon, County Limerick this day. A wild and forbidding landscape, far from the well-traveled roads, high into the hills, it was unknown country even to Master Thady Ryan. To complete the scene, a dense fog obliterated every feature of the landscape.

Irish Horses Treasured in New Zealand Hunt Field (2)

Gavin.ballineenBen Lott hunts Gavin and Tracy Crossan's Brian (aka Ballineen Blue Mountain by Bealagh Blue ex Ballineen Glen Abbess), a 16.2-hand Irish grey stallion imported from England in 2011.

In the beginning there was Thady Ryan. Master and huntsman of the three-hundred-year-old family-owned Scarteen hounds of County Limerick, Ireland, Thady retired in 1986 to Temuka, South Island, New Zealand with his New Zealand-born wife Anne. The following summer, Thady and Anne imported Kingsway Diamond (King of Diamonds x Bawnlahan Beauty), a chestnut 17-hand Registered Irish Draft (RID) stallion from Ireland.
     
To their surprise, another RID stallion arrived, consigned to Glyn and Edwina Morris of Wynyard Lodge Stud in Christchurch, also South Island, New Zealand.

“Laughton’s Legend (Lahinch x Starlight), a 16.2-hand chestnut, was on the same flight to Christchurch as Kingsway Diamond,” said Lesley Spence of Christchurch, secretary of the Irish Draft Horse Society of New Zealand (IDHSNZ). “On that flight was also a King of Diamonds mare, Kilmarna Queen. Suddenly, there was a competition: both men thought they would revolutionize the New Zealand sporthorse breeding industry.”

A Horse Called Guitar

guitar4 kleck smallGuitar, oil on canvas, by Nancy KleckI want to talk about a horse. After nearly fifty years of hunting—around North America, Canada, Ireland, and England—on my own horses and on countless strange horses for the first time, I speak from some experience. Most of the horses have been darn good, even many of the strangers. A memorable few of the strangers have been especially good! Very few, thankfully, have been rank or dangerous. But I have to talk about one horse in particular—one of my own.

His name is Guitar. Yes, that simple. He’s registered with the Jockey Club just that way. Plain dark brown, sixteen-hand high, he was bred by the late Bill Backer of Smitten Farm in The Plains, Virginia. He’s by Our Native out of Royal Pastime by Tudor Grey. Sixty-four percent of Our Native foals were winners, and fifty-three percent of Tudor Grey grand-foals were winners. Guitar was bred to race, but he was never even put in training—no tattoo. My good luck.*