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A Huntsman's Life on the Ol' Plantation


Martyn Blackmore was destined to work with foxhounds. Born in Somerset in the southwest of England, both his grandfather and his great-grandfather worked as harbourers* with the Devon and Somerset staghounds. These are true countrymen who help maintain a robust wild deer population by selecting the stag to be separated from the herd by the tufters** for the pack to hunt.

The harbourers don’t have to ride. Nor was Martyn eager to be a horseman. “They bite at one end, kick at the other, and they’re uncomfortable in the middle,” was his impression. Eventually, however, he met a girl who changed his mind...even about horses.

Matthew Cook Is New Farmington Huntsman

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.

Meet David Twiggs: Soon To Be Executive Director of the MFHA

david and ashley twiggsDavid and Ashley Twiggs

“It’s not often that one’s business and personal passions come together into a single opportunity,” says David Twiggs, the man selected to replace Dennis Foster as the new Executive Director of the MFHA. Dennis will retire on April 1, 2017.

David Twiggs’ business career has flowered from a passion for the successful integration of sporting activities into rural economies and, with an eye for conservation, developing them into widely recognized destinations and living space. He is currently Chief Operating Officer of the 26,000-acre Hot Springs Village in Arkansas, the largest planned sporting community in the country.

Ex-Huntsman and First Whipper-In Wed

dowling boyer wedding2Noel Mullins photo

Considered the social event of the year in the Unionville, Pennsylvania equestrian world, family and friends gathered from both sides of the Atlantic to celebrate the marriage of Irishman Ivan Dowling and Californian Stephanie Boyer. Dowling, a native of Loughrea in County Galway, grew up hunting with the Galway Blazers before emigrating to America as huntsman of Mr. Stewart’s Cheshire Foxhounds for the last twelve seasons. Dowling successfully carried through the daring foxhound breeding experiment at Cheshire initiated by previous huntsman John Tulloch.

Boyer, having changed careers from eventing, served the Cheshire as professional whipper-in to Dowling. Boyer had worked with international event riders, Philip Dutton, Olympic dual gold and bronze medallist, and Buck Davidson, Pan American Games and Olympic rider. She has competed at the highest level in eventing, including riding her own Irish-bred eventer Macloud at the Rolex 4* event in Kentucky in 2009. She also breezed horses for top race trainers Michael Matz and Jonathan Sheppard.