Fox Hunting Life with Horse and Hound

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Randy Rouse, MFH, Donates Middleburg Training Center to Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation

Loudoun Fairfax Hunt Master Randy Rouse has donated a well-known Middleburg, Virginia property to the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation. The transaction was completed on Thursday, December 29, the day after Randy celebrated his one hundredth birthday.

“I can take a tax writeoff,” Randy said to The Fauquier Times. “At my age, I’ve got to start thinking about the future.”

Rouse has been a successful real estate developer in Northern Virginia, a longtime Master of the Fairfax Hunt, winning amateur steeplechase rider, and president of the National Steeplechase Association.

The property, the Middleburg Training Center, was originally built by Paul Mellon as a training facility for his racehorses. It boasts a 7/8-mile track, multiple barns, paddocks, tack rooms, offices, grooms’ quarters, and house.

In 1975, a group of local horsemen purchased the facility. Over the years the track surface has resounded to the hoof beats of many good horses, among them Hoist the Flag and Spectacular Bid. Randy Rouse bought the training center in 2006 for four million dollars, but its usage has declined over the years, and, though it’s been on the market recently, there have been no takers.

The non-profit Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation (TRF), plans to continue current operations—eighty horses are now stabled there—and will renovate barns and add more fencing. As many as ninety Thoroughbreds could be retired on the property, according to Lenny Hale, TRF president and CEO.

For more details, click to read the complete article by Vicky Moon and Leonard Shapiro.

Posted December 31, 2016

Fox Eradication Program In Tasmania Lives On

No one has ever seen a live fox on Tasmania, an island state off the southern coast of Australia. Yet fifty million dollars have been spent over a ten year period to fund the fox eradication program. An occasional dead fox has been found, and fox scat has been noted, but many believe the evidence to be a hoax, planted to continue funding an un-necessary bureaucracy.

“I don't know if there are foxes in Tasmania or not,” said Tasmanian MP Andrew Wilke. “I don’t know if there’s been misconduct in the task force or not, but I tell you what—there is so much evidence on the table now I suspect we’ve got a real problem.”

Tasmania has long been the only federal Australian state thought not to have an established fox population. Apparently, it appears so important to keep it that way that the fox eradication program has a life of its own, impervious to governmental questioning.

Doubts have been raised as far back as 2011 whether or not the program is a hoax. Wilke met with Federal environment minister Greg Hunt in 2014 to raise his concerns, but Hunt has not responded. Tasmanian MP Ivan Dean asked police to investigate alleged misconduct or fraud within the eradication program, but Police have been unable to lay criminal charges. The Tasmanian Integrity Commission is considering whether to launch an inquiry.

For more details see Dominique Schwartz’s complete article, published by ABC, Australia.

Posted December 16, 2016

Free Market Funds Largest Purse In Thoroughbred Racing

Florida’s Gulfstream Park is offering a new race—the Pegasus World Cup—featuring a twelve million dollar purse, the largest in Thoroughbred racing. The first running will be on January 28, 2017.

The mouth-watering purse, funded by a free-market concept, has attracted an international scramble just for a place in the starting gate. Each of the twelve gates costs entrants one million dollars.

Not all the buyers are owners with outstanding horses. Some gates were bought by swinging sportsmen and women to be sold, shared, or leased to other owners, under any number of business-like arrangements.

According to the Wall Street Journal, “The gambit has attracted people like longtime race fan Dan Schafer, a 33-year-old entrepreneur who owns pizza shop franchises in the Midwest and a free daily fantasy sports site. He purchased a spot in the gate without so much as a horseshoe because he saw the race as an innovative way to be involved in racing—rather than the well-trod path of buying a young horse and praying it has Kentucky Derby potential."

“‘I believe in the industry,’ he said. ‘To grow the sport, we need to grow the fan base. There are a lot of skeptics, but skeptics are going to be our biggest watchers.’”

Billionaire Frank Stronach, eighty-four, founder of an auto parts empire in Canada, devised the format of the race. His Stronach Group controls topnotch race tracks such as Gulfstream, Santa Anita, and Pimlico.

Stronach’s daughter Belinda is chairman and president of the Stronach Group. Their aim is to make racing cool and exciting. All gates are sold, and the purse is full.

California Chrome, 2014 Horse of the Year, with record-setting earnings of over fourteen million dollars, has a spot. Arrogate—who won the Travers Stakes at Saratoga, setting a new track record, then went on to beat California Chrome in the Breeders Cup Classic last fall—is not yet committed. However, trainer Bob Baffert has had inquiries from gate owners.

For more details, see Pia Catton’s complete article.

Posted December 15, 2016

Foxhunting Issue Erupts Again in Bucks County, PA

Jim and Judy Cox, a Warwick, Pennsylvania couple who live in the vicinity of Dark Hollow Park, are once again campaigning to ban foxhunting in the park. Four years ago the couple sued the Huntingdon Valley Hunt and huntsman Richard Harris, MFH, claiming that hounds knocked Judy Cox down while walking her dog and bit them both.

Foxhunting in the park was suspended briefly, then allowed to continue. The Coxes (Jim is a township supervisor) now claim that the hunt has not conformed to the terms of the 2012 agreement.

Supervisors Chairwoman Judith Algeo agrees with the Coxes, voicing her “concerns that the continuance of these fox hunts are a safety risk to the residents.” Town Manager Gail Weniger says the township is no longer “quite as rural as it used to be.”

The hunt has scheduled ten hunts in the 770-acre park and claims it has followed the rules.

Foxhunting permits are issued by the county Parks and Recreation Department. For more details, click for Justine McDaniel’s story in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette.

Posted December 2, 2016

Scottish Police Say Foxhunting Law Is Unworkable

Foxhunting was banned in Scotland in 2002 by enactment of the Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Act. Since that date, there have been no successful foxhunting prosecutions there.

According to Police Scotland, while “exceptions to the offence to ‘deliberately hunt a wild animal with a dog’ are multiple and provide opportunities for exploitation by those who continually and deliberately offend,” there exists a “lack of clarity,” and “the police are, on occasion, unable to establish the high threshold of evidence required to prove and ultimately, report cases.”

Police Scotland say that terms such as "stalking", "searching", and "flushing" were not defined by the act, an omission that creates confusion that can "deflect from the original intention or spirit of the legislation.... To make this legislation more effective and workable, offences need to be simplified and terms expanded.”

A review of the act by Lord Bonomy was ordered by Scottish ministers last year, and findings are expected in the coming weeks.

The legislation allows hunts to use dogs to flush out foxes and chase them towards the hunts, where the foxes are shot, but there have been allegations that the law has been broken because guns have not been visibly present. Police also said that proving the "intent" of an accused individual was very difficult because of the wording of the law.

The League Against Cruel Sports agrees with Police Scotland that the legislation is unworkable. According to the Scottish Director of LACS, "Our two-year investigation into the activities of Scottish fox hunts convinced us that they were driving a coach and horses through the present legislation.... The Scottish Parliament thought it had banned fox hunting in 2002. Now is the time for the law to be strengthened and for fox hunting in Scotland to be really banned, for good."

The Scottish Countryside Alliance, which promotes hunting, is yet to respond.

For further detail, see the complete BBC article.

Posted November 12, 2016