Fox Hunting Life with Horse and Hound

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Farmington and Windy Hollow Hunts Top Winners at Penn National

PA national horse show1Windy Hollow Hunt Tops Hunt Team Competition. / Al Cook photo

Traditionally, Monday night is Hunt Night at the Pennsylvania National Horse Show in Harrisburg. This year, twenty-two hunt teams from thirteen hunts showed up in formal hunting attire on October 17, 2016 to compete in the evening’s highlight event.

As usual, the course featured a series of single fences to be jumped by each team with the emphasis on maintaining an even pace and equal spacing between the three horses, culminating with the last fence approached on the diagonal to be jumped by the three team members in unison. The winning team was from the Windy Hollow Hunt (NJ)—team members Holly White and sisters Emily and Jane Wiley earning the blue ribbon.

“We did not even realize we won. We couldn't believe it when we walked in and saw them holding up the blue ribbons,” said Jane Wiley. “We are dedicating the win to our pony, Bear, who died last night. He was thirty-one years old and was leased out to a young girl with special needs.”

The team didn’t have much time to practice. White has only been in the United States for a short time because she works for the United Nations and is based in Africa. “We are so thrilled! We have only been able to practice for a month because of my job,” said White. “I think we won because of our overall presentation. We really thought about the beginning and the end, and our horses jumped in good form. I think the combination of the two really helped us out.”

Emily Wiley, Jane’s older sister, was grateful to the Horse Show for dedicating a night to the Hunt Teams. “It's great that the Horse Show supports the sport of foxhunting and the great riders who participate. People should come try it!”

The overall Hunt Night Championship, based on points accumulated over all the classes for field hunters, went to the Farmington Hunt (VA), whose riders traveled four-and-a-half hours to participate.

“We were very surprised to win. We just came to ride and have a good time with our horses, and we won! How exciting is that!” said Elizabeth King, MFH and spokesperson for the hunt. “Last year we had one team, but this year we thought it would be great fun to have two. We've got great riders and we had such a great time. We'll be back again next year!”
The two teams from Farmington included King, Karen Bull, and Jeanette Fellows (Team 1) and Stephanie Gurlain, Elizabeth Uffleman, and Jennifer Daly (Team 2).

Now in its seventy-first year, the PNHS is one of the most historic horse shows in the U.S., featuring the best in the sport of hunters and jumpers and is the launching ground for many future Olympians. Fifteen thousand spectators, and a million live feed viewers enjoy ten days of top national competition as 1,400 top Junior and Adult competitors vie for eight national championships—including the prestigious Pessoa/US Hunter Seat Medal Final and the Neue Schule/USEF National Junior Jumper Individual and Team Championships. The top jumping riders and horses are expected to compete in the $100,000 Prix de Penn National Grand Prix on the final day of the show (October 22), presented by The Lindsay Maxwell Charitable Fund.

Since the show’s inception in 1947, the PNHS has donated $1.68 million dollars to the Harrisburg Kiwanis Youth Foundation and has donated $350,000 to local therapy and equine groups since 1999. Applications for grants are accepted throughout the year with action upon requests awarded in September.

Other Winners of Hunt Night, sponsored by Kinsley Construction were:  
Leading Lady Rider:
Molly Green of the Green Spring Valley Hounds (MD), Team 1

Field Hunters for Riders 35 Years of Age and Under, sponsored by the Hempt Bros, Inc:
Elizabeth Uffleman, Farmington Hunt, Team 2 riding JT

Field Hunters for Riders 36 Years of Age and Over, sponsored by Horseshoe Trail Farm, LLC:
Jennifer Daly, Farmington Hunt, Team 2 with Prize
Hunter Under Saddle - Gentleman, sponsored by Roundtop Mountain Resort:
 Dr. Csaba Magassy, Potomac Hunt (MD) riding Thunderbride
Hunter Under Saddle - Ladies, sponsored by Carol Copeland:
Molly Green, Green Spring Valley Hounds, Team 1 riding Co-Dependent

Posted October 29, 2016

pa national2Huntsman John Dean parades Radnor foxhounds to the delight of the crowd. / Al Cook photo

Sewickley Hunt Will Raise Funds for Local Park

hartwoodHorse Show at Hartwood, 1932

Successful and long-lasting hunting establishments are those which not only provide benefits to their subscribers, but also contribute to and become an integral part of their communities. Like the Sewickley Hunt (PA), which will stage a demonstration fox hunt on October 9 to help raise funds for the Hartwood Acres Park in Allegheny County.

The park covers 629 acres just ten miles from downtown Pittsburgh. Hartwood is considered the crown jewel of the county’s park system, comprising nine parks totaling 12,000 acres. At Hartwood, hounds will follow a drag laid over the trails and fields, with funds being raised from the sale of tailgating spots in strategic areas for viewing. Funds will help the nonprofit Friends of Hartwood restore and preserve the historic stables at the former estate, the centerpiece of which is a stately Tudor mansion.

The thirty-one-room slate-roofed stone mansion was built by Mary Flinn Lawrence in 1927 and features design elements she and her husband John Lawrence had seen in a manor house in Broadway, England. The grounds of the estate were transformed by Mrs. Lawrence into an equestrian showcase of riding trails, show rings, steeplechase course, and stables.

The property was sold to the county in 1969. The mansion contains a collection of original English and American antiques. The park also offers a large-stage concert area where summer concerts and music festivals are held. Thirty miles of trails are available for horseback riding, walking, hiking, biking, and cross country skiing.

The hunt has never ridden at Hartwood, according to Andy Komer, MFH, but no problems are expected in traversing the country. Komer will talk to spectators about the hunt and its history, which spans nearly a century. The other three Sewickley Masters are Anne Metcalf, Diane Dubois, and Doug Christy. John Tabachka is the professional huntsman, and, as a multiple winner of the annual MFHA Horn Blowing Championship, could give a good demonstration of horn calls to the spectators as well.

Sewickley member Amy Giammattei, who serves as chairman of the Friends of Hartwood, suggested the demonstration as a fund raiser for preserving the stables. With stalls finished in varnished oak, it’s a project deserving of restoration, indeed.    

Posted September 28, 2016

Horses Can Learn to Read and Communicate

A Norwegian study recently proved that horses can quickly learn to read simple symbols and use them to communicate whether or not they wish to wear a blanket. The study was conducted with twenty-two riding horses of various breeds over a period of time during which weather temperatures varied from pleasant, to cold, to cold and rainy. After completion of the training process, each horse chose accurately and appropriately according to its individual desires over a test period of nearly a year.

Four days within the period were shown on a chart as examples. On pleasant days in May and August, all horses chose not to wear blankets. On a cold, drizzly day in April, fifteen out of twenty-two horses chose to wear blankets. On a cold, very rainy day in September, twenty of the twenty-two horses chose the blankets. Of the two un-blanketed horses that day, both chose blankets on a still colder, sleeting day.

To begin the study, three white boards were used to teach the horses to choose their preference. One had a horizontal bar in the middle (meaning, “put blanket on”), one had a vertical bar in the middle (meaning “take blanket off”), and one board was blank (meaning “no change”). The boards were introduced, one at a time, to each horse. When they touched the single board with their nose, they were rewarded with a piece of carrot, and the appropriate action was performed by the handler. It took just two weeks for the horses to learn the meaning of each symbol.

Then all three boards were mounted on a paddock fence, their positions continuously shuffled. Each horse would be brought to the paddock on a warm day covered with blankets and sweating. When they chose the appropriate symbol, they were rewarded and the blanket was removed. Each horse had to make the correct choice twelve times before moving on to the next step—a cold and uncomfortable day when they were brought outside without a blanket and presented with their choices. Finally, when they were brought out suitably dressed for whatever the weather—un-blanketed on a pleasant day or blanketed on a miserable day—they would receive the carrot if they chose the blank board, but no reward for any other choice.

A few horses were too smart, and tried to game the system to get more carrots. A couple tried nibbling on the boards, but eventually learned that this strategy didn’t produce more treats. Another horse apparently loved the attention of having blankets put on and off, so he kept choosing the all white board just to get changed! After a while he learned that changes had lasting consequences, like becoming overly hot or uncomfortably cold.

For a short video and more detail, click to see Karin Brulliard’s article in the Washington Post.

Posted September 24, 2016

New Conservative Government May Bring Vote on Hunting Act

UK Environment Secretary Andrea Leadsom has consistently pledged to bring a free vote in Commons to overturn the hunting ban. It was part of her election plank as she sought to become Prime Minister in last summer’s election. Although she lost her election bid to current Prime Minister Theresa May, because Leadsom is head of the department in charge of the issue, she is still positioned to fulfil her pledge.

David Cameron made the same election promise before he became Prime Minister, but he never did bring the matter to a vote, fearing it would fail. The odds against are still overwhelming, but many Tories now fear that low ambition guarantees failure.

Current Prime Minister Theresa May has spoken in favor of foxhunting in the past, and her stiff support for other contentious government issues has given new hope to many Conservatives who wish to square off on the foxhunting issue. They chafe under the Hunting Act which they see as a Labour-inspired class assault on the countryside in the guise of animal welfare.

Tony Blair was Prime Minister at the time the Hunting Act was passed and implemented. Blair managed to leave hunting “banned and not quite banned,” and he admitted in his recent memoir that the Hunting Ban was a mistake. There appears to be renewed resolve among some well-placed Conservatives to force a vote on the issue, win or lose.

Posted September 20, 2016

Limestone Creek Holds Annual Parade

Limestone Creek Hunt (NY) celebrated the start of their official season with an annual Parade of Hounds. Professional huntsman Lori Gronau and staff took hounds and field from the village green, through the town, to the site of the meet.

This year, the hunt invited the Beaver Meadow Foxhounds (ON) and the Green Mountain Hounds (VT) to join the Parade of Hounds and Opening Meet, all on the morning of September 11, 2016. Before hounds moved off, a traditional Blessing of Hounds ceremony was held.

Spectators were invited to view the parade and attend the blessing. Limestone Creek is a 501(c)3 organization, and holds the annual parade and other events such as trail rides, hunter paces, foot races, hunt clinics, and hunt balls to help educate future foxhunters about the sport and about conservation, preservation, and good land stewardship.

Limestone Creek’s pack of mostly Crossbred hounds hunts fox and coyote live and follows the occasional drag. Masters are John and Barbara Anderson, Nelson and Renee Eddie, and Barbara Lindberg.

Click for the complete EagleNewsOnline article for photo and more details. For information about the Limestone Creek Hunt, visit their website, FaceBook page, or communicate via email.

Posted September 13, 2016