Fox Hunting Life with Horse and Hound

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A Foxhunter Is Knighted

on hunting scrutonOn Hunting, Roger Scruton, Yellow Jersey Press, 1998, 161 pages, pocket size, available at Amazon and bookstores.To define Roger Scruton merely as a foxhunter is like defining Winston Churchill as a cigar smoker. True enough, but hardly a comprehensive description. Last month, Roger Scruton was created a Knight Bachelor by Queen Elizabeth II in the Birthday Honours list published on the Queen's ninetieth birthday.

Scruton is one of Britain’s leading philosophers, a spokesman for conservatism, and foxhunting is one of his passions. His excellent and highly readable book, On Hunting (1998), brings the author’s philosophical best to his love for the sport and all it entails from terror to ecstasy. As expressed by one reviewer, “He begins with hunting but he ends with a moving romance with nature itself. In this regard, hunting is but a window into his soul and the limits of human nature. I have read all of his books and this one ranks among the best.”

Dark Horse: An Earnest and Sweet Documentary

Janet Vokes, a barmaid in Wales, had bred pigeons and whippets. She figured, why not breed a horse? She wheedled friends and neighbors—twenty-three in all—to join her in a collective by chipping in ten pounds a week for expenses.

They bought a mare that had never won a race and had a habit of throwing her riders. And they bought a cheap stallion. In the course of time, a foal arrived. The story of these self-described commoners progresses through ups and downs for ten years and proves that “scrappiness and horse sense are underrated qualities.”

Dark Horse, the documentary film by Louise Osmond won an audience award for world cinema at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival. Now appearing in theaters, the film is, according to Stephanie Merry writing for The Washington Post, an “utterly charming look at the unlikely success of Dream Alliance, a racehorse bred by a barmaid in a down-and-out Welsh mining village.”

The people interviewed bring warmth and humor to the film, in particular, Vokes’s husband Brian. He’s a coal deliveryman whose tattoos and missing front teeth are distinctly at odds with most of the owners against whom their horse competes.

The film is “earnest, sweet and told with sentimentality, featuring shots of horses frolicking in fields set against beautiful string music by Anne Nikitin. Surprisingly, the effect isn't melodramatic or overbearing, but disarming and endearing.”

"Dark Horse" (Sony Picture Classics): 3.5 stars
Rating: PG (contains horses in peril and strong language)
Running time: 1:24

Click to read Merry’s entire article.

Posted June 9, 2016

Watch Now for Fox Cubs On the Move

Watch for a glimpses of red fox cubs hunting with their parents at about this time of year, suggests KRCU.org, a PBS-affiliate in Missouri.

As in much of this country, there are two species of foxes in Missouri—the red and the gray fox. Red foxes prefer the borders of forested areas and adjacent open lands while gray foxes live in denser wooded areas and fairly open brush land.

Though primarily nocturnal, foxes can often be seen during daylight hours this time of year. Since around March, the dog fox has been hunting overtime to feed himself and the vixen since the cubs were whelped. More recently, both he and the vixen have been hunting to feed themselves during the weaning process and to bring back to the den bones, scraps, and dead game for the cubs to taste and play with.

At birth, the pups are blind and helpless and weigh about three-and-a-half ounces. At about a month old, the pups begin to come out of the den and play in front of it with bones and left-over food items. They are fed here, too, by the adults. Although the parents carry away the droppings and foods that spoil, the outside of a fox den has an untidy appearance, like that of a quickly abandoned playground. Foxes also show the dog-like trait of rolling on strong-smelling objects. If the young are moved to another den, the parents frequently take play things along.

Sometime around Memorial Day or at about the age of ten weeks, the young begin to leave the den vicinity for the first time and accompany their parents on hunting trips. Starting now we should see the developing cubs on the move at times with their parents. Come September, the family will tend to break up with dog fox, vixen, and the developed cubs going their independent ways.

Because they often travel over the same routes, worn and well-marked trails develop. Foxes can run about twenty-six miles per hour at top speed but slow down after the initial spurt.

To keep track of current natural events, like when to watch for young fox kits on their first hunting expedition, you can get your own Natural Events Calendar from the Missouri Department of Conservation. Click for photos and details in Candice Davis’s article and links to other timely nature content.

Posted May 30, 2016

RSPCA Intrusions Reach a New Low in England

Police Chiefs in the UK have called for an end to prosecutions of animal abuse cases by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA). Recently, some RSPCA employees with extreme views on animal rights have brought the once reputable organization to a new low.

Employees of the society took the Byrnes Family cat without legal authority to do so. They put the cat down, prosecuted the family for animal abuse, but the evidence presented was insufficient to convince the court. The Byrnes Family won their case, but lost their cat. The children never had a chance to say goodbye to their pet.

Foxhunting Life has reported on prosecutions of foxhunts brought by the RSPCA. The society brings to the courts eighty percent of all prosecutions under the Hunting Act, spends enormous amounts of donors’ monies to prosecute the cases, and loses seventy-eight percent of the prosecutions due to insufficient evidence.

In 2013 the RSPCA was estimated to have spent at least a half million pounds of charitable funds on prosecutions against hunts. The charity was criticized by judges of the court after spending more than three hundred thousand pounds prosecuting the Heythrop hunt. Income from donations to the RSPCA have since cratered by seven million pounds in one year, prompting the charity to cut jobs and restructure.

According to The Telegraph, the National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC) says: “For some considerable time the RSPCA have assumed the default role of prosecutor for offences under the Act and have done so outside of a statutory framework with no powers.

“Their long standing good work and expertise in this area should of course be recognised but it ought to be right that the primary enforcer with responsibility for this area should be a single agency, preferably a statutory body funded by Government.

“With this would come greater governance and accountability along with a right to review prosecution decisions in with all other criminal offences.”

Simon Hart, a Tory member of the committee and former chief executive of the pro-hunting Countryside Alliance, is reported as saying, “There is increasing recognition that trying to be a political movement, tireless fund raiser and voracious prosecutor has resulted in a conflict that we would not accept in any other walk of life.

“There are numerous examples of other countries and wild life charities that do good work, but who rely on the police and criminal justice system to implement the law.

“If the RSPCA were to hand over its prosecuting role to the police and CPS it would begin to repair its tattered reputation.”

The RSPCA continues to argue against the NPCC recommendations. Click for more.

Posted April 30, 2016

Nyquist Is Strong Kentucky Derby Favorite

Last week’s Florida Derby was a good shakeout for potential Kentucky Derby favorites. Nyquist and Mohemen, both undefeated, met to see who would get the short odds on the first Saturday in May. Nyquist won decisively and looks to go to Churchill Downs as the favorite. Seattle Slew was the last undefeated champion two-year-old to run as a Kentucky Derby favorite.

From the Florida Derby, Nyquist was shipped to Keeneland in Lexington, Kentucky, where he will train in the weeks leading up to May. His record stands at seven wins in as many races, four of them Grade I races. In his short career, the Doug O’Neill-trained colt has won $2,322,600 for owners Paul and Zillah Reddam. Jockey Mike Guttierrez, who rode Nyquist home for his Florida Derby win, is scheduled to be in the irons at Churchill Downs. This same owner-trainer-jockey team won the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes with I’ll Have Another in 2012.

Two potential issues with the horse could keep the team awake nights. Charlie Fenwick noted that Nyquist finished his winning stretch run on his left lead, which, Fenwick says, could simply be a green mistake or a sign of a future injury. And, after arriving at Keeneland, a blood test revealed an elevated white blood cell count. Heeding the blood test results, Nyquist’s return to training has been delayed a day or two.

Posted April 9, 2016