Fox Hunting Life with Horse and Hound

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As we approach the 2017/2018 season, Foxhunting Life makes its annual report on the recent moves of eight huntsmen across the North American hunting countries.

hughjulierobards.cropped.cancelliRetiring huntsman Hugh Robards, wife and first whipper-in Julie, and the foxhounds of the Middleburg Hunt / Chris Cancelli photo

Round I:
Hugh Robards’ decision to hang up his hunting horn after fifty-five seasons in hunt service got Round One underway. Fully half of those seasons, and certainly the most visible, Robards spent in Ireland’s challenging ditch-and-bank country as huntsman for the County Limerick Foxhounds. There, he provided world-class sport for Master Lord Daresbury (whom he succeeded as huntsman), the hard riding members, and a constant stream of hunting visitors from around the globe.

For the last three seasons, Robards has carried the horn for the Middleburg Hunt (VA). As difficult as his personal retirement decision must have been, the Middleburg Masters and members paid Robards such a stirring tribute at their Hunt Ball that he had to have felt the sincere respect and affection in which he was held, notwithstanding his short tenure there. The members made certain that the ball revolved about him with mounted photographs of his career, the showing of a specially produced video, and speeches—sincere and well-earned, to recognize an illustrious career.

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live oak dandyLive Oak Dandy was Grand Champion of Show at the Southern Hound Show this year. / Cathy Taber photo

The hound show season, now underway, provides an excellent opportunity to improve one’s eye for foxhound conformation by judging from ringside just for fun. The exercise not only makes the day more interesting, but educational as well. Especially when you can collar a friendly judge after the class and ask him why he didn’t like the hound you adored, or why he picked a hound you thought was common. (Obviously, you must frame your question such that the judge understands that you are seeking an education and not leveling criticism!)

It can be intimidating to watch a procession of foxhounds enter and leave the ring and wonder how in the world the judge can sort them all out. For example, how does he compare a hound he is looking at to one he saw ten minutes ago? Ten years ago, I asked some top judges how they judged a class, and here's what I learned.

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canadian.13Hamilton Lily-belle caught judge Captain Ian Farquhar's eye each time huntsman Andrew
Marren brought her into the ring.

An un-entered English foxhound who attracted the judge’s eye every time she entered the ring gave cause for great celebration at her home kennels where the Hamilton Hunt (ON) hosted the Canadian Hound Show on Saturday, June 8, 2013. Hamilton Lily-belle started her sweep by winning the class for Un-entered Bitches. She then proceeded to win the English Bitch Championship, the Un-Entered Foxhound Championship, the English Foxhound Championship, and the Grand Championship of Show.

“[Judge] Captain Farquhar told me it was rare for an un-entered hound to win a grand championship,” said Hamilton huntsman Andrew Marren, “but she screamed out quality to him in every class.”

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Huntsman Robert Howarth has been working his way south. He will carry the horn at the Blue Ridge Hunt in Virginia this year, arriving after a season hunting hounds at the Myopia Hunt in Massachusetts and before that the Hamilton Hunt in Ontario. Howarth will succeed Dennis Downing, now completing his eleventh season at Blue Ridge.

British-born Howarth started his professional hunt career as whipper-in at the Belvoir at age sixteen. After two seasons at the Belvoir he moved on, as is the custom of those in hunt service in England, and whipped-in at several other hunts for the next fifteen years.

He then went to the Holderness as huntsman and carried the horn there for eleven seasons. After twenty-seven seasons of hunt service in England, Howarth emigrated to Canada to hunt hounds at the Hamilton Hunt and then moved on to Myopia.

Howarth, who is steeped in the breeding of the Old English foxhound from his experiences at the Belvoir and the Holderness, will take over a pack of modern English and modern English-American crosses bred for the past eleven years by Blue Ridge Master Linda Armbrust.

Blue Ridge is still seeking to hire a professional whipper-in for the 2012-2013 season.

Posted January 6, 2012

howarth.robert.laverackHelen Laverack photo

MH_179Myopia's hunt kennel with its weathered shingles on Boston's North Shore evokes old New England.Robert Howarth is the new professional huntsman at the venerable Myopia Hunt located on Boston’s North Shore. Robert, originally from England and the Holderness Hunt, arrived at Myopia from the Hamilton Hunt in Ontario. He brought with him Liberty, an Old English foxhound which he bred whilst at the Holderness. I recently visited Robert and got to see Liberty again whom I walked as a puppy.

During my visit, I thoroughly enjoyed helping in Myopia's prestigious hunt kennel, with its red and cream decor, chandelier, and hounds peacefully resting in their lodges to the sound of the classical music!

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