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.
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.
Why Worry’s Heythrop Rachel 2011 was judged Grand Champion at the fortieth annual Carolinas Hound Show held at the Springdale Racecourse in Camden, South Carolina on May 7, 2016. It’s one thing for a visiting MFH to pick up a nice draft to bring back to the home kennels; it’s another thing entirely to know what to do with it. Here’s where George and Jeannie Thomas, MFHs, Why Worry Hounds (SC), showed their breeding acumen.
While visiting friends in England and judging a puppy show at the Heythrop kennels, George mentioned that he needed a bi*ch* to introduce new bloodlines into his breeding program. We have just the hound for you, he was told. So he brought home a nicely-bred entered bi*ch, Heythrop Rachel 2011.
Hugh Douglas Camp Motley, ex-MFH of the Keswick Hunt (VA) and a highly-regarded horseman who started his own bloodstock agency and sold Thoroughbred horses at many of America's premier racing sales, died in Wellington, Florida on January 9, 2016 of complications from pneumonia. He was sixty.
Hugh foxhunted all his life and served as Master of Foxhounds for the Keswick Hunt (VA) from 2000 to 2005. He also played polo for many years as a member of the Charlottesville Polo Club.
Jake Carle, longtime Master and huntsman at Keswick, remembers Hugh from the time he was hunting ponies. “He was game as hell," Jake recalls. "He would go anywhere on his pony."
“We bonded instantly because we both stuttered as kids, so I understood. Later, he whipped-in to me. When it was time to name a new Joint-Master, he was the only person I trusted to maintain the standards. And he did.
"He hired [huntsman] Tony Gammell, and they had a bond. He had the most wonderful sense of humor, and we all will miss him terribly. He’s one of only a few people I know who was liked by everyone who met him.
The Junior North American Field Hunter Championship competition that began modestly twelve years ago between a handful of geographically-close Virginia hunts continues to expand in scope. This year’s competition involved juniors from twenty-seven hunts located across six MFHA Districts.
The program is succeeding because it’s purpose rises above just competition. Founders Douglas Wise, MFH, Old Dominion Hounds and Iona Pillion from the Blue Ridge Hunt had a larger dream: bring children to new hunting countries and open their eyes to the fact that these playgrounds don’t just happen to be there for them by chance, but have been nurtured and conserved for the perpetuation of wildlife, open space, and for those who treasure the natural world.
“We want these kids to know what a conservation easement is,” said Marion Chungo, one of the organizers.
If you are wondering where in the Keswick countryside the cover picture was taken, you are observant. It was not taken in Keswick but at Massie’s Corner in Rappahannock County where I grew up. My father, Wade Massie, loved to hunt foxes. My Uncle Jim tells how Pop used to get on the school bus in the morning and get off a few stops later where there would be a horse waiting for him. He would hunt all day with Ennis Jenkins, Larry Jenkins’ father, and get back on the bus in the afternoon. His parents were none the wiser.
Later Jack Bruce helped Pop put together a pack of hounds which Clint Eastham, son of famous hound breeder C.C. Eastham, would hunt for him. (It is kind of fun to think about how I would hunt with hounds and people with a lot of the same bloodlines sixty years later).
Pop also hunted with Rappahannock and was a whipper-in there. Current Rappahannock Master Oliver Brown likes to tell a story about how Pop could make any horse quiet. One day a visitor from New Jersey had come down to hunt. The visitor's horse was rank, while Pop’s was going along well. Halfway through the day Pop offered to switch horses. By day's end Pop’s new mount was going along on the buckle, and the visitor’s horse was jigging all around.