Fox Hunting Life with Horse and Hound

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randy rouse.cinzano.leesRandy Rouse on his steeplechase champion Cinzano. The pair went to the starting line 11 times, and won every race. / Douglas Lees photo

Randolph D. “Randy” Rouse—Master of Foxhounds, retired champion race rider, Thoroughbred trainer, musician, and national steeplechase icon, died early Friday, April 7, 2017 at age one-hundred.

He was the oldest trainer in North American Thoroughbred history to saddle a winner, ever. He was ninety-nine last April when his Hishi Soar won the Daniel Van Clief Memorial at Foxfield Spring Races. This season, at age one hundred, just one week before his death, he sent Hishi Soar to the starting line again and won the Open Hurdle Race at the Orange County Point-to-Point in Virginia.

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From London's streets to Virginia’s hunt country

bozdan and hounds.cropped.laura rileyHuntsman Andy Bozdan and the Loudoun Fairfax hounds / Laura Riley photo

The job: huntsman. The man: Andrew Bozdan—leader of fifty couple of Old English foxhounds. One hundred canines. How is this possible? In all my life as a dog owner, I’ve only had a handful who actually came when I called. How is it that we mortals have such difficulty in getting our dogs to sit and come and not potty in the house, while this man steers his entire pack in an apparently seamless manner.

The answer is, as always, nothing is ever as easy as it looks. Before the man appears in public, seated atop his skewbald gelding, wearing his scarlet coat, and blowing his copper horn to speak to the mass of hounds seething below, one heck of a lot of work happens and many miles are traveled.

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peter hitchen.vicky moonVicky Moon photo, circa 1980s

Peter Hitchen, MFH, died January 12, 2015 from complications stemming from injuries sustained in a fall in the hunting field a month earlier. He was seventy-six. At the time of his passing, Peter was serving in his twenty-seventh season as Joint-Master of the Potomac Hunt (MD).

Peter was born in England but didn’t start foxhunting until he emigrated to the U.S. in 1962. After settling in the Washington, D.C. area, Peter was introduced to the sport by a friend. He also met his bride-to-be, Nancy Tilton Orme of Leesburg, Virginia, who also encouraged his involvement with hunting to hounds at The Loudoun Hunt.

From that time on, Peter never let anything interfere with his maturing love of and passion for foxhunting. After many seasons of whipping-in at the New Market/Middletown Valley Hounds (MD) and later at The Potomac Hunt, Peter joined Irvin L. (Skip) Crawford as Joint-Master of Potomac in 1987. With huntsman, Larry Pitts, they oversaw the development of what is unquestionably one of the premier packs of American foxhounds in the United States, giving good sport to their members and garnering championships and grand championships at the hound shows year after year.

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downing.dennis.karen mDennis Downing is the new huntsman at the Bedford Hunt (VA). / Karen L. Myers photo

Huntsman Robert Taylor hasn’t had a good rest in five years. He’s been hunting two separate packs of foxhounds in Maryland—the Goshen Hounds as Master and amateur huntsman and the New Market-Middletown Valley Hounds as professional huntsman. Huntsman Ken George has been driving hounds and horses six hours each way twice a week from Kansas to Iowa to hunt hounds in both states. Huntsmen love what they do, but each season ends with changes in the wind.

As this hunting season draws to a close, we see huntsmen on the move again. Starting in the north and progressing southward then west, here’s what we know so far; please let us know who we’ve left out.

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nafhc13.teresa.callar2013 North American Field Hunter Champion Greyland Woods, owned by Karen Mantz and ridden by daughter Teresa Croce, jumps to victory over Judge Jean Derrick's scarlet coat (Belle Meade colors). / Liz Callar photo

Blistering hot weather visited Virginia for the past four weeks. While not unusual this time of year, the length of the hot spell, with temperatures hovering in the high eighties and even reaching into the low nineties, has proved miserable to man and beast alike, but it failed to deter foxhunters who entered this year's North American Field Hunter Championships.

On Monday, September 30, the Championships began at Keswick. Hounds met at Glenwood, a fixture in the neighborhood of James Madison's Montpelier, outside the town of Orange. Contestants from as far away as Florida and Georgia traveled to compete in the event, as well as to enjoy early autumn hunting in Virginia. They were not disappointed. Keswick huntsman Tony Gammell provided a fine day of sport in the lovely rolling countryside as hounds ran across the nearby road, back again, and beyond the fixture into a scenic expanse of woods and cornfields. Afterward, everyone enjoyed a tailgate as five contestants were selected for the finals.

On Tuesday, October 1, hounds met at Owl Run Farm in Warrenton, home of Casanova Hunt Joint-Master Mrs. Joyce Fendley. Previously the home of Donna and Jack Eicher, huntsman at Rombout and later Farmington Hunt, the grounds include a lake and a cluster of graceful weeping willows out front. The residence and barns all exude the charm of old Virginia Hunt Country—weathered stone, stout board and batten, low eaves and metal roofs. A special surprise awaited the field this morning when shortly after casting hounds, an eruption in a cornfield revealed that hounds had encountered a black bear! Fortunately, the pack obeyed their orders to ignore the bear as it beat a hasty retreat. The remainder of the morning proved quieter, and as the field hacked in, Mrs. Fendley positioned herself, as she always does at the end of a hunt, such that she could personally thank everyone in the field as they passed by on their way to their trailer. This small but thoughtful act is just one of many that make hunting in Virginia so special and unique. It was a hot, thirsty, and tired field that gathered under a tent to drink and devour a delicious crab dip while recalling the excitement of having gone on their first bear hunt! This morning, six finalists were announced.

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