Fox Hunting Life with Horse and Hound

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wws heythrop r achelWhy Worry Hounds' Heythrop Rachel 2011 is Grand Champion of the 2016 Carolinas Hound Show.

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.

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mfc.americanChampion American Foxhound: Orange County Kermit with huntsman Reg Spreadborough / Karen Kandra Wenzel photoFor forty consecutive years, foxhunters from the Mid-Atlantic have gathered on the day following the Kentucky Derby to give their unentered hounds an opportunity to learn what this “hound show thing” is all about. As a prelude to the major shows—Virginia and Bryn Mawr—later in the spring, this show is a bit lower key, but still a serious undertaking. Restricted to unentered hounds except for classes for Produce of Dam and Get of Sire, the emphasis is on teaching young hounds and young handlers what they can expect in a few weeks.

The show is held on a rotating basis among the MFHA-sanctioned hunts in Maryland, and this year the Marlborough Hunt in Prince Georges County served as host. On the banks of the Patuxent River on their lovely grounds for both clubhouse and kennels, the Marlborough folks, under the leadership of Masters Katherine Cawood, Patty Sasscer, and Christine Claggett, provided two spacious rings—one for foxhounds where Thomas H. Jackson, MFH, Mr. Jackson’s Flat Creek Hounds and former huntsman of the Mission Valley Hunt Club (KS) would judge the 101 foxhounds entered, and one for foothounds where Forbes R. Reback, MB and Charlotte D. Buttrick, MB, both from the Farmington Beagles (VA), would judge bassets and beagles.

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cowboy hunt1Kail Mantle from Montana: just like riding a bronc  /  Val Westover photo

Last year, while hunting with the Red Rock Hounds (NV), I met Renee and Kail Mantle from Big Sky Hounds in Three Forks, Montana. Kail gave us a bucking horse lesson one day before hunting. This Montana cowboy, who hunts in chaps and cowboy hat, had sat calmly to his horse bucking crazily above the sagebrush and had seriously impressed me.

When a group of these Western foxhunters invited me to accompany them to Ireland this year, I jumped at the chance. These were fun people---more than a little crazy, and I wondered if anyone had warned the Irish!

I also wondered if my companions knew what they were getting into. I had hunted the big Irish walls and hedges in 2000, and I came home with newfound respect for anyone who hunts regularly in Ireland. It is challenging country, and their version of foxhunting is an excuse to run and jump really big fences.

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mongol derby.startDay-One, Time-Zero, The Start! Foxhunters, race riders, and racehorse trainers were the frontrunners by Day-Three.  /  Richard Dunwoody photo

I am bent over at the waist, hands on knees, gulping air as the vet checks my pony. His heart rate is seventy-two and will come down to the required sixty-four in about five minutes. Mine is about two hundred beats per minute and no one cares. I used to watch my basketball player son stand like this during timeouts, trying to recover, and now I completely understand. I am exhausted and have only twenty minutes to recover before leaving on the next jet-fueled pony! This is Day-Six of the Mongol Derby and the urtuus (horse stations) are starting to blend into one.

I imagined myself romantically naming each pony and remembering everything about the rides between stations. As it happened, I not only forgot to name them—as half the time I was hanging on for dear life as they rocketed out of the stations and bolted for the next ten to fifteen kilometers—but I do not remember individual urtuus. I remember moments of complete panic as I thought I was going to die, or moments when I feared my comrades-in-saddle were going to die. Interspersed are memories of lovely meadows and fragrant pine forests, incredible views across mountains, and long, long rides when we wondered if we would ever get there.

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 bellemeade14.lasthunt.jpgThe author (right) with (l-r) Field Master Jean Derrick and Master and huntsman Epp Wilson at the final meet

Snow may have crippled Atlanta, but the few inches that fell in Thomson, Georgia during Belle Meade's second annual "Gone Away with the Wind" Hunt Week (January 26 to February 2, 2014) did little to dampen the great foxhunting and lavish southern hospitality. The first day we arrived was warm and sunny, a welcome respite from a frozen Maryland. I was returning for a second awesome adventure with Belle Meade Hunt and had encouraged two more of my fellow Marlborough Hunt members to come down. Jayne Koester and her amateur-radio enthusiast husband Fred enlivened their trip by talking to all the Ham radio operators near Interstate 95 as they drove south. Following them was Gwen Alred, a member of both Marlborough and Potomac Hunt clubs, who also decided getting out of a frigid Maryland was a good idea.

Monday at 3:00 pm, after warm greetings from our southern hosts and welcoming remarks from MFHs Epp Wilson, Charlie Lewis, and Gary Wilkes, we quickly trotted across the road from the kennels and moved across open cattle fields. I was riding first flight behind my good friend, Belle Meade Field Master Jean Derrick, and it felt wonderful to be cantering across soft ground in informal ratcatcher attire!

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