Fox Hunting Life with Horse and Hound
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FHL WEEK, May 25, 2017

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This Week in...

...Latest News

British PM Promises a Free Vote on the Hunting Act
Theresa May energizes England’s pro-hunting establishment by promising that a free vote in Parliament on the despised Hunting Act will be included in the Conservative Party Manifesto ahead of the upcoming general election.  (page 1)

...Norm Fine’s Blog

You’re Invited
We invite Virginia Foxhound Show attendees to our stand at the show to meet Mary Motley who will sign copies of her new book Foxhunters Speak, and we preview the 2018 Foxhunting Life Calendar, affectionately dedicated to Hugh Robards.  (page 1)

...Hounds

Myopia Lupy Surprises: Wins Grand Championship at New England
During the week-and-a-half of training before the New England Hound Show, un-entered puppy Myopia Lupy couldn’t concentrate, wouldn’t stand on the flags, and preferred to lay down than chase biscuits. Despite her dismal performance in training, she was taken to the show and returned home as Grand Champion!  (page 3)

Southwest Hound Show Grand Champion Is Born Closely to the Crown
Like European royalty, Brazos Valley Precious ‘16 was born close to the crown. Precariously close. But all turned out well for she was crowned Grand Champion of the Southwest Foxhound Show.  (page 5)

...Hunt Reports

The Donegal Harriers at Beltrim Castle, County Tyrone by Noel Mullins
Meet the Masters and followers of the Donegal Harriers. Established in 1999, they are a relatively recent pack hunting the fox in Ireland’s County Tyrone.  (page 7)

...Photo of the Week

Innocence and Expectation by Lucy Clarke
The title chosen by your editor would make perfect names for the foxhound puppies in this week’s photo if only there were fewer syllables. Names aside, we can still appreciate this image of the Monmouthshire Foxhound’s next generation.  (page 9)

 

 

 

British PM Promises a Free Vote on the Hunting Act

Prime Minister Theresa May has energized England’s pro-hunting establishment by promising that a free vote in Parliament on England’s Hunting Act will be included in the Conservative Party Manifesto ahead of the general election scheduled for June 8, 2017.

In 2004, the Hunting Act ended the sport of foxhunting as traditionally practiced in England. The Conservatives have promised a free vote on the floor of Parliament before previous elections, but haven’t yet delivered. The expected strength of the Party going into the June election gives greater hope that it will happen this time.

“As it happens, personally, I’ve always been in favour of fox hunting and we maintain our commitment,” said Ms. May. “We had a commitment previously as a Conservative Party to allow a free vote and that would allow Parliament to take a decision on this.”

It was Tony Blair’s Labour government in 2004 that enacted the measure, and Blair has since admitted that it was a mistake which he regretted pushing through.

The usual vocal constituencies have erupted against foxhunting once again, but as Ms. May said, this is an issue “on which individuals will have one view or the other, either pro or against.”

According to The Daily Mirror, Conservative peer Lord Mancroft, chairman of the MFHA and the Council of Hunting Associations, recently suggested, that “a majority of fifty or more would give us a real opportunity for repeal of the Hunting Act. This is by far the best opportunity we have had since the ban, and is probably the best we are likely to get in the foreseeable future.”

There’s the question. Will the anticipated Conservative government, which hasn’t yet even dared to take the issue to the floor of Parliament, gain a sufficient majority in this election to (1) do so, and (2) win repeal of the Hunting Act? For more details, click for the entire BBC article published on May 9, 2017.

Posted May 11, 2017

You're Invited!

Norm Fine's Blog

calendar cover 2018.cropped

Stop by the Foxhunting Life booth at the Virginia Foxhound Show and meet our guest, Mary Kalergis. She’ll be talking about her new book, Foxhunters Speak: An Oral History of American Foxhunting, and signing copies. The book has received high praise from readers.

Also, we’ll be previewing and accepting advance orders for our 2018 Foxhunting Life Calendar. We have a special deal for pre-orders!

Our new calendar is affectionately dedicated to Hugh Robards, just retired from a brilliant fifty-five-year career in hunt service. He appears on the cover (and on a page inside) in his final hunt as a professional huntsman. We are proud to publish Middleburg Photo’s gorgeous composition of Robards and the foxhounds of the Middleburg Hunt (VA) on the grass, framed by the bare trees of early spring, all against a blue sky adrift with fair weather clouds.

Robards spent his longest professional stint in Ireland’s challenging ditch-and-bank country as huntsman for the County Limerick Foxhounds. For twenty-seven seasons he provided world-class sport for Master Lord Daresbury, the hard riding members, and a constant stream of hunting visitors from around the globe.

Also represented in this year’s calendar photo collection are hunts from across North America, England, and Ireland. Images include horses and hounds in action, seductive scenes shot in the most beautiful hunting landscapes imaginable, and photographs that simply tell a story about foxhunting.

And we still have a very few remaining of those smashing blue birdseye stock ties. They represent a handsome and traditional article of foxhunting attire that we first learned about, coincidentally, from Hugh Robards! Click for article.

See you at the show!

Posted May 18, 2017

Myopia Lupy Surprises: Wins Grand Championship at New England

Hounds

Myopia-Lupy-grand-champion-foxhound-new-england-hound-show.shawn.tinkhamUn-entered Mopia Lupy matured overnight to win the Grand Championship at the New England Hound Show. / Shawn Tinkham photo

Un-entered Myopia Lupy may have surprised some when she was judged Grand Champion at the New England Hound Show on Sunday, May 7, 2017, but none could have been more surprised than her huntsman and the Myopia Masters. The un-entered Lupy, not yet a year old, hadn’t exhibited the slightest inclination to show herself off during the prior week-and-a-half of show training back home.

“She had no interest in concentrating,” said Kim Cutler, MFH of the Massachusetts pack. “She was all over the place—just a puppy.”

“Her litter mate, Luna, paid attention," recalled Phillip Headdon, Myopia huntsman, "but Lupy was just...loopy!”

What surprises this writer, when looking at Lupy’s photo standing confidently with all her silver, is that she really doesn’t look as under-developed as one might expect from an un-entered foxhound. Her chest is deep, she’s muscled over her loin and hind end, and she displays more substance than many young pups at that stage. Maybe she suddenly grew up both intellectually and physically on the long drive from Hamilton, Massachusetts to the show grounds in Jericho Center, Vermont!

Myopia-hunt-Lupy-shawn tinkham-foxhound-show-grand-championGrand Champion Lupy with huntsman Phillip Headdon / Shawn Tinkham photo

“I didn’t expect much from her in the early classes,” said Headdon, “but when she got into the ring it was a new story. As the day progressed, every time I went to get hounds for the next class, there was Lupy standing right in front, ready to go. She went after the biscuits, and really showed herself off. Back home when I was throwing biscuits she’d look at me and say, ‘Well...maybe.’ She’d be lying down, and I’d be picking her up.”

Lupy is by Myopia Lithium ’11, an English hound that Myopia has since given to the Norfolk Hunt (MA). (Lithium was Champion English Hound at the show for Norfolk.) Through Lithium, Lupy gets her modern English bloodlines from the Holderness and the Cotswold plus some Old English blood from the Brocklesby.

Lupy’s dam is Myopia Tulip '13 an American hound by Millbrook Kougar '06, a Penn-Marydel. Through Tulip’s female lines, Lupy goes back to pure American bloodlines from Potomac and Essex, two reservoirs of the best pure American foxhound blood in the country.

Lupy returned home having earned new respect from Myopia staff and members. Headdon likes the injection of Old English blood which he believes contributes to methodical, no-nonsense work habits. The Modern English lines give her beauty, speed, and flowing movement. The American ancestors tune her nose to North American scenting conditions, and the Penn-Marydel blood adds voice and low-scenting abilities. With all this hybrid vigor from disparate lines, the litter should make a strong addition to the Myopia pack.

“I think they’ll enter well,” said Headdon.

Andrew Barclay, was the show judge. Retired huntsman of the Green Spring Valley Hounds (MD), Barclay is a key figure in the MFHA’s Professional Development Program and a 2015 inductee to the Huntsman’s Room at the Museum of Hounds and Hunting at Morven Park.

The Green Mountain Hounds (VT) hosted this year’s New England Hound Show. Click for complete results.

Posted May 19, 2017

Southwest Hound Show Grand Champion Is Born Closely to the Crown

Hounds

Grand-Champion-foxhound-Brazos-Valley-Sandy-Dixon-MFH-John-Tabachka-huntsman-Sewickley-HuntSouthwest Grand Champion of Show Brazos Valley Precious 2016, shown by Sandy Dixon, MFH, is a lucky mistake. Standing is judge John Tabachka, professional huntsman for the Sewickley Hunt (PA). / Tara Tibbetts photo

Brazos Valley Precious 2016, an American foxhound, was crowned Grand Champion of the Southwest Hound Show on April 22, 2017. Precious is closely inbred; her sire and dam were littermates, Brazos Valley Mystic 2010 and Molly 2010, respectively. An unusual breeding practice for sure, and about which I was anxious to talk to breeder Sandy Dixon, MFH of the Brazos Valley Hounds (TX).

Both Mystic and Molly were hound show winners in Virginia, and their sire and dam were hound show winners. The four foxhounds comprising the first two generations from Precious account for eight grand championships at MFHA-sanctioned hound shows! And if you go back just one more generation, who appears in Precious’s pedigree (top and bottom, because her paternal and maternal grandparents are the same) but Potomac Jefferson 2005, the MFHA Centennial Grand Champion Foxhound...the king...the Clarke Gable of the North American foxhound world.

brazos valley mysticThree times Grand Champion and sire of Precious, Brazos Valley Mystic 2010 / Liz Callar photoPrecious’s sire Brazos Valley Mystic 2010 won the Grand Championship at the Southwest Hound Show for three consecutive years, and was Grand Champion at the Central States Hound Show in 2010. Mystic’s and Molly’s sire Brazos Valley Catfish 2006 also won three consecutive Grand Championships at the Southwest Hound Show. Mystic’s and Molly’s dam Brazos Valley Meadow 2006 was Grand Champion at Central States in 2013. Meadow was bred at the Potomac Hunt (MD) by huntsman Larry Pitts, drafted to and entered by Dixon at Brazos Valley. Meadow’s sire was the knockout handsome Potomac Jefferson.

Precious was bred much like European royalty—all in the family. But even more so. Breeders know that the results of inbreeding can be successful beyond one’s wildest dreams. Or a nightmare.

“People are going to wonder, what was she thinking?” Dixon admitted readily. Well, just as riders don’t plan for the occasional involuntary dismount, so Dixon didn’t plan on this involuntary mount.

brazos valley meadowPrecious's dam, Brazos Valley Meadow 2006, was Grand Champion at Central States in 2013 and a daughter of Potomac Jefferson 2005. / Greg Germann photo

“I was visiting Albert Poe and had my dog hounds and bi*ches separated in the trailer,” Dixon said. “I was feeding Molly separately since she was in season, and somehow Mystic got the job done.”

After initial uncertainty about what to do, Dixon decided to go ahead and whelp the litter, then decide. Fortunately, all the puppies turned out "perfectly normal,” she says. And Precious is “beautiful” as well. Precious was introduced to the pack late last season for a few hunts, and Dixon says she behaved like “any other puppy.” She’s confident that the litter will enter well this season. She also knows that luck rode with her on this one!

Fort Leavenworth Valor was judged Reserve Champion. Valor, a Crossbred hound, was Grand Champion of both the Southwest and the Central States Hound Show in 2015. All foxhound types—American, English, or Crossbreds—compete against each other in a single ring at Southwest. John Tabachka, professional huntsman at Sewickley Hunt (PA) judged this year’s show. Exhibitors included Brazos Valley Hounds, Fort Leavenworth Hunt (KS), and Independence Foxhounds (TX). Click for complete results.

Posted May 17, 2017

 

 

The Donegal Harriers at Beltrim Castle, County Tyrone

Hunt Reports

donegal harriers.mullinsDonegal Harriers president and honorary whipper-in Ger O’Riain, MFH and Dr. Lucinda Blakiston-Houston, honorary whipper-in and hostess of the meet at Beltrim Castle in County Tyrone  /   Noel Mullins photo.

The Donegal Harriers, formed in 1999, is a relatively new pack by Irish standards. It is also the first pack of registered harriers in County Donegal, the northernmost county in the west of Ireland, replacing the Strabane Foxhounds that hunted the country until 1977.

The pack was meeting in Gortin in the Owenkillew River Valley on the outskirts of Omagh, over the border in County Tyrone. Upon visiting, first impressions could easily lead to the conclusion that the only significant activities in this quiet, remote, rustic village was Mossey’s Bar, Pedlar’s Cafe, and a Farmer’s Market on a Monday! But scratching beneath the surface, there is a rare gem in Beltrim Castle, built in 1780.

The surrounding village was once a standalone community with its own flour mill, tannery, workhouse, hospital, sawmill, windmill, and brewery. Later, after the churches purchased and converted some of the properties, the Protestant minister ended up living in what was once the fever hospital, and the Catholic priest in the workhouse!
 
Ger O’Riain is president and MFH of the Donegal Harriers. Peter Mulrine and Donald Day are also Masters. The huntsman is Derek O’Donnell, assisted by whippers-in Ger O’Riain, Mark McGlinchey, Oliver Little, and Dr. Lucinda Blakiston-Houston.The owners of Beltrim Castle are Lucinda and her husband Richard Patrick Blakiston-Houston, a chartered surveyor who was awarded an OBE in the Queen's Honours List for Services to Natural and Built Heritage in Northern Ireland. The couple also run a sheep hill farm and a large dairy farm.

The countryside is dominated by the Sperrin Mountains, drumlins, and seven lakes known as kettle holes where huge blocks of ice melted, evidence of the Ice Age and the melt ten thousand years ago. The Dairadian gold mine in the Sperrin Mountains claims that it will yield 120,000 ounces a year for decades. The Owenkillew River is home of the protected freshwater pearl mussel, as well as trout and salmon running through Beltrim Estate.

Once in a while one comes across somebody who is truly inspirational. Dr Lucinda Blakiston-Houston is a science graduate from Leeds and Queens Universities, and a horsewoman and event rider since childhood. She takes after her mother Lady Miriam Hubbard, who hunted with the Badsworth Hounds in Yorkshire. More than a year ago Lucinda received dreadful news: a diagnosis that she had a tumour in her leg which would result in amputation. Anticipating the outcome, and to illustrate her positive test of will, she bought a side saddle before going into hospital, as she had no intention of giving up a pastime of a lifetime. In life you come to admire some people and respect others, but people like Lucinda are such inspirational role models to those who have similar challenges in life.

Lucinda’s background is in dressage, hunting, eventing, breeding, and producing  eventing horses like Beltrim Full Moon and Beltrim Sweet Clover, horses which she competed to one star level and which are now ridden in competition by National riders Trevor and Steven Smith. She is also active in Strule Riding Club and Glens Bridle Group who are trying to join up five villages in the Sperrin Mountains through a connecting bridle-way to increase equestrian tourism in the area under the banner, Join Up. The estate was a hive of activity over the weekend of the hunt as Lucinda was celebrating her sixtieth birthday, and her son Michael his eighteenth. Lucinda was one of the first mounted, along with sons Michael and Harry, the latter having ridden across Mongolia.

Donegal Harriers Joint-Master Ger O’Riain is certainly multi-talented, as he is also whipper-in and sometimes Field Master. He runs a successful estate agency in Letterkenny in County Donegal, and always has a welcoming smile for everybody. He is not only enthusiastic about hunting and seeing the followers enjoying themselves, but is also a believer in giving something back, lending his expertise as a committee member of the Irish Masters of Harriers Association. The other Joint-Masters are Donald Day and Peter Mulrine. Day’s brother Des is a medical practitioner and hunts with the Fingal Harriers in Counties Dublin and Meath. Des was on his twenty-seven-year-old hunter called D-Day. Peter Mulrine, who was hunting with his son David, is one of the largest producers of apple juice in Ireland, planting an additional 180,000 apple trees on his property just last year. The Joint-Masters are hands-on in managing this large hunting country. They work with a group of hard-working area managers who liaise with land owners to organise the hunt meets.

The pack of Welsh hounds, mainly David Davies bloodlines, are contracted from Oliver Little and his Dungannon Foot Foxhounds which Derek O’Donnell has hunted for the last six seasons. They were in pristine condition, with snow white coats—not easy to maintain with their long hair that matts easily. O’Donnell was hunting a sturdy, coloured cob that prefers to live out in the paddock instead of inside the stable.

Following by car was Lucinda’s brother Nicholas Hubbard, who, together with his son Theo, hunts fox and muntjac deer in Essex and Norfolk in the UK with a golden eagle. Another important member is Rosemary Fisher who is the hunt photographer, manages public relations, and keeps the hunt Facebook site up to date.

After refreshments prepared by Miranda Pratt, Poppy and Letitia Blakiston-Houston and Veronica McCrory, the huntsman took hounds to the first draw at the Avenue while the followers enjoyed an inviting series of cross country fences that are in every enclosure of the estate. Another draw off the Newtownstewart Avenue took them to the Lion  Neck. There was plenty more action at Church Hill where this fox stretched the field giving a good lead and ending at Stiff Hill. As hounds were taken across the road they found another fox that ran in a wide circle towards Gortin Village where he went to ground at the back of the National School. Brocks Glen Wood held again, and hounds raced away for a nice run that took fox and hounds up the steep face of Stiff Hill which has a drop of 150 feet, and on across the estate, but they lost him just short of the village. Benny Hill who rides for point-to-point jockey Johnny Creswell had his day curtailed as he walked back with his horse in one hand and a broken bit in the other, along with a suspected fractured wrist.

The huntsman was not finished, though the weather was by now miserable with driving wind and rain. Pea Park held, resulting in circular runs through the woods from Black Walk to the Fall Field. Showjumper Peter Smith’s  smashing grey hunter made a great shape over a fence off the main avenue as did farrier John McDaid, whose son Thomas is a farrier in Dubai.
 
As darkness closed in, the huntsman blew for home. It was time for the happy group of  Donegal Harrier followers to box their horses and settle in to the womderful hospitality at Beltrim Castle.

Posted May 16, 2017

Innocence and Expectation

Photo of the Week

monmouthshire nextgen.lucy clarke

Innocence and expectation, tenderly captured by Lucy Clarke, is what your editor sees in the expressions of these Monmouthshire foxhound puppies in southeastern Wales.

Baily’s tells us, “In 1695, Mr. Powell kept a pack of hounds that hunted anything. Mr. John “Squire” Lewis, Master from 1738–88, married Miss Powell, kept hounds at Llantilio, and hunted fox, hare, and otter. From 1788–1832, hounds hunted fox and hare. In 1832, Mr/ Lewis wished to give up keeping hounds, and Captain Stretton, then quartered at Brecon, volunteered to take them. Mr. Lewis presented him with the pack, which was installed in kennels near Abergavenny. Captain Stretton hunted hounds from 1832 to 1835. The Monmouthshire Hunt Club was established about 1835. The Hunt Club ceased to run the Hunt in 1945, since which time control has been vested in a Committee of farmers and representatives of the Hunt Club.”

The pack composed of English and English-Welsh crosses is the property of the Committee.