with Horse and Hound

Book Review by Martha A. Woodham

the ride of my life.clayton

The Ride of My Life: Memoirs of a Sporting Editor

the ride of my life.claytonThe Ride of My Life: Memoirs of a Sporting Editor by Michael Clayton, Merlin Unwin Books, $30Before his retirement, author Michael Clayton probably had the best job in the world—editor of Horse & Hound magazine in Great Britain. He led the magazine for more than two decades—from hunting’s heyday through the bad times, when laws were passed to prevent hounds from chasing a fox. Now Clayton has given fellow foxhunters a chance to share his adventures in his memoir, The Ride of My Life: Memoirs of a Sporting Editor. And we are lucky to get to go along for the ride.

Clayton writes that he once read that a happy adult is one who feels he made his childhood dreams come true. An only child, his youth was overshadowed by World War II, and he remembers nights dashing to the family air-raid shelter at the foot of the garden. “If this sounds grim,” he writes, “it was not. We were generally safer in Bournemouth than those living in London.…”

But horses beckoned. When he was seven, Clayton, an only child, announced that he wanted to learn to ride, and to his surprise, his parents agreed instead of saying wait until after the war. The Longham Riding Stables, a bit run-down and shabby, were just a thirty-minute bike ride from his home and were “my first gate-way to horsemanship and the hunting field.”

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foxhunting with meadow brook.tabler

The Meadow Brook Hunt Was More About People Than Hounds

Book Review by Martha A. Woodham

foxhunting with meadow brook.tablerFoxhunting with Meadow Brook, Judith Tabler, The Derrydale Press, 2016, 312 pages, available from Amazon.“Foxhunting with Meadow Brook on Long Island, New York, was always about more than the fox, the hounds, or the horses. Meadow Brook was about its people—some powerful, some idle, many wealthy—and their shared joy in galloping across beautiful country, only minutes outside New York City.”

This quote from the dust jacket blurb on Judith Tabler’s Foxhunting with Meadow Brook sums up her book well—except for one thing. Foxhunting with Meadow Brook Hunt Club in the early days was also about the jumping—the bigger the jumps, the better.  Many members—high-powered businessmen from New York—were highly competitive, and every meet was a contest that, sadly, did not always end well. Over the decades Meadow Brook lost at least four members to dangerous riding.

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Foxhunting In the Streets of Mayfair, And Other International Issues

Book Review by Martha A. Woodham

fox.gardnerFox, Anthony Gardner, Ardleevan Press, 2016, 313 pages. Available through Amazon.Set in a dystopian future, Fox by Anthony Gardner is a bizarrely imaginative look at the topical but unrelated themes of high tech government intrusion, politicians running amok, pandemic disease, and I don’t know what else. Oh, yes, foxhunting, too, but I think it all means England had better lift the ban on foxhunting before things really get out of hand.

Gardner, an Irish author and journalist based in London, takes the reader on a cheeky romp through the English countryside as good guys and bad guys chase each other in search of…well, a lot of things.

A deadly disease, fox flu, is ravaging Europe and must be prevented from reaching Great Britain. Foxhunters like Frank Smith have been enlisted to kill all foxes, including those who have made English cities home. Frank, MFH and huntsman of the new Hyde Park Hunt, spends his early morning hours galloping after hounds down dark London streets in a new urban version of foxhunting.

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country pursuits.cormack

Country Pursuits: The Mellon Collections

country pursuits.cormackCountry Pursuits: British, American and French Sporting Art from the Mellon Collections in the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, by Malcolm Cormack, Published by the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in association with the University of Virginia Press, 2007, 474 pages, illustrated, $62.00What a debt we all owe the late philanthropist Paul Mellon, whose love of horses and horse sports was expressed through the fabulous art collections that he so generously shared with us.

The Eclipse Award-winning breeder saddled legendary Thoroughbreds Sea Hero, Arts and Letters, and Mill Reef, just to name a few. His first British art purchase, in 1936, was a painting of a racehorse, "Pumpkin with a Stable-lad" by George Stubbs, said to be his favorite painting by one of his favorite artists. Pumpkin won sixteen out of his twenty-four races at Newmarket turf in the late 1770s and was described as an excellent runner.

“It was my very first purchase of a painting,” Mellon recalled later, “and could be said to be the impetus toward my later, some might say gluttonous, forays into the sporting art field.”

That Stubbs painting was donated to his alma mater, Yale, but the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts was another lucky recipient of Mellon’s “gluttonous” obsession with sporting art. Mellon’s donations are explored in Country Pursuits: British, American and French Sporting Art from the Mellon Collections in the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts by Malcom Cormack. Cormack was the Paul Mellon Curator at the VMFA in 1991 until his retirement in 2004. He also once served as the Curator of Paintings at the Yale Center of British Art established by Mellon.

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jane king2

A Fox in the Family

Take two gray fox cubs that need a home and one family of tender-hearted animal lovers. Put them together, and you’ve got a charming menagerie that includes horses, dogs, a grumpy cat, turtles, two little boys, frogs, mice and birds.

jane king2A Fox in the Family, Jane King, Xlibris LLC, illustrated, 96 pages, $22.49 (hardcover), $14.40 (softcover), available at Amazon and Barnes and NobleA Fox in the Family is Jane King’s reminiscences about life with a smart, funny, wild animal with loads of personality. Jane and her husband Jim were known for rescuing and rehabbing animals on their farm in Indiana. So when a neighbor salvaging an old barn discovered a family of foxes under the dilapidated structure, he knew whom to call.

The Kings went home with two cubs, promptly named Frisky and Friendly by their young sons. Unfortunately, Friendly did not make it, succumbing to a mysterious malady, but Frisky went on to become a member of the family, accepted by everyone except the cat. Frisky and his best friend, the terrier, Bandit, managed to get into all kinds of trouble, including breaking their legs at the same time in a dust-up with the horses. Their favorite playtime activity was a rousing game of snatch-the-tennis-ball, and they spent hours playing before collapsing together on the sofa to nap.Their other favorite sleeping place was under the covers with the boys.

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prophet of paradise

Prophet of Paradise

prophet of paradiseProphet of Paradise, J. Harris Anderson, Blue Cardinal Press, 2013, paper, 483 pages, $22.95With foxhunting’s rites and traditions, its vestments and rich history, and even its own patron saint, it was but a short leap for author J. Harris Anderson to christen the chase as a religion in “The Prophet of Paradise,” his novel about sects and sex in the Virginia Hunt Country.

Ryman McKendrick, Joint-Master of Montfair Hunt, takes a tumble when his horse is startled by a large buck with something glowing in its rack. McKendrick is convinced that the illuminated object is a cross, and when the Montfair begins to see the best foxhunting—and sex—in Virginia, McKendrick is sure that he is the chosen one to spread the word about venery. He founds the Ancient and Venerable Church of Ars Venatica and is soon leading hunt members in prayer and preaching from “The Foxhunter’s Faith” before each meet.

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outrageous fortune

Outrageous Fortune

outrageous fortuneOutrageous Fortune: Growing Up at Leeds Castle, Anthony Russell, St. Martin’s Press, New York, 2013, 306 pages, Illustrated, $26.99Imagine having two grandmothers who both live in their own castles. Anthony Russell, a writer, musician, and composer in Los Angeles, comes from a family that served England’s kings and queens for five hundred years, which left them very, very wealthy…wealthy enough for his grandmums to purchase castles in England and Ireland.

Russell tells the story of a childhood at the highest levels of British aristocracy in Outrageous Fortune: Growing Up at Leeds Castle. His father, Lord Ampthill, was Prince Philip’s roommate at boarding school. Lord Ampthill also was known as “the Russell baby,” whose paternity and conception were at the heart of a sensational divorce case in the 1920s and a court challenge to his right to the title.

Lord Amptill’s mother (Lady Ampthill, she of the castle in Ireland) swore that he was the son of her husband, despite the fact that their marriage was never fully consummated. (It all had something to do with a bath sponge.)

Lady Ampthill (the author's grandmother) was a well-recognized figure hunting with the County Galway Foxhounds (the Blazers). She rode side saddle well into her later years, until suffering a fatal accident in the hunting field in 1976.

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Mr. Stewart’s Cheshire Foxhounds: A History

cheshire.bookScarlet on Scarlet: 100 Years of Hunting with Mr. Stewart’s Cheshire Foxhounds 1912-2012, Prue Draper Osborn, 278 pages, Illustrated, color, $100.00 (benefits The Cheshire Hunt Conservancy)

As many of our North American hunts reach their hundredth anniversary milestone, some have produced history books rich with photos and other memorabilia to tell their stories. One of the best is Scarlet on Scarlet: 100 Years of Hunting with Mr. Stewart’s Cheshire Foxhounds 1912-2012 by Prue Draper Osborn. This handsome coffee-table book is not only the history of the legendary hunt, but it’s also the story of the many families who have hunted with the Cheshire Foxhounds, often through three and four generations.

The history of Mr. Stewart’s Cheshire Foxhounds could be divided into three phases: its founding by Plunkett Stewart in 1912; its five-plus decades under the leadership of the late Nancy Penn Smith Hannum; and the latest and perhaps most controversial, the transformation from an all-English pack to a Crossbred pack.

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anjelica huston book

A Story Lately Told

anjelica huston bookA Story Lately Told: Coming of Age in Ireland, London and New York, Anjelica Huston, Scribner, 2013, 253 pp, ill., $25.00Anjelica Huston seemed to have it all—a famous and talented father whose wealth gave her an idyllic childhood in Ireland and whose many contacts exposed her to some of the world’s most exciting people; a beautiful mother; success as a model; fox hunting with the Galway Blazers. But her memoir, A Story Lately Told: Coming of Age in Ireland, London and New York, reveals the dark detours her life took after her parents separated and her thirty-nine-year-old mother was killed in a car crash.

Huston eventually followed her father, renowned director John Huston (Joint-MFH of the Galway Blazers), and her grandfather, actor Walter Huston, in finding success as an actress and a director. The American actress became the first third generation winner of an Academy Award, for her performance in the 1985 film, Prizzi's Honor.

But acting was not a path she originally wanted to take, she reveals in this memoir.  She adored her father, yet feared him, too, resisting his domineering attempts to push her into becoming an actress. Instead, she opted for a modeling career, knowing it would displease him. And she fell into a relationship at age eighteen with a brilliant but troubled fashion photographer twenty-four years her senior.

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The Hounds of Annwn Series: The Ways of Winter and King of the May

myers.waysofwinterPerkunas Press, 2013
Paperback from Amazon, e-book
from Amazon and the publisher
myers.kingof themayPerkunas Press, 2013
Paperback from Amazon, e-book
from Amazon and the publisher
Author and avid foxhunter Karen Myers continues the adventures of huntsman George Talbot Traherne of Virginia, who found himself inexplicably pulled into a realm of fae and immortals in her first novel, To Carry the Horn: The Hounds of Annwn.
Her second and third novels, The Ways of Winter and King of the May plunge George deeper into the lives of the fascinating characters who inhabit this mysterious otherworld, where it is not always clear who is friend and who is foe.  George discovers that he is related to the rulers of this ancient domain, which seems to have once paralleled that of humans. But he possesses godlike powers that not even the wisest of the fae with their magic and their charms fully understand.

Throughout all three novels, Myers weaves the myth of the Great Hunt and the Hounds of Annwn, which belong to the antlered god, Cernunnos. The hounds, which hunt stag and man, were bestowed by Cernunnos upon George's kinsman, Gwyn ap Nudd, the Prince of Annwn, and are the secret to the prince's power. Without the hounds, Gwyn loses all. George discovers magical skills of his own as he struggles to keep his hounds safe so that the Great Hunt on Nos Galan Gaeaf, or All Hallows’ Eve, can take place.

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