with Horse and Hound

Gretchen Pelham, MFH

coyote, foxhound and huntsman in the shadow of the Smoky Mountains

Didn’t Know Old Ariat Could Run That Fast!

Photographer Gretchen Pelham was simply photographing a beautiful scene of huntsman Ryan Johnsey standing by the cornfield with the Smoky Mountains in the background. She had no idea she had caught a hunting drama!

coyote, foxhound and huntsman in the shadow of the Smoky Mountains

Limestone, Tennessee, on the banks of the Nolichucky River (translation: “the River of Death”) under the shadow of the Smoky Mountains. It was the first staff hunt of the season. I had picked up a few puppies and our ancient hound Ariat hanging out at the trailers and put them in a section of corn that I knew was close to the pack, still searching for game. Both puppies came right back out of the corn but Ariat started boo-hooing on a line. The pack soon joined her and off they went.

About an hour later I was sitting on a hill on my horse, listening to the pack circle and roar by me again, and all I did was take a burst of photos of Ryan Johnsey, MFH, our huntsman, with the Smoky Mountains in the background. That’s it. I saw Ryan and the mountains through the lens. Nothing else.

Read More
epp and gro allison howell

Grosvenor’s Hill

epp and gro allison howellEpp Wilson, MFH, Belle Meade Hunt and Grosvenor Merle-Smith, MFH, Tennessee Valley Hunt are two men who create sport wherever they go. / Allison Howell photo

In January of 2010, Tennessee Valley Hunt had a three-day joint meet with the Belle Meade Hunt down in Georgia. Belle Meade’s MFH and Huntsman, Epp Wilson, had last hunted with TVH’s MFH Grosvenor Merle-Smith when Gro was huntsman for the Bull Run Hunt in Virginia several years earlier. They had what Epp described as an “epic” hunt chasing fox. The two huntsmen had finally organized a recap of that memorable hunt, and the expectations of both men were very high for the weekend.  

Twelve of us Tennesseans trekked south to Georgia just west of Augusta. Included were Grosvenor, his wife Rosie Merle-Smith, MFH, and our TVH huntsman Beth Blackwell who brought about eleven couple of Penn-Marydels.

Read More
tvh coyote2

Tennessee Valley Hunt Ponies Rock!

tvh coyote2Pony Field meets coyote / Gretchen Pelham photo

I was standing on the line with my helmet off, pointing into the woods after the coyote. The lead hound, Ariat (a black and tan Penn-Marydel), came up the little rise and opened when she hit the line true. The rest of the pack was with her and off they went. Only a few seconds later, huntsman Ryan Johnsey flew past us over the coop next to our gate.

I was leading what I dubbed the Pony Field at our cub hunt at Tennessee Valley Hunt’s Big Valley fixture. I had only two other members in my field, but all three of us were on ponies. One of the girls was a junior, and the other had turned eighteen only a few months earlier.

I decided to stay out of the woods and follow the lake’s edge since the coyote had been circling around the whole day. My junior asked, “Is the coyote circling because this is his home territory? Because if he was just passing through then he would have run straight out of country, right?” Wow. The girls have been listening to me jabber on about hunting!

Read More
gretchen pelham.jenbnifer calderwood

When Photographer, Horse, and Camera Go Head Over Tail

gretchen pelham.jenbnifer calderwoodFoxhunting photographer Gretchen Pelham / Jennnifer Calderwood photo

Gretchen Pelham’s photos have been published in numerous magazines, in Foxhunting Life, and in our annual Foxhunting Life Calendar. After telling her I was impressed that she could juggle reins, hunt whip, and camera, she said that when she rides her own horse, she uses double reins! But, she said, the whip is useful. When taking pictures, she puts it under her leg, horn up, and hooks the reins over it. That way, she can use both hands on the camera! [Ed.]

I don’t have a picture of my whopper of a cropper in the hunt field, mainly because I was the one taking the pictures. I always hunt with my Canon 20D equipped with a 300mm zoom lens shoved down the front of my hunt coat. When I see a moment worthy of a shot I put the reins in one hand, drag the camera out, and start shooting.

 Sometimes I have plenty of time to shove the camera back down my coat before my Field Master takes off, but mostly I’ve learned to shove it down with one hand while breaking into a gallop. The coat really holds the big camera steady, and I can jump anything without fear of the camera coming out and clocking me on the chin.

Read More