with Horse and Hound

Lauren R. Giannini

casanova tlj.sunrise small

Gone Away With Casanova Hunt

casanova tlj.sunrise smallHuntsman Tommy Lee Jones and the foxhounds of the Casanova Hunt, now disbanded. /  Richard Clay Photography

For the Casanova Hunt (VA), established in 1909 during the waning days of Theodore Roosevelt’s term as president, June 30, 2020 marks the end of the era. It’s a real heartbreaker. And a personal one.

It was an easy hack from the kennels at Weston to the Boarding House covert, so named half a century ago by Capt. Ian Benson, MFH and huntsman, because that covert harbored everything. It was often a quick cast and hounds were away.

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Point-to-Points: Rappahannock Back in the Race

races.genericLauren R. Giannini photo

In a reversal of fortune for the sport of jump racing, the Rappahannock Point-to-Point Races are once again back on the race schedule after a twelve-year absence with a brand new racecourse. Good news for race enthusiasts!

The revived Rappahannock hunt races, last run in 2008, are scheduled for Saturday, March 7, 2020, over a brand new steeplechase course at Larry Levy's Hill Farm, Route 522 North, just outside Culpeper, Virginia. What follows is a ”welcome-back” for Rappahannock’s return—Virginia’s season opener—as well as a kickoff to the upcoming hunt race season for all race goers. If you’re a hunt race official at your hunt, you might even find some new ideas from Rappahannock’s creative fee plans.

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ShelleyAlbert BrynMawr

Shelley O’Higgins: A “Can-Do” Ambassador for Hounds and Hunting

ShelleyAlbert BrynMawrShelley O'Higgins and Albert Poe evaluating foxhounds at Bryn Mawr.

Last July, Shelley O’Higgins, age sixty-two, lost her battle with cancer. She died as she lived—motivated by the heart and determination that characterized her passion for meeting every challenge. An avid foxhunter, she thrilled to the chase and encouraged new enthusiasts. Family and friends remember Shelley as a dedicated huntsman and an ambassador for the sport.

Shelley spent two decades of service as a professional huntsman. While at Bull Run Hunt (VA), she raced over fences for several seasons, making fifty starts in all. All nine of Shelley’s career wins took place aboard two outstanding timber horses, Woodstock Nation and Amberson Place. In 1980, five of her victories earned Shelley the title of Leading Lady Timber Rider on the Virginia Point-to-Point circuit.

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Huntsman Donald Philhower Is Recipient of the Ian Milne Award

philhower3Ian Milne Award winner Donald Philhower, huntsman, Millbrook Hunt (NY) with his pack of attentive and adoring hounds  /  Capturing Moments Photography

The MFHA’s Ian Milne Award is a serious tribute to accomplished huntsmen across North America. It is awarded periodically to a huntsman of sound character who has made outstanding contributions to the sport of foxhunting. Recipients of the Ian Milne Award have learned the hard lessons of the field and the kennels as well as in life, and they have learned to do it right.

This year, that honoree is Donald Philhower, huntsman for the Millbrook Hounds in New York State. Consider the namesake whom the award personifies.

Ian Milne was respected and liked by all. His hunt service began in England and continued until his last breath here in North America. He was a genuine friend and a generous mentor to aspiring and established huntsmen. He was a gentleman, honest as the day is long, and he lived for hounds and hunting.

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Shelby Bonnie and Foxhunting Are Tightly Connected

zimmerman.bonnie.ryan.piedmontPiedmont Masters Shelby Bonnie (center), Tad Zimmerman (left), and Gregg Ryan (right ) /  Douglas Lees photo

Shelby Bonnie has ridden to hounds most of his life, especially with the Piedmont Fox Hounds (VA), known worldwide for fast runs and plentiful jumping. The pace is swift and the fences are stout.

Bonnie divides his time between his home in San Francisco, California and his Oakley Farm in Upperville, Virginia, home of the Upperville Horse Show grounds and the Piedmont Point-to-Point Races. Bonnie spent quality time during his formative years at Oakley in the company of his grandmother, Theodora A. Randolph, legendary Piedmont Master. Even after Mrs. Randolph stopped riding, she continued to run the farm and the hunt until her passing in 1996 at the age of ninety.

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Codie Hayes and Her Hounds: A Love Story

codie hayes and needy.gianniniAt age 12, Codie Hayes showed Rose Tree Needy to the Grand Championship at the 2004 Virginia Foxhound Show, the first time ever for a Penn-Marydel. / Lauren Giannini photoFrom the moment Codie Jane Hayes became aware of the world around her, she took to hounds. She progressed from crawling to toddling among the pack of Penn-Marydel foxhounds bred and hunted by her grandfather Jody Murtagh, Jr., ex-MFH. She was a wunderkind, totally at home with hounds and crazy about them. From the way hounds take to her, she was born with a gift—that coveted invisible thread connecting her to hounds wherever she goes.  

In August 2014, Codie, twenty-two, became the professional huntsman for the Golden’s Bridge Hounds in North Salem, New York. This position at any hunt entails huge responsibilities, but after a glimpse into how she spent her childhood and teen years, there’s no doubt that she has been training to be huntsman since she came into the world.

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Warrenton Hunt: 125 Years through Leadership and Landowner Relations

warrenton1.125th.lees125th anniversary joint meet for both the Warrenton and the Deep Run Hunts (VA). Front, l-r: Warrenton huntsman Matt van der Woude and Deep Run huntsman Richard Roberts / Douglas Lees photo

Celebration of any centennial is not just a major milestone, it is an achievement in survival. This season Warrenton Hunt marked 125 years of sporting tradition and, making this anniversary even more special, the future of this American pack of foxhounds looks rosy. Leadership and landowner relations are two key elements, according to Rick Laimbeer, who returned to the Mastership after a brief hiatus. He had only good things to say about Warrenton’s newly minted Joint-Masters Celeste Vella and Kim Nash, along with discussing how the board has been infused with fresh energy and vigor.

The Masters
“Celeste Vella and Kim Nash are both extremely bright and well-organized,” said Laimbeer. “Celeste is an attorney. She’s a very clear thinker, personable and well-liked, and a good rider. She has a daughter who is also an excellent young rider. They are vital to the whole junior connection. Celeste is also very talented in the business-sense and has an extremely artistic flair; she has great taste and does all the decorating for all of our functions.

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Gathering of First Flight juniors before their mock hunt moved off.

Juniors Meet in Pennsylvania for 2010 Junior North American Field Hunter Championships

Gathering of First Flight juniors before their mock hunt moved off.
Gathering of First Flight juniors before their mock hunt moved off.
Lauren Giannini photo

For their first seven years, the Junior North American Field Hunter Championships took place in Virginia, mostly at Old Whitewood, part of Orange County's country in The Plains. However, after Alex Matz won the First Flight (12-and-Under) championship in 2009, the notion of staging the next finals in Mr. Stewart's Cheshire country came to fruition. Blue Ridge Hunt's David Pawlak partnered with the indubitable Paris to ace the individual test in the First Flight and claim their second consecutive 13-18 championship. Makayla Benjamin (Loudoun West) and Butterfly Painting went home with the reserve tri-color.

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