Fox Hunting Life with Horse and Hound

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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.

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As we approach the 2017/2018 season, Foxhunting Life makes its annual report on the recent moves of eight huntsmen across the North American hunting countries.

hughjulierobards.cropped.cancelliRetiring huntsman Hugh Robards, wife and first whipper-in Julie, and the foxhounds of the Middleburg Hunt / Chris Cancelli photo

Round I:
Hugh Robards’ decision to hang up his hunting horn after fifty-five seasons in hunt service got Round One underway. Fully half of those seasons, and certainly the most visible, Robards spent in Ireland’s challenging ditch-and-bank country as huntsman for the County Limerick Foxhounds. There, he provided world-class sport for Master Lord Daresbury (whom he succeeded as huntsman), the hard riding members, and a constant stream of hunting visitors from around the globe.

For the last three seasons, Robards has carried the horn for the Middleburg Hunt (VA). As difficult as his personal retirement decision must have been, the Middleburg Masters and members paid Robards such a stirring tribute at their Hunt Ball that he had to have felt the sincere respect and affection in which he was held, notwithstanding his short tenure there. The members made certain that the ball revolved about him with mounted photographs of his career, the showing of a specially produced video, and speeches—sincere and well-earned, to recognize an illustrious career.

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Buffalo rideAs a part of Opening Meet Weekend 2016, Riders in formal attire participate in a tribute at the Buffalo Soldiers monument. Front, l-r: Infantry Major Jeroen van Rantwijk of the Royal Netherlands Army, who is attending the Command and General Staff College, and Honorary huntsman Dr. Steven Thomas.

The Fort Leavenworth Hunt (KS) put together an Opening Meet Weekend attracting foxhunters from ten states and featuring the hunt’s unique place in our nation’s history. One hundred mounted riders and fifty car-toppers participated in a three-day program that included a historic ride on the 5,600-acre post, Opening Meet, Military Hunt Ball, wreath laying ceremony at the Buffalo Soldiers monument, and guided tours. The events were led by both military and civilian personnel, as appropriate.

Attending guests included current Masters from Bijou Springs Hunt (CO), Bridlespur Hunt (MO), North Hills Hunt (NE) as well as members from other hunts hailing from Alabama, California, Colorado, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, Nebraska, Iowa, South Carolina, and Virginia.

Built in 1827, Fort Leavenworth is the oldest active United States Army post west of Washington, D.C. The fort is also the oldest permanent settlement in Kansas. Historically, Fort Leavenworth has been known as the Army’s intellectual center. During the country's westward expansion, Fort Leavenworth was a forward destination for thousands of soldiers, surveyors, immigrants, American Indians, preachers and settlers who passed through. The fort was the eastern terminus of the Santa Fe and Oregon Trails, and the weekend events were aimed at exposing visitors to much of the post's history.

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dr. steven thomas on RomulusDr. Steven Thomas, huntsman, Fort Leavenworth Hunt, on Romulus

His day job is demanding, and he’s never hunted hounds before, but Dr. Steven Thomas has been preparing for his new responsibility as huntsman of the Fort Leavenworth Hunt (KS) since childhood.

“Time management will be the biggest problem I’ll face,” Thomas acknowledged. “We’ll need a lot of volunteers,” he adds. But he has admiration for his fellow hunt members, the foxhounds in kennels, and the distinguished history of the Fort Leavenworth Hunt. He’s definitely looking forward to hunting hounds this season.

Thomas grew up riding Western, and, as a boy, coon hunted with his grandfather who ran his own hounds. He never rode without a pommel in front of him until he hooked up with the late Tommy Jackson, huntsman at the Mission Valley Hunt in Kansas.

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fort leavenworth vixenFort Leavenworth Vixen, Grand Champion of Show, handled by Stephanie Wilcox Carter, MFH and huntsman. Judge Vincent Tartaglia is standing (middle). /  Angela Fain photo

Last year was the boys’ year. This year the Crossbred female, Fort Leavenworth Vixen 2013, evened the score with her littermate Valor by winning the Grand Championship at the Central States Hound Show.

Vixen is a speckled, mostly white tricolor by Brazos Valley Baxter ‘08 out of Fort Leavenworth Piper ‘07. American and Crossbred bloodlines are predominantly from Fort Leavenworth Hunt (KS), Brazos Valley Hounds (TX), and the Piedmont Fox Hounds (VA). The most recent contribution of pure English blood to this lovely Crossbred was from the Arapahoe Hunt kennels (CO), three generations back.

Stephanie Wilcox Carter, MFH and huntsman of the Fort Leavenworth pack describes Vixen as conformationally correct, happy, and unflappable.

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