Fox Hunting Life with Horse and Hound

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Here you will find reviews of, selections from, and commentaries concerning books, many of which don't even appear on Amazon's radar. But what goldmines for the literate foxhunter!

The Worst Hunt on Record

I’m wondering how many foxhunters will identify with this escapade. Your editor certainly does. Though, thankfully, in the two experiences I have in mind, the rascals were at least honest enough---indeed more than enthusiastic enough---to jump the fences!

echoes of the hunting horn.cropped.lynch.olive whitmoreIllustration by Olive Whitmore

I knew by the wag of his head that he was a bit-of-a-lad. When I mounted him he flung his bit-bars in truculent resentment. When I jogged off, his jaws took a vice-like hold of the bit, his head poked sideways and, if horses wore hats, his would have been very definitely "on the Kildare side." I soon discovered that it was a waste of energy to attempt to alter his head-position. His jaws were rigid, his neck inflexible, in fact, everything in front of the saddle seemed to be set in reinforced concrete. Reins are ornamental accoutrements on hobby-horses: mine were just as effective.

I had been told he was the heart and soul of a rascal, but as I have ridden, and occasionally fallen off, every conceivable brand of rascal, I felt I could forestall any equine acrobatics which he might have under consideration. His owner had given me the animal's whole character; that is, of course, assuming that there was a shred of it left to give to anyone; and I had gladly accepted the offer of a day's hunting, character or no character! Two stable companions had had a hard hunt the previous day, a third was lame and a fourth had a cough; so it was ride this old reprobate or nothing.

'Dimple,' A Memory of '94

pytchley hallThe Old Pytchley Hall

This poem, published in Baily’s in 1896, is not just timely (with Christmas and the New Year), but it links directly to contemporary subjects in two of our articles below: James Barclay’s "Sporting Tour" and "Remembering the Curre on Boxing Day." It’s a wistful poem, beginning with the  mystery of whence this wonderful hound named Dimple. The mystery is resolved at the end, but no hope of ever seeing her like again is imagined. Why? Because she comes from Wales, and the type of hound anointed as stylish and desirable by the elite English foxhunting establishment of the time would never even consider a different way.

However, the very fact that this poem was written demonstrates that some foxhunters of the time, indeed even the superlative Pytchley huntsman, Young Will Goodall,* yearned for something better. But change in the form of a direct challenge to the establishment wasn’t to come until the twentieth century, and even then the process was painful for all concerned. So, here’s what can be considered a poetic prelude to both the Modern English foxhound and the American-English Crossbred foxhound of today.

The Pytchley Hounds are running hard across the Badby Vale;
They fly like swallows on the wing, altho’ it blows a gale.
’Twould make an old man young, I swear, to see so brave a sight,
As scarlet flashes past, and gleams the Pytchley collar white.**

See You at Second Horses

barclay rives.book See You at Second Horses, Barclay Rives, Aterlerix Press, New York, 2014, Paperback, illustrated, 184 pages, $13.50, available at retail outlets including Horse Country Saddlery, Warrenton, VirginiaThe foxes! Oh, the foxes! When Barclay Rives undertook a marathon of foxhunting in 1999, when he went out with nine English hunts in ten days, it seemed like there was a fox popping out of every covert.

Rives, an honorary whipper-in for the Keswick and Bull Run Hunts (VA), writes about his English sporting adventure in See You at Second Horses, a delightful read that puts us galloping behind some great packs in the glory days before the infamous Hunting Act of 2004 banned hunting with hounds in the traditional manner in England and Wales.

Rives is an avid hunter who once hunted one hundred days a season, sometimes going out with Keswick in the morning and Bull Run in the afternoon. Saying he was gung-ho is an understatement. He jumped at the chance to join his friends Grosvenor and Rosie Merle-Smith to hunt with packs dating back to the 1700s: the Quorn (twice), the Cottesmore, the Fernie, and others, including a foot pack—the High Peak Harriers—after rabbits.

Images of Opening Meet

Here's a poetic kaleidoscope of Opening Meet images conjured up by Martha Drum the evening before, while braiding her horse and cleaning her tack.

martha drum2Opening Meet! Hounds assemble
Veterans chitchat, newbies tremble

Chilly wind, sky clear blue
Scent on frost, turning dew

Youngest rider nods and yawns
Oldest recalls many such dawns

Gents and ladies grin and greet
Ponies yank to reach and eat

Scarlet coats, mounts in braids
Flasks, in case courage fades

Some in perfect kit adorned
Others serviceably well-worn

Green horse wheels and tries to buck
Old horse naps beside the truck