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!

Drop Your Hands

tom firrTom Firr, huntsman to the Quorn, nineteenth centuryTom Firr indulged in a very big bit
(Always in pictures he’s seen using it),
“Plenty of iron; you don’t need to use it.”
“Yes, Firr—quite right, but so many abuse it!”

A light-mouthed puller’s a difficult horse,
A short-cheeked bridle will suit him, of course;
A snaffle’s the bit for a horse that takes hold
(At least, it’s all right if the rider is bold).

The acme of bliss when you’re hunting the fox
Is riding a horse who will jump off his hocks;
While quite the worst feeling, and one to be banned,
Is a horse who will only jump off his fore-hand.

Goodall's Practice: A Huntsman's Guide

goodalls practiceThe highest praise that can be given to a huntsman is for a fool to say, ‘We had a great run and killed our fox; as for the huntsman, he might have been in bed!”   –Lord Henry Bentinck

This week we look at another legendary huntsman of the past, William Goodall, huntsman in the nineteenth century to the Duke of Rutland’s Belvoir foxhounds (UK).
Goodall’s methods greatly impressed Lord Henry Bentinck, one of the leading MFHs of the day. Captain Simon Clarke, MFH of the New Forest foxhounds (UK) tells us that Lord Henry hunted three horses a day, kept copious notes, compared the best of England’s huntsmen, and thought William Goodall to be the premier huntsman in England.

When in 1864 Lord Henry sold his famous hound pack, he wrote a letter to the purchaser, Mr. Henry Chaplin, describing William Goodall’s hunting methods. The information in the letter so impressed Mr. Chaplin that, some years after Lord Henry’s death, he had it published under the title, The Late Lord Henry Bentinck on Foxhounds: Goodall’s Practice.

"Goodall’s Practice,” says Captain Clarke, “is the best treatise on hunting hounds ever written.” The revered Master and hound breeder Isaac “Ikey” Bell, the single individual most responsible for the modern English foxhound, is said to have had Goodall’s Practice painted on the ceiling over his bathtub. If you watch while hunting this season, you may see and recognize some of these same practices being used by your own huntsman. Here’s an extract.

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.

To the Grey Hunter

paul brown.packandpaddockHere’s an excerpt from Tad Shepperd’s book of foxhunting and racing poems, Pack and Paddock, published by the Derrydale Press, New York, in 1938. Illustrated by Paul Brown, it was regarded by Derrydale founder Eugene Connett as one of his most handsome publications. Nine hundred-fifty copies were printed. The pages were gilt-edged on top and deckle-edged, untrimmed fore and bottom. The book was bound in red cloth with gilt lettering and boxed. Original price: $10.00.

Well did your sire know the feel
Of battling for the rail,
Of track dust flung from a driving heel,
Of thunder upon his tail!
Well did he know the cheering throng
That shivered the heaven's dome.
Well did he know the jockey's song,
In the desp'rate drive for home.
Well did he know the hail of mud,
The burn of the flaying goad.
For under his girth there pulsed the blood
Of the noble Roi Herode.

Aye, and well did your grandam know
The feel of the collar's brace,
The weight of the wagon, creaking, slow,
The tug of the leathern trace.
Wise your dam to the hazy sweep
Of the moorlands, lush and rich.
Well did she know the slide-and-leap
Of the Irish bank-and-ditch.
Wise to the horn's resounding skirl,
The hounds on the russet rogue.
Well did she know, "Hup-up, me gur-r-l!"
In a laughing Irish brogue.