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 Purebred and The Mutt

With permission, here is the first chapter of The Great Hound Match of 1905 by Martha Wolfe (Lyons Press). The Library of Virginia has selected Martha’s work as a potential Best Book of 2016 in the Non-Fiction category. Readers may cast their votes by clicking here.

higginson and cotesworth with houndsA. Henry Higginson, MFH, Middlesex Hunt, in derby and spats with huntsman Robert Cotesworth and his imported English foxhounds of the period. / Courtesy, National Sporting Library and Museum

Storytellers claim that there is really only one story in the world: “A Stranger Comes to Town.” In this case, two strangers came to two towns in Virginia bringing with them their separate entourages—private train loads of friends and their horses, trunks of tack, boots, formal and informal clothing, food and wine, servants and of course their hound dogs. Neither Middleburg nor Upperville, Virginia, had seen the likes since J. E. B. Stuart established his headquarters at the Beverage House (now the Red Fox Inn) in Middleburg during the Gettysburg Campaign. Alexander Henry Higginson of South Lincoln and Harry Worcester Smith of Grafton, Massachusetts had determined that the Loudoun Valley in Virginia’s pastoral Piedmont was the best place to prove the relative worth of their chosen foxhounds.

Taking a Toss

Another short story from the author’s Echoes of the Hunting Horn. Every foxhunter with warm blood will relate to the jumble of self-accusations tumbling through the author’s mind after getting tossed.

echoes of the hunting horn.lynch.whitmoreHounds are running hard for the past twenty minutes. Not a semblance of a check. The pace is terrific over a magnificent line of country with big sensible banks. One fairly-wide river, the honest variety, no slime or sponge-like edges; not a trace of wire anywhere. Horse never put a foot wrong since the Gone-Away . . . blowing somewhat now, though; last big wall took some negotiating. It seems to have thinned the already select field to a mere dozen. Thank Heaven for the down-hill gallop after that last stiff hill; horse's wind feels easier now. Out on the left, riders are heading for a gate. It seems a long way off, and this wall does not seem such a terrifying rasper. Come on, old Challenger, the wall will save time. Steady now, not so fast. Slower still, slower I say, Hup! Over! God bless us, oblivion.

Mr. Nappie’s Grey

This story, extracted from Trollope's The Eustace Diamonds, is populated by just about every character you ever met in the hunting field.

anthony trollope.spy.vanity fairAnthony Trollope by Spy in Vanity FairMounted on a bright-skinned, lively steed, with her cousin on one side and Lord George de Bruce Carruthers on the other, with all the hunting world of her own county around her, and a fox just found in Craigattan Gorse, what could the heart of woman desire more? This was to live. There was, however, just enough of fear to make the blood run quickly to her heart. "We'll be away at once now," said Lord George with utmost earnestness; "follow me close, but not too close. Just check your horse as he comes to his fences, and, if you can, see me over before you go at them. Now then, down the hill;—there's a gate at the corner, and a bridge over the water. We couldn't be better. By George! there they are,—all together. If they don't pull him down in the first two minutes, we shall have a run."

Lizzie understood most of it,—more at least than would nine out of ten young women who had never ridden a hunt before. She was to go wherever Lord George led her, and she was not to ride upon his heels. So much at least she understood,—and so much she was resolved to do. She would ride as fast as Lucinda Roanoke. That was her prevailing idea.

The Ride of My Life: Memoirs of a Sporting Editor

the ride of my life.claytonThe Ride of My Life: Memoirs of a Sporting Editor by Michael Clayton, Merlin Unwin Books, $30Before his retirement, author Michael Clayton probably had the best job in the world—editor of Horse & Hound magazine in Great Britain. He led the magazine for more than two decades—from hunting’s heyday through the bad times, when laws were passed to prevent hounds from chasing a fox. Now Clayton has given fellow foxhunters a chance to share his adventures in his memoir, The Ride of My Life: Memoirs of a Sporting Editor. And we are lucky to get to go along for the ride.

Clayton writes that he once read that a happy adult is one who feels he made his childhood dreams come true. An only child, his youth was overshadowed by World War II, and he remembers nights dashing to the family air-raid shelter at the foot of the garden. “If this sounds grim,” he writes, “it was not. We were generally safer in Bournemouth than those living in London.…”

But horses beckoned. When he was seven, Clayton, an only child, announced that he wanted to learn to ride, and to his surprise, his parents agreed instead of saying wait until after the war. The Longham Riding Stables, a bit run-down and shabby, were just a thirty-minute bike ride from his home and were “my first gate-way to horsemanship and the hunting field.”