Fox Hunting Life with Horse and Hound

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Judge to De Blasio: Hold Your Horses

nodh.klmIt’s been over a year since we last reported on New York Mayor Bill de Blasio’s continuing campaign to rid the city of its iconic carriage horses. In my view, the carriages horses play a romantic and historic counterpoint to the powerful, bustling, modern city. Foxhunting Life has been reporting to you on de Blasio’s machinations in this silly war, financed and urged on by animal rights activists, since 2014.

So far, de Blasio’s efforts have been thwarted. But working on the principle—if you can’t beat ’em, just keep nibbling away—the city recently proposed to enact new Department of Transportation rules moving the horses and carriages off the city streets to designated spots inside Central Park. Only in the Park would they be allowed to pick up and drop off customers.

How to Blow the Hunting Horn

kohler hunting hornSurely, one of the thrills of the foxhunting field is the sound of the huntsman’s horn. When huntsman and hounds are out of sight, the horn keeps the knowledgeable foxhunter informed as to the progress of the hunt.

When the huntsman doubles it in covert, that’s a good time to check your girth. When you hear the Gone Away, you watch your Field Master and anticipate that moment when the saddle tosses you standing in your stirrups and dancing to that seductive three-beat rhythm. The knowledgeable foxhunter can distinguish when the huntsman is blowing Gone to Ground to celebrate a successful conclusion, or simply collecting hounds after a loss. But have you ever tried to blow the thing yourself? Not easy!

Owney

owney1

The Border Terrier is a familiar breed to foxhunters, especially in the sheep farming districts of England and Scotland. They were bred on the English-Scottish Border to run with the foxhound packs. When the fox went to ground the Border Terrier would go in and bark so the men knew where to dig. But did you know that a Border Terrier named Owney was the first nationwide mascot of the United States Postal Service? Owney reigned for nine years, from 1887 to mid-1897, traveling over 140,000 miles throughout the forty-eight states and around the world.

Owney belonged to a clerk at the Albany post office who often brought the dog to work. He seemed to love the smell of mail bags and slept on them whenever he was there. The clerk eventually quit the post office, but knowing that the dog seemed happiest with the mail bags, he left him beind. The postal employees in Albany soon discovered that Owney didn’t want to leave the bags when they were loaded onto the trains, so he was allowed to travel with them.

Statistics Suggest England’s Hunting Act “Lies In Tatters”

fitzwilliam hunt milton hall 1Nov17 021Falconers and huntsmen at British hunts attempt to hew to an unsatisfactory act of Parliament. /  Nico Morgan photo

Statistics show that the Hunting Act of 2004 “lies in tatters” and should be re-examined by Government for being “too complex,” according to hunting advocates.

Less than half the cases prosecuted under the Hunting Act resulted in convictions in 2017, while the overall national conviction rate for all other matters in both magistrate’s court and Crown Court averaged between eighty and eighty-five percent. For prosecutions in 2018, the average conviction rate under the Hunting Act so far stands at forty percent. These conviction rates are the lowest since the Act came into force in 2005, falling from a high of just fifty-four percent in 2016.

Wearing Spurs Safely

lower leg front viewFor safety, spur strap buckle is centered on the ankle with the free end of strap pointed to the outside.When you are wearing spurs, where does the buckle of your spur strap fall? As the result of the concerned suggestion of James Wofford, Olympic veteran and articulate three-day coach, Foxhunting Life has changed its recommendation for the proper way to wear spurs. (Hunting Attire, Tack, and Appointments under the Resources drop-down menu on our website).

Wofford writes: “I (and others, George Morris, for one) want the buckle exactly centered on the rider’s ankle, thus the least likely to catch the branch of the stirrup in the event of a fall. For your consideration, I enclose photos of what I refer to as THE Lower Leg Position, meaning, in my opinion, correct in absolutely every aspect.”

Foxhunts Exploit New Technology

tax map captureA typical county tax map overlayed on Google Maps. Street names and route numbers are shown and parcel numbers may also be displayed for owner identification.

Late in the Twentieth Century, advances in radio communications infiltrated the traditional sport of foxhunting, whether welcomed by all foxhunters or not. Today, hand-held radios and cell phones are as much a part of most hunt staffs’ kit as the horn and the whip.

More recently, online Tax maps and Google Maps, two Twenty-First Century high tech developments, are being used to assist Masters and staff in better organizing their hunting country. Epp Wilson, MFH and huntsman of the Belle Meade Hunt (GA) and his members take advantage of the technology to assist in landowner relations and improving the sport. First, let’s consider what the technology offers, then how Wilson uses it.

What’s In a Word That Begins With Rat?

nmfguitar.ratcatcherAs the informal autumn foxhunting season approaches, it’s time to examine our horses’ tack for neatness and safety—bridles, reins, billet straps, girth buckles, stirrup leathers—and, of course, our informal hunting attire called ratcatcher. Say what?

Some years ago, Carol Riggs, honorary whipper-in for the Red Mountain Foxhounds (NC), asked us, “Where did the term ‘ratcatcher’ come from?” For the answer we turned to our Panel of Experts.