Fox Hunting Life with Horse and Hound

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The Legitimate Sport of Drag Hunting

norman.karen.farnleyKaren L. Myers photoThe sport of drag hunting started as a competitive race in early seventeenth century England, developed into a fast dash over intimidating fences in early twentieth century North America, and evolved in more recent years into an artistic attempt to simulate live hunting.

Since foxhound packs that run a drag scent—either exclusively or periodically—account for about seventeen percent of all MFHA-Registered hunts in North America, we’re devoting much of this issue to a comprehensive view of the sport and its history, with observations, comments, and recommendations from some of today’s best practitioners.

Bay Cockburn, ex-MFH, Race Rider, Huntsman

bay cockburn.leesDouglas Lees photoBay Cockburn, ex-MFH, hard-riding huntsman, and former winning steeplechase jockey and trainer, died of complications from melanoma on December 25, 2013.

Confined to a wheelchair for the last fifteen years of his life as the result of a riding accident, Bay was an aggressive race rider and had been referred to as the Evel Knievel of all huntsmen. He represented the epitome of invincibility in the saddle until one fateful day, while exercising a hunter over a straightforward coop that he had jumped countless times, he fell and was left paralyzed from the chest down.

He stayed in the game as best he could, training steeplechase horses, and despite the wheelchair, he continued to live the only way he knew how: full speed forward. I saw him at the races one day propelling his motorized chair, rocking perilously over the lumpy ground across a hillside until it finally toppled over. Friends rushed to right him and rearrange him in his chair, and he continued his hurried progress to get a glimpse of his horse at the next fence. Just another of many falls to ignore. Bay maintained his training license and remained active through 2013.

Bay rode in sanctioned races and point-to-points from 1991 to 1997 with twelve sanctioned wins to his credit. I saw him steal a race down the stretch at the Blue Ridge Hunt Point-to-Point one year. He was lying second trying to overtake the leader. He anticipated just when the jock in first place would turn around to check on him. His body went quiet as if he had resigned himself to second place. The jock in front checked on Bay, was satisfied he had the race won, turned back to the wire and went to sleep. Bay got into his horse like a whirling dervish and passed his victim just before the wire.

Not Stupid; Just Misled

nodh.klmA recent poll by the Opinion Research Corporation revealed that seventy-one percent of Americans believe that the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) is an umbrella organization for local humane societies across the country. They’re wrong.

Further, sixty-eight percent believe that donations made to HSUS help to fund these humane shelters. They’re ninety-nine percent wrong.

HSUS, according to IRS filings, gives one percent of their budget to animal shelters, according to JoAnn Alumbaugh’s article in Dairy Herd Network.

Are all these people wrong because they are stupid, or are they being misled?

The Whipper-In Revealed

2012 11 23cheshire-0172Stephanie Boyer, professional whipper-in, Mr. Stewart’s Cheshire Foxhounds (PA): “I am the huntsman’s eyes and ears, and I have to be honest with him at all times concerning what I see, whether he wants to hear it or not!” / Jim Graham photoYou may have noticed that the whipper-in has been Foxhunting Life’s theme this week. We field members watch these heroic figures, intent in their mission, standing in the irons, galloping on, claiming their “right-of-way” when passing the field, but what do they actually do?

For the answer to this question, read “The Whipper-In Is the Huntsman’s Right Hand” below.

The article “Whipper-In: What’s in a Name?” compares the differing agendas of the professional versus the honorary whipper-in and examines the best use of the whip they carry. “The Galloping Whip” by Brooksby is a poetic tribute to Charles Isaac, a nineteenth century whipper-in with the Pytchley (UK).

For anyone with aspirations to whipping-in one day, a particularly useful book devoted to the subject is Whipper-In by Dennis Foster, Executive Director of the MFHA. Indeed, it’s a good read for anyone interested in how the whipper-in, huntsman, and hounds work together in the field.

According to Peter Beckford, the whipper-in can be the decisive ingredient in turning a mediocre hunting day into a brilliant one. Here’s what he had to say in his classic, ageless 1781 treatise, Thoughts on Hunting.

WANTED: Opening Meet Photos!

norman.chance.karen mIt 's time to change the photos in our Foxhunting Life banner slide show (above), and with the formal season starting we’d like to post a collection of all Opening Meet photos in our new banner.

Horses, hounds, blessing ceremonies—we posted some beautiful photos last season. Send your photo prospects directly to me at Be sure to include the photographer’s name so we can credit him or her along with the hunt’s name.

As you can see from our banner, we need horizontal images or images that can be cropped to the horizontal. In other words, we can’t use verticals!

Hint to photographers: look for the action!

Posted October 27, 2013 Save