Fox Hunting Life with Horse and Hound

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Meeting Martha, Part IV: A Very Grand Finale

Intrigued by a photo of a British foxhunter with smoldering eyes and apparent ice in her veins, and sensing a story, Leslie Wylie reached out to its subject, the Lady Martha Sitwell, in the hope she could arrange for an interview. The next thing she knew she had accepted Martha’s surprise invitation to come hunting with her in England (see “Meeting Martha, Part I: How I Got Invited to Foxhunt with British Royalty”; “Part II: Darling, You’re Mad!”; and “Part III, I Got Ledburied (and Liked It).” What follows is Part IV, the final episode of Wylie’s epic weekend.

martha1Martha Sitwell and Winston at Saturday's VWH/Cotswold joint meet. / All photos by Leslie Wylie

Do you still have skin on the inside of your thighs?
Firstly, thanks for your well-wishes regarding my busted-up face and bum elbow. Good news: I had my arm checked out by the physio and nothing is broken — just a bone bruise, it turns out.

Meeting Martha, Part III: I Got Ledburied (and Liked It)

Intrigued by a photo of a British foxhunter with smoldering eyes and apparent ice in her veins, and sensing a story, Leslie Wylie reached out to its subject, the Lady Martha Sitwell, in the hope she could arrange for an interview. The next thing she knew she had accepted Martha’s surprise invitation to come hunting with her in England (see “Part I: How I Got Invited to Foxhunt with British Royalty” and “Part II: Darling, You’re Mad!“). What follows is Part III of Wylie’s epic weekend.

martha sitwell3.1See the girl on the chestnut toward the left who is pointing her horse straight at a 10-foot tall stand of sticks? That's me. / Viki Ross photo (http:/www.vikirossphotography.co.uk)

Breakfast of Champions
“So, let me get this straight: This is your first time foxhunting in the UK and you’re going out with the Ledbury?”

Around the fourth or fifth time someone asks me this, accompanied by a snort of laughter, I begin to feel a pinch of concern. I grew up hunting and have jumped plenty of proper-sized fences in my life but… it’s been a while. The Ledbury is widely regarded as one of the formidable hunts in the world. Was I in over my head?

On the morning of the hunt Martha comes floating down the spiral staircase into Manor Farm’s kitchen looking like she’s just stepped out of an antique foxhunt painting. Smartly outfitted in a canary vest and those vintage balloon-thigh breeches that no woman has been able to pull off since Jackie O, she exclaims “Good morning, darling!” then leans in conspiratorially.

Meeting Martha, Part II: ‘Darling, You’re Mad!’

Intrigued by a photo of a British foxhunter with smoldering eyes and apparent ice in her veins, and sensing a story, Leslie Wylie reached out to its subject, the Lady Martha Sitwell, in hopes that she could arrange for an interview. The next thing she knew she had accepted Martha’s surprise invitation to come hunting with her in England (see Part I, “How I Got Invited to Foxhunt with British Royalty”). What follows is Part II of Wylie’s epic weekend.

martha sitwellviki rossPhoto by Viki Ross (www.vikirossphotography.co.uk)

A Grand Entrance
When the American guest-of-honor arrives to a dinner party over an hour late accompanied by a complete stranger from whom she has hitchhiked a ride, most people of a certain social stature wouldn’t be amused—and understandably so. But the Lady Martha Sitwell does not fall into the category of “most people.”

To rewind: The hosts of the next day's meeting of the Ledbury Foxhounds (UK), the Leekes, had generously invited Martha and me to stay the night at their Manor Farm in Tewkesbury, Gloucestershire, so we’d be on-site for hunting the next morning. I was coming in from London and, because I am logistically challenged, I caught the wrong train and dug the hole even deeper by getting off at the wrong station.

Meeting Martha, Part I: How I Got Invited to Foxhunt With British Royalty

leslie wylie.lady martha sitwell.equuspix"Who was this woman...who could manage such a cool, yet hot-blooded stare?" / Photo by EquusPix PhotographyIt all started a couple months ago when a friend posited the classic ice-breaker question, “If you could have lunch with anyone in the world, who would it be?”

Bypassing all sensible responses—the President, the Pope, Peyton Manning—I skipped straight to a personage whom I knew virtually nothing about: The Lady Martha Sitwell.

Ever since we ran this photograph of Martha in a 2013 Horse Nation story about sidesaddle foxhunting (“The Craic Heard Round the World“), I’ve been transfixed. Who was this woman who, despite being mud-splattered, mascara-smeared, and soaked to the bone by icy Irish rain, could manage such a simultaneously cool yet hot-blooded stare?