Fox Hunting Life with Horse and Hound

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Matthew Cook Is New Farmington Huntsman

matthew cook2.cathy summers“My first knowledge of foxes began with hating them,” said Matthew Cook with a chuckle. "Working as a gamekeeper they were a pest.” / Cathy Summers photo“New” is hardly the word to use when writing about the sport of foxhunting in general, and even harder to use with a club as dedicated to tradition as central Virginia’s Farmington Hunt Club. Change is always a challenge! But our new huntsman Matthew Cook has been changing things all around since he arrived in Free Union three years ago—raising a new level of hunting sport with a growing list of firsts.

Cook entered Farmington hounds in the Virginia Hound Show in May, 2014 for the first time; he took a carefully picked few hounds to meet prospective foxhunting juniors at the local 4H club last spring, and he accompanied his daughter Pippa along with a group of Farmington juniors to compete for the first time ever at the finals of the Junior North American Field hunting championship in Lexington, Kentucky just last October. Most recently, he prepared Farmington hounds to compete in a foxhound performance trial at the Belle Meade Hunt in Thomson, Georgia in January 2017.

Meet David Twiggs: Soon To Be Executive Director of the MFHA

david and ashley twiggsDavid and Ashley Twiggs

“It’s not often that one’s business and personal passions come together into a single opportunity,” says David Twiggs, the man selected to replace Dennis Foster as the new Executive Director of the MFHA. Dennis will retire on April 1, 2017.

David Twiggs’ business career has flowered from a passion for the successful integration of sporting activities into rural economies and, with an eye for conservation, developing them into widely recognized destinations and living space. He is currently Chief Operating Officer of the 26,000-acre Hot Springs Village in Arkansas, the largest planned sporting community in the country.

Spencer Allen Is the New Huntsman at Live Oak

spencer allen crop smallHuntsman Spencer Allen / Douglas Lees photo

Huntsman Spencer Allen has gone through a rocky time in the past couple of years. He’s been forced to consider other options for his future, but he knows in his heart what he loves the most—working with and hunting foxhounds. And this is why he’s so happy to be in Monticello, Florida at Marty and Daphne Wood’s unparalleled establishment as huntsman for the Live Oak Hounds.

After serving six years in the Marine Corps, including a tour in Iraq, Allen began as an amateur whipper-in at the Bull Run Hunt (VA). Two seasons later he turned professional and moved to the Piedmont Fox Hounds (VA), serving four seasons as first whipper-in to huntsman Richard Roberts. Allen found himself working with a talented and attractive whipper-in, Rachel Gray, who also happened to be the daughter of the previous huntsman, Butch Gray. Spencer and Rachel were married, and in 2010 Spencer was named huntsman at Piedmont. He hunted the Piedmont hounds for five seasons, showing excellent sport, but trouble followed.

Hounds Came First for Cheshire's Ivan Dowling

ivan dowlingHuntsman Ivan Dowling implemented a daring -- and successful -- hound breeding experiment for Mr. Stewart's Cheshire Foxhounds. / Jim Graham photo

"I’d spent several minutes trying to describe my job as huntsman to a friend" recalled Ivan Dowling, the forty-two-year-old recently retired huntsman for Mr. Stewart’s Cheshire Foxhounds (PA). “The friend looked at me and said, ‘Ivan, you mean you’re the guy on the place mat?’”

Dowling cringed a bit and smiled, “Yea, that’s me.”