Fox Hunting Life with Horse and Hound

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Huntsmen On the Move: 2017

As we approach the 2017/2018 season, Foxhunting Life makes its annual report on the recent moves of eight huntsmen across the North American hunting countries.

hughjulierobards.cropped.cancelliRetiring huntsman Hugh Robards, wife and first whipper-in Julie, and the foxhounds of the Middleburg Hunt / Chris Cancelli photo

Round I:
Hugh Robards’ decision to hang up his hunting horn after fifty-five seasons in hunt service got Round One underway. Fully half of those seasons, and certainly the most visible, Robards spent in Ireland’s challenging ditch-and-bank country as huntsman for the County Limerick Foxhounds. There, he provided world-class sport for Master Lord Daresbury (whom he succeeded as huntsman), the hard riding members, and a constant stream of hunting visitors from around the globe.

For the last three seasons, Robards has carried the horn for the Middleburg Hunt (VA). As difficult as his personal retirement decision must have been, the Middleburg Masters and members paid Robards such a stirring tribute at their Hunt Ball that he had to have felt the sincere respect and affection in which he was held, notwithstanding his short tenure there. The members made certain that the ball revolved about him with mounted photographs of his career, the showing of a specially produced video, and speeches—sincere and well-earned, to recognize an illustrious career.

The Colorful Life of the Yellow Earl

yellow earlThe Earl and Countess Lonsdale Arriving From Barleythorpe, With Party for the Hunt Chases, 1893. Cuthbert Bradley (English, 1861-1943). National Sporting Library & Museum. (His livery, carriages, automobiles, and other accouterments were canary yellow for all occasions.)

On a lovely spring day in 1885, two gentlemen sat on their horses near the statue of Achilles by Richard Westmacott in London’s Hyde Park. The gentlemen were well acquainted. Hugh Cecil Lowther, the Fifth Earl of Lonsdale (1857-1944) and Sir George Chetwynd, (1849-1917) were both sportsmen and moved in similar circles. Both men were waiting to meet someone—Lillie Langtry. The famous actress had accidentally agreed to ride with both Hugh and George on the same morning. And in the absence of a graceful way of escaping the predicament, Lillie had simply stayed home.

Both men soon discussed their situation and were dismayed to find they were waiting for the same person. And in short order, both men argued, then came to blows for Lillie’s affections, despite the fact that both men were married, and it was widely known that Lillie was the mistress of the Prince of Wales. When their horses bolted from under them, the gentlemen continued their fistfight in the dust. It didn’t go well for Lonsdale, as Sir George managed to headlock Lonsdale before both men were separated—bloody and swearing. London was full of the news of the fight, and to add insult to injury, Queen Victoria summoned Lonsdale to personally express her displeasure with his conduct.

Melvin Poe Speaks

The late Melvin Poe remains a legendary American huntsman, and undoubtedly will for all time. From his earliest days, Melvin absorbed the ways of the forest and the habits of every wild creature.

From a new book, Foxhunters Speak (The Derrydale Press, 2017), here is one of fifty interviews conducted by an accomplished author highly experienced in the art of the interview. Mary Kalergis has traveled the country to learn how foxhunters acquired their passion. For books inscribed by the author, purchase directly.

GTPics 27Mary Kalergis photo

I was born in 1920, five miles down the road from where I live now in Hume, Virginia. There were ten of us in the family—five girls and five boys. My dad worked for a dollar a day. He had hounds when I was a little boy, and as soon as I got big enough to hunt, that was all I wanted to do. I loved to hunt skunks and possum at night when I was a schoolboy. We had no coons in those days. No beavers either. Those skins would have been worth a lot more than skunk or possum.

Stella Smith: Eighty-Five Years Following Hounds

stella smith at ninety.mullinsStella Smith celebrates her ninetieth birthday hunting with the Tara Harriers (IRE). Her son, Henry Smith (shown right) is Master and huntsman. /  Noel Mulliins photo

What does one do to celebrate a ninetieth birthday? Well some people probably go on a cruise, while a few may go on a religious pilgrimage, then others are just happy to be upright. But not Stella Smith. To her, age is just another number. So she went for a day’s hunting with the Tara Harriers, hunted by her son Henry. This was not just impulse, as Stella rides out most mornings on her family farm at Corballis, Donabate, in North County Dublin, Ireland, on her coloured hunter out of a mare that happened to be in foal without them knowing. Hence the name, Surprise.

Michael Dempsey, longtime Master and former huntsman of the Galway Blazers, describes Stella as the most natural horsewomen ever to cross Galway stone walls, getting the most from any horse she rode. Stella (Briscoe) who her mother described as a lovely mistake, there being such an age gap between her brother George and her sister Constance, was born into a hunting and racing family.