Fox Hunting Life with Horse and Hound

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Hunt Reports: How Old Dominion's Huntsman Hooks the Kids

HornBlowing edited-1Colby Poe huffs and puffs on huntsman Ross Salter's hunting horn. Honorary whipper-in Denya Dee Leake tells the story.  / Michele Arnold photo

Ross Salter, first-season huntsman at Old Dominion Hounds (VA), and I came to the hunt three seasons ago. There were a few juniors in the field on a regular basis and always a good number on Junior Day. This year, however, the number of juniors on ordinary hunting days has increased dramatically, and Junior Day was a complete surprise to everyone.

We met at Copperfield Farm, between the village of Hume and the village of Orlean. The staff walked to the top of the hill with hounds and waited for the juniors to join us. They started coming up the hill, and they just kept coming and coming. We had juniors that were nearly adults, juniors that were just old enough to ride away from their parents, and some that were being led by their parents! In total we had fifty-two juniors surrounding the hounds.

Including the juniors we had a field of one hundred and nineteen riders. In all of Old Dominion’s history I do not believe that they have seen so many juniors in one place on perfectly behaved horses and ponies. The Masters, Gus Forbush, Dr. Scott Dove, and Douglas Wise-Stuart, each assigned certain kids to each staff member and to become Field Master. Each of us staff members had two kids with us at the beginning, and we slowly brought more kids up as the day went on.

So Why All the Juniors?

William Dunlap: The Walker Foxhound as an Allegory

dunlap“Dunlap” by William Dunlap; foreword by Julia Reed, essay by J. Richard Gruber; Jackson, MS: University of Mississippi Press, 2006; available at Amazon

William Dunlap is an important contemporary artist of the South with a powerful affinity for southern landscapes and Walker foxhounds. Dunlap’s work may be seen in many prestigious collections, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Corcoran Collection of the National Gallery of Art.

His book, Dunlap, features more than one hundred works, produced over a thirty-year period. It is published in a trade hardback and a limited edition of two hundred signed, bound-in-linen covers, housed in a matching linen-covered clamshell box. A signed, numbered print featuring four Walker foxhounds is included in the box. The book's cover features a surrealist landscape with a white Walker foxhound, Delta Dog Trot, appearing ready to climb right out of the painting, a nod to nineteenth century trompe l’oeil techniques. The painting, “Delta Dog Trot, Landscape Askew” hangs at the Alluvian Hotel in Greenwood, Mississippi.

Dunlap’s grandfather was “a foxhunter of the old school,” Dunlap writes. “He bred and hunted generations of pure blood Walker Hounds. With names like Lucky, Mary, Speck, Sally and Bo, these dogs were all legs, lungs, nose and heart. They lived to run, but spent most of their lives laying around the kennel, eating, sleeping, stretching and occasionally giving off the deep-throated mouth that would send any fox in earshot scurrying for the nearest hole.

Why We Cover the Hunt Races

NormanMy answer to the question is threefold: first, the very notion of the point-to-point race originated with foxhunters; second, many of our great field hunters have come from the ranks of the timber horses, and conversely many of the best steeplechase horses have their start in the hunting field; and third, most of the steeplechase jockeys are foxhunters as well.

As Catherine Austen reminds us in Thoroughbred Owner & Breeder, “Hunt racing has its roots firmly lodged in the hunting field. Point-to-pointing started when two hunting men, Edmund Blake and Cornelius O’Callaghan, challenged each other to a race in 1752 for four-and-a-half miles across country from Buttevant Church to Donraile Church in County Cork. They jumped everything in their path, and by keeping the steeple of Donraile Church in sight (steeple-chasing), the two men kept to the planned route along the banks of the Awbeg River. The same line can still be taken while hunting with the Duhallow Foxhounds now.

“Amateur jump racing evolved from there....”

Nancy Dillon Honored

Nancy Dillon is a living, legendary treasure of the Piedmont Fox Hounds in Virginia. She is the longest subscribing member of the hunt, having started hunting at age eight in 1943. For nearly a half century she has taught and led more children into the hunting field than anyone can count. Her truck and trailer pulling into the meet have been likened to the car at the circus where the clowns just keep coming out.

On Friday, November 8, 2013, the hunt threw a party at Buchanan Hall in Upperville to screen a specially-produced documentary—Lessons in the Piedmont—in tribute to Nancy. Throughout this beautifully-produced and heart-warming film, children (some grown, others still growing), Masters, hunt members, and citizens of the community expressed their love for this woman and their heart-felt appreciation for what she has done to instill a love of the sport, respect for the land, and personal values to generations of children.

Autumn Morn: Ode to a Huntsman

Although this poem was written in tribute to a huntsman in his prime, it is especially poignant because it seems to prophesy his tragic end.

Fay Bohlayer, a member of the Shakerag Hounds (GA), wrote the poem in 1981 for huntsman Michael Power on the occasion of his move from Shakerag to the Warrenton Hunt (VA). Ten years later, Bolayer’s poem was read at Power’s memorial service after he suffered a fatal accident in the hunting field. It could as well have been written for that sad occasion.

Power was a keen, hardworking, talented huntsman, and he showed exceptional sport at Warrenton. I watched one day as he had someone throw a coat over a barbed wire fence, which he then jumped to stay with hounds.

Once Bohlayer asked him which he thought was more fun: hunting or racing. Power replied, “Whichever I happen to be doing at the time.” She recalls one day behind Power when hounds were running, and to stay with them Power galloped without pause straight toward an iron gate, which he jumped. Bohlayer chose not to follow Power’s line, and after the run she came up and apologized for going around. “Not at all,” he piped in his Irish tenor. “It’s your sport, but it’s my living. I must go.”

Here’s Fay Bohlayer’s tribute to Michael Power:

Gregg Ryan, MFH Back in the Winner's Circle at Orange County

och15.amnov hurdle.leesAmateur/Novice Rider Hurdle Race (l-r): Special Guy (Ben Swope up) was second by a length to winner Spy In The Sky and Gregg Ryan, MFH.  /  Douglas Lees photo

The Orange County Hounds Point-to-Point Races were held on Locust Hill Farm, Middleburg, Virginia, on Sunday, March 29, 2015, perhaps the nicest spring day for racegoers yet this season.

Gregg Ryan, MFH of the Piedmont Fox Hounds and the Snickersville Hounds in Virginia, marked his return to the racecourse by winning the Amateur Novice Rider Hurdle Race on his veteran, Spy In The Sky. Ryan allowed Ben Swope on Special Guy to set the pace for much of the race, before pulling away with five furlongs to go. Special Guy, as he did at Warrenton, made a late rush, but not enough.

Spy In The Sky is trained by Eva Smithwick, Gregg’s Joint-Master at Snickersville. Trained in years past by Jimmy Day, Spy in the Sky won the $100,000 A.P. Smithwick Memorial Handicap at Saratoga in 2012, returning long odds of 25-1 to the lucky ticket holders there.