Talk about experience. Hugh Robards has spent fifty-three years in hunt service. He whipped-in to some of the legendary huntsmen in England—Brian Gupwell at the Eridge (later to become huntsman for the Duke of Beaufort), Percy Durno and Captain Ronnie Wallace at the Heythrop, and Charlie Wilkin at the Wynnstay.
Upon Captain Wallace’s recommendation to Lord Daresbury, MFH of the County Limerick Foxhounds, Hugh moved to Ireland to take up his first post as huntsman. There he remained for twenty-seven seasons showing world-class sport to the Irish—none keener—and visiting sportsmen and women from around the globe.
After parting from the Limerick, he came to the U.S. to help rebuild the Rolling Rock Hunt (PA), remaining there as Master and huntsman until 2007. From Rolling Rock he moved to the Saxonburg Hunt (PA) where he served as huntsman until coming to the Middleburg Hunt last year as first whipper-in to huntsman Barry Magner. (Barry is moving to Australia this season, and we hope to catch our readers up with him in another article.)
“Hugh continually reinvents himself because of his love for his work,” said Juli Robards, his wife. “Transcending change is one of his great qualities, and I’m unabashedly one of his biggest fans!”
Those who have hunted behind him are big fans as well. Tony Leahy, who grew up in Ireland, is first vice-president of the MFHA and serves as Master and huntsman of the Fox River Valley Hunt (IL). “Hugh is without question one of the best huntsmen I’ve seen,” said Tony. “I remember hunting behind him at Limerick, and I’ve seen him do amazing things!”
Fox River Valley Convoy, an unentered Crossbred dog hound, was judged Grand Champion of Show at the Southwest Hound Show. Brazos Valley Mystic 2010—Grand Champion of Show for the last three years running—made a hard run at an unprecedented fourth consecutive title, but finished as Reserve Champion to Convoy.
The Southwest Hound Show was held on April 19, 2014 at Greenwood Farm in Weatherford, Texas. All hounds are shown in the same ring, and were judged this year by Tony Gammell, professional huntsman for the Keswick Hunt (VA).
“It’s a lovely, small show; you can walk around and see everyone, said Tony Leahy, Master and huntsman of the Fox River Valley Hunt (IL), who looks forward to entering Grand Champion Convoy in the fall. “It was my first visit to Texas, and the people couldn’t have been nicer, more accommodating, or more welcoming.”
The hound show season, now underway, provides an excellent opportunity to improve one’s eye for foxhound conformation by judging from ringside just for fun. The exercise not only makes the day more interesting, but educational as well. Especially when you can collar a friendly judge after the class and ask him why he didn’t like the hound you adored, or why he picked a hound you thought was common. (Obviously, you must frame your question such that the judge understands that you are seeking an education and not leveling criticism!)
It can be intimidating to watch a procession of foxhounds enter and leave the ring and wonder how in the world the judge can sort them all out. For example, how does he compare a hound he is looking at to one he saw ten minutes ago? Ten years ago, I asked some top judges how they judged a class, and here's what I learned.
Blistering hot weather visited Virginia for the past four weeks. While not unusual this time of year, the length of the hot spell, with temperatures hovering in the high eighties and even reaching into the low nineties, has proved miserable to man and beast alike, but it failed to deter foxhunters who entered this year's North American Field Hunter Championships.
On Monday, September 30, the Championships began at Keswick. Hounds met at Glenwood, a fixture in the neighborhood of James Madison's Montpelier, outside the town of Orange. Contestants from as far away as Florida and Georgia traveled to compete in the event, as well as to enjoy early autumn hunting in Virginia. They were not disappointed. Keswick huntsman Tony Gammell provided a fine day of sport in the lovely rolling countryside as hounds ran across the nearby road, back again, and beyond the fixture into a scenic expanse of woods and cornfields. Afterward, everyone enjoyed a tailgate as five contestants were selected for the finals.
On Tuesday, October 1, hounds met at Owl Run Farm in Warrenton, home of Casanova Hunt Joint-Master Mrs. Joyce Fendley. Previously the home of Donna and Jack Eicher, huntsman at Rombout and later Farmington Hunt, the grounds include a lake and a cluster of graceful weeping willows out front. The residence and barns all exude the charm of old Virginia Hunt Country—weathered stone, stout board and batten, low eaves and metal roofs. A special surprise awaited the field this morning when shortly after casting hounds, an eruption in a cornfield revealed that hounds had encountered a black bear! Fortunately, the pack obeyed their orders to ignore the bear as it beat a hasty retreat. The remainder of the morning proved quieter, and as the field hacked in, Mrs. Fendley positioned herself, as she always does at the end of a hunt, such that she could personally thank everyone in the field as they passed by on their way to their trailer. This small but thoughtful act is just one of many that make hunting in Virginia so special and unique. It was a hot, thirsty, and tired field that gathered under a tent to drink and devour a delicious crab dip while recalling the excitement of having gone on their first bear hunt! This morning, six finalists were announced.
The 2013 Field Hunter Championship of North America will be held in Virginia from Monday, September 30 to Sunday, October 6. Competitors will hunt four days, with fixtures at Keswick Hunt, Casanova Hunt, Snickersville Hounds, and Piedmont Fox Hounds. The Finals will be held on Sunday, October 6 at Glenwood Park.
The final day at Glenwood will start with the judging of the “Best Turned Out” horse and rider, after which a short drag hunt will start and end on the racecourse. At least ten finalists will be chosen to ride over a “handy hunter” course, where they may be required to drop a rail, open a gate, and hand gallop and halt. Spectators are encouraged to attend. This is the second and final day of the Virginia Fall Races at Glenwood Park, so there’s a lot going on!
The family of the late Mrs. Theodora Ayer Randolph will again honor her memory and her lifetime commitment to fox hunting by awarding a $2,500 cash prize to the home hunt of the winner.
The Museum of Hounds and Hunting in Leesburg will award a one-year membership to the winning rider and to the two highest-placed Juniors that qualify for the Finals.
General Admission price is $30.00 per carload of four people. To reach Glenwood Park from the Washington DC area, take I-66 West and exit Route 50 West (Exit 57B towards Winchester). Drive approximately 25 miles to Middleburg and turn right at stop light in Middleburg (Route 626, Foxcroft Road). Proceed 1 mile North to Glenwood Park on your right.
For additional information and/or photos call the name above or contact the Field Hunter Championship Chairman Ms. Pippy McCormick at 540-454-2854.
Posted September 6, 2013