Snow may have crippled Atlanta, but the few inches that fell in Thomson, Georgia during Belle Meade's second annual "Gone Away with the Wind" Hunt Week (January 26 to February 2, 2014) did little to dampen the great foxhunting and lavish southern hospitality. The first day we arrived was warm and sunny, a welcome respite from a frozen Maryland. I was returning for a second awesome adventure with Belle Meade Hunt and had encouraged two more of my fellow Marlborough Hunt members to come down. Jayne Koester and her amateur-radio enthusiast husband Fred enlivened their trip by talking to all the Ham radio operators near Interstate 95 as they drove south. Following them was Gwen Alred, a member of both Marlborough and Potomac Hunt clubs, who also decided getting out of a frigid Maryland was a good idea.
Monday at 3:00 pm, after warm greetings from our southern hosts and welcoming remarks from MFHs Epp Wilson, Charlie Lewis, and Gary Wilkes, we quickly trotted across the road from the kennels and moved across open cattle fields. I was riding first flight behind my good friend, Belle Meade Field Master Jean Derrick, and it felt wonderful to be cantering across soft ground in informal ratcatcher attire!
“We have arranged to have ten coyotes on standby for your hunting pleasure today,” announced Joint-MFH Charlie Lewis as he welcomed guests to the opening meet of Belle Meade’s “Gone Away with the Wind” Hunt Week. It was Monday, January 27, 2014 in Thomson, Georgia. The footing was perfect and the sun was shining.
The following day it snowed, closing schools, paralyzing the Atlanta area, and prompting the governor to declare a state of emergency. The Belle Meade hosts were resilient, however, improvising substitute activities for members and guests for the very few events that had to be modified.
Hunt Week guests had come from the Blue Ridge Hunt (VA), Bull Run Hunt (VA), Golden’s Bridge Hounds (NY), Marlborough Hunt (MD), Millbrook Hunt (NY), Montreal Hunt (PQ), Moore County Hounds (NC), the Potomac Hunt (MD), Toronto and North York Hunt (ON), and the Whiskey Road Hounds (SC).
The Belle Meade hounds typically meet at three o’clock in the afternoon. In the warmish environs of north Georgia, Senior Master and huntsman Epp Wilson likes to hunt as temperatures are dropping and scent is improving. Of course it often results in riders hacking back in the dark, and even jumping fences after sunset—an adventure in its own right for many followers!
Dennis Downing will be the new huntsman for the Montreal Hunt (PQ) next season. Established in 1826, the Montreal Hunt is the oldest hunt in North America.
Downing moves there after eleven seasons hunting hounds and showing fine sport at the Blue Ridge Hunt (VA). The British-born and -trained huntsman has been in professional hunt service for forty years. Starting in 1972 as second horseman to the North Cotswold, he went on—as is the system in England—to whip-in to six hunts over a ten-year period: the Croome, East Sussex, Llangibby, High Peak, Pendle Forest and Craven, and Meynell.
He carried the horn for fifteen years in England—with the Llangibby, South Tetcott, and Croome—before moving to the U.S. as huntsman to the Mooreland Hunt (AL) where he found himself hunting a new quarry altogether—the coyote! After three years at Mooreland, Downing came to the Blue Ridge where he has been a popular and articulate spokesman for foxhunting in the community.
“Dennis has been a wonderful asset to the Blue Ridge Hunt during his years here,” said Linda Armbrust, MFH. “He has been a true professional throughout. He loves his hunting, and he loves his hounds. He will be missed by subscribers and landowners alike. Montreal is extremely lucky to have him.”
Posted March 10, 2012
Many of the MFHA-registered packs in North America have close associations with Ireland and the UK either through hunt staff, field members, jockeys, or through the many Irish and British field hunters and racehorses that grace their hunting fields. One such well known pack is the Green Spring Valley Hounds in Maryland, USA. They met a few weeks ago at Ned Finney’s farm at Dover and Dark Hollow, which is close to the Maryland Hunt Cup racecourse and Shawan Downs racecourse.