Fox Hunting Life with Horse and Hound

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ddl fox huntingWhipping-in on Fearnought, the author's favorite.Cold and wet from rain on my thirty-six-inch pony Toy Mouse, with my fearless two-legged leader...mom Caroline...at the other end of the lead-line: that’s how I became addicted to a sport known as foxhunting. When we got in from hunting, my wool hunt coat weighed more than I did.

Since then, every autumn, from age four until now (not going to disclose that, but I’ve finished college!), there is a sense of anticipation and adrenaline that rushes through my veins. Foxhunters know how the goose bumps rise on your skin the moment those hunting hounds open up on a fresh scent of a fox or coyote, and away they go! This adrenaline rush only multiples, if you can believe it, when a person is allowed to have the honor of being a whipper-in.

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black.ron.cumbrian.fox.hunter.historianAuthor/historian Ron Black, a fourth-generation foot hunter who strove to preserve the foxhunting history of his beloved Cumbria.I never met Ron Black in person, but I knew him so well. We’d been carrying on an email friendship for years. Ron died of cancer on September 5, 2017.

Over the years our correspondence covered all sorts of subjects—foxhunting, politics, world affairs. (He was for Hillary, all the way.) He scoffed at us mounted foxhunters for our preoccupation with horses and fancy clothing, and he would start most notes with, “How are things in the Colonies?” His sense of history was a huge part of who he was. And it was to preserve the history of foxhunting in his beloved Cumbria, after the despised Hunting Act became law, that possessed him to start a website and begin collecting that history.

That’s how John Harrison became friends with Ron Black. Harrison is currently hunting the Deep Run Hunt (VA) foxhounds, but twenty years ago Harrison was huntsman for one of the storied foot packs in the Lake District, the Ullswater Foxhounds. Ron was writing a book about the Ullswater. It was the hunt of Harrison’s boyhood, and he had returned to England from Toronto and North York (ON) to take up the horn there. It is a hard and dangerous place: climbing borrans (stone piles), crags (cliffs), and crossing the scree beds (fallen stone from the crags). It’s country that would ruin a horse the first time out. Harrison hunted the Ullswater hounds on foot there for eighteen seasons before returning to North America three years ago.

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IMG 0296 MFHAAdmiring Canadian Grand Champion Wentworth are (l-r) TNY Huntsman Roslynn Balding; Judge C. Martin Wood III, MFH, Live Oak Hounds; Apprentice Judge Mary Ewing, MFH, Arapahoe Hunt; Carl Feairs, MFH, TNY; Laurel Byrne, MFH, TNY; Judge Ian Farquhar, MFH, Duke of Beaufort's; Mike Byrne, President, TNY; and Teresa Robinson. /  Denya Massey photo

Two world-class judges of foxhounds turned a good day, June 17, 2017 at the Canadian Foxhound Show, into an exceptional and informative day for spectators. MFHs Captain Ian Farquhar and C. Martin Wood III shared their insights as to the choices they made after the results of classes were announced. The experience was an invaluable master class for both those showing hounds and those watching. Each man has judged every major hound show in the foxhunting world, including Peterborough, and each is esteemed among the very best in the breeding of foxhounds.

Grand Champion Foxhound of Show was Toronto and North York’s Blue Ridge Wentworth 2015, an English dog hound. Judge Farquhar especially demonstrated consistency in his choice, since he chose Wentworth as Grand Champion of the Bryn Mawr Hound Show last year!

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fort yorkFort York on Toronto Harbor, early nineteenth century

The Toronto and North York Hunt is proud of the long history of its pack of English foxhounds. Early in the nineteenth century, British military men, fond of sport, shipped hounds across the Atlantic to Fort York, which guarded Toronto Harbour on Lake Ontario. Not long after the City of Toronto was incorporated in 1834, we find mention of the Toronto Hunt. Between 1843 and 1869, eight of the hunt's nine Masters were army officers.

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 farquhar trophy denyaCanadian Grand Champion Farquhar with (l–r) Apprentice Judge Katherine Selby, huntsman, Green Mountain Hounds (VT); Judge Dr. Jon Moody, MFH, Mooreland Hunt (AL); Toronto and North York huntsman John Harrison; Mrs. Alice Tyacke; and Judge Richard Tyacke, MFH and huntsman, Sir Watkin Williams-Wynn’s (UK). /  Denya Massey photo

Toronto and North York Farquhar 2014 was judged Grand Champion of Show at the Canadian Foxhound Show on Saturday, June 18, 2016. This was the third Grand Championship for the hunt in the last three years.

It has to be exceptionally gratifying to John Harrison, who returned as huntsman just two years ago, as all three grand champions go back to bloodlines he introduced to the pack during his earlier term as huntsman twenty years ago. Common to the pedigrees of all three, going back three generations, is Toronto and North York Crafty 1995 by their Freedom 1992.

In 1995, while Harrison was hunting the Toronto and North York pack in his first stint (1991 to 1996), he received a draft from the Berkeley (UK). One was Ballad 1987, who arrived in whelp to Berkeley Freshman 1984. Freshman was by Captain Ronnie Wallace’s Exmoor Freestone 1981. “Freestone is the key,” Harrison said.

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