We weren’t hunting ourselves, but the Old Dominion Hunt was meeting nearby and they put one to ground at our place, very near the house. I managed to trap my own dogs in the house, grabbed a camera, and went out and took a few snapshots.
Old Dominion huntsman Gerald Keal sounds his horn to reassemble the pack after Charles James has gone to ground in our woods yesterday. click on picture for larger image. Picture will enlarge again with one more click.
Congratulating the Old Dominion Hounds on a job well done.
Huntsman, pack, and whip begin moving off west.
The field follows Gerald and the hounds off into the woods. To the west, you see Fogg Mountain and the Blue Ridge.
Huntsman Dennis Downing and Blue Ridge hounds celebrate putting Reynard to ground at the triumphant conclusion of the 2011 Opening Meet.
The Blue Ridge Hunt’s Opening Meet was actually scheduled for last Saturday, and had to be canceled due to the snowstorm that hammered the East Coast from Maine to Virginia on the weekend preceding Halloween.
So, a week late, hounds met at Mount Hebron (formerly a rental property belonging to George Washington), instead of the traditional Long Branch.
The weather was perfect this time, and despite the adverse circumstance of a full moon last night (inviting foxes to stay up late and party, and miss being hunted due to sleeping in), the Blue Ridge Hounds actually triumphantly put one to ground just off of Locke’s Mill Road in Berryville.
What with one thing and another, we were out from 8 in the morning and only came dragging home at 4:30 in the afternoon (after attending the the post-Opening Meet festivities at Mount Hebron). Not a lot of blogging got done today, but we certainly put the fear of the Blue Ridge hounds into one well deserving fox.
One of the correspondents on a Fox Hunters’ email list commented today:
“When I saw the headline in my email ‘Huntsman announces run for president,’ my first thought was ‘Why would a huntsman want to run for president? He will never get to hunt with all the security details!’”
Image 82 of Karen L. Myers’s photo essay on the Blue Ridge Hunt’s meet last Monday at Locust Hill (photo: Karen L. Myers)
Last Monday was cold, and this fox must have been reluctant to move from his comfortable hiding spot among the cedars at Federal Hill. He waited until the hounds were nearly on top of him before leaving, producing this photo by Karen including the head of the lead hound.
He ran right up the hill past the ancient manor house, crossed the road in the direction of Farnley, then circled back through Cedarwood back into Federal Hill where he went to ground in a tremendous sink hole, partially covered with a variety of large stones and other debris, presumably to keep the cattle from falling in.
One of the knowledgeable old timers told me that foxes tend to head for that particular sinkhole only when they are unusually hard pressed. I thought this fox was pretty close to getting caught, and we were all glad to see such a handsome fellow get away.
Ham biscuits and stirrup cups of port are common offerings at hunt meets in Virginia.
Last Saturday, at a meet attended by international hunt photographer Jim Meads held at The Pines in Boyce, Virginia, the Blue Ridge Hounds suddenly recognized that all the people had left the porch, carrying drinks and biscuits on silver trays to offer to hunt members mounted on horseback.
In photo 1, Whip Ross Salter and retired Huntsman Chris Howells simultaneously grasp that enterprising hounds are about to win big.
In photo 2 (below), the Blue Ridge staff leaps into action to save the biscuits.
In George Washington’s diaries, there is an account of the occasion in which that earlier Virginian’s foxhounds discovered the holiday dinner ham momentarily unattended and successfully appropriated it, leaving Washington and his guests to make do with only the side dishes.
During the Blue Ridge Hunt’s Thanksgiving Meet yesterday, which started at Long Branch, hounds put up an enormous wild turkey near Bellfield off Swift Shoals Road. Karen managed to shoot a photo of the departing Tom.
Martyn and Connor look dressed for business as usual, but I have no idea what the lady is dressed to do.
To our great amusement, we yesterday through the hunting grapevine received a link to a fashion spread in a luxe magazine called Weddings Unveiled, in which one of our local friends here in Virginia, Martyn Blackmore, professional huntsman for the Loudoun Hunt West, accompanied by Connor, his Spotted Draft hunter, and foxhound pack, got to serve as part of the background for the modeling shoot.
The setting was Morven Park, once home to Virginia Governor (1918-1922) Westmoreland Davis. Now owned by a foundation, the estate hosts an array of equestrian and country activities, including the annual Virginia Foxhound Show.
The model has cleverly placed her hands in such a way as to reduce the likelihood of pawprints on her lovely white dress.
Karen’s photoessay on our visit with the Rappahannock Hunt on September 11th is now up.
The Rappahannock hounds are Crossbreds. Now recognized as a separate category at hound shows, the Crossbred Hound, a mixture of American and English foxhounds, was created by Ben Hardaway, Master of Georgia’s Midland Hunt, in response to the arrival of White-tailed deer in his country in the 1960s. Hardaway’s July hounds went off on a deer, and they were eating the same deer when he finally caught up with them days later. To create a deer-proof foxhound, Hardaway searched the British Isles for more docile, deer-resistant strains of foxhound which he subsequently successfully blended with classic American hound lines, finally added a soupçon of Penn Marydel to add just a little extra cry. Hardaway’s breeding program was so successful that the Crossbred category is usually the best represented at current hound shows.
Several of the Rappahannock hounds were long-haired, a trait evidencing Welsh hound ancestry.
That Saturday morning the Rappahannock hounds seemed even more filled with energy and high-spirits than hound packs typically are in general, which is saying a lot. It seemed to be snowing hounds as the pack, released from their trailer, ran, rolled, and frolicked, dashing in circles around the huntsman.
The morning’s cubbing was overlooked by a Bald Eagle who sat perched and watching with obvious interest from a dead tree by a local stream, which I think must have been the Thornton River.
Dennis Downing and Ross Salter lead the Blue Ridge hounds out onto Clay Hill Road.
We were out early this morning with the Blue Ridge Hunt at Fox Spring Woods.
The weather was very dry and scenting conditions were poor. The huntsman and the hounds were mostly working deep in the Virginia woods and this morning’s cubbing meet was short and offered few opportunities for pictures. Still, the scenery and company were delightful as ever, and I expect Karen will eventually produce some kind of photo essay, which I will link when it becomes available.
These are two of only a handful of photos I took myself.
Linda Armbrust, M.F.H., operating as whip, keeps a sharp eye out for errant hounds.
Then 89-Year-Old Huntsman Melvin Poe leading out the Bath County Hounds last November (click on image for larger picture)
Norman Fine, at FoxHuntingLife.com, reports on the recent birthday party held for renowned Huntsman Melvin Poe’s 90th.
Hounds were screaming, and the huntsman was cooking. A cattle guard loomed ahead—a coop to the left and a gate to the right. The huntsman veered left.
“Melvin,” someone yelled, “the gate’s on the right!”
“Melvin just kept kicking on, right over the coop,” recalled Joe Conner, shaking his head and grinning in wonder.
Conner, who has whipped-in to Melvin for years at Bath County (VA), didn’t resurrect that story out of a distant past. It had happened only weeks before Melvin Poe’s ninetieth birthday celebration.
A month or so earlier, I had recognized the same notes of awe and wonder as I stood chatting withe Brian Smith, my farrier, about Melvin’s upcoming ninetieth birthday.
“I was just down at Melvin’s shoeing horses,” he said, “and man, he climbs up on his horse smoother than I do!”
Saturday night, August 28, friends and family gathered at the Marriott Ranch in Hume, Virginia, just down the road from Melvin’s and Peggy’s farm, to celebrate his ninetieth birthday and to honor his achievements.
The Tory Party has promised to allow a repeal vote on the infamous 2004 Hunt Ban.
Bloomberg has read an advance copy of Blair’s memoir.
Former U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair said he deliberately sabotaged the ban on fox hunting his government introduced, calling it “one of the domestic legislative measures I most regret.”
In his memoir “A Journey,” published by Random House today, Blair said he ensured that the 2004 Hunting Act was “a masterly British compromise” that left enough loopholes to allow hunting to continue “provided certain steps were taken to avoid cruelty when the fox is killed.” He also told Home Office minister Hazel Blears to steer the police away from enforcing the law.
Blair’s 1997 pledge to give Parliament a vote on the subject dogged him throughout his time in office, with lawmakers opposed to hunting repeatedly trying to introduce a ban. Each time, hundreds of thousands of hunt supporters marched through London, and in 2004 some invaded Parliament.
“The passions aroused by the issue were primeval,” Blair, 57, wrote. “If I’d proposed solving the pension problem by compulsory euthanasia for every fifth pensioner I’d have got less trouble. By the end of it, I felt like the damn fox.”
Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron, who described the law last year as a “farce,” has promised a vote on repeal. Since the act came into force in 2005, only three hunts have been successfully prosecuted, according to the Countryside Alliance, which was formed to oppose the ban. ...
Blair said he initially agreed to a ban without properly understanding the issue. Then, during a vacation in Italy, he found himself talking to the mistress of a hunt near Oxford.
“She took me calmly and persuasively through what they did, the jobs that were dependent on it, the social contribution of keeping the hunt and the social consequence of banning it, and did it with an effect that completely convinced me,” Blair said.
Hunting during fox hunting’s annual preseason consists of cubbing.
Before the regular hunting season begins in October or November, the new entry of hounds is taken out and introduced to hunting, and the same year’s crop of young foxes is introduced to being pursued by hounds.
Training young hounds to hunt properly is a delicate business and by convention hunt membership normally carries no automatic invitation to come out cubbing. Cubbing traditionally is strictly by special invitation of the Master, as inexperienced riders or unreliable horses can represent a serious hazard to inexperienced hounds or create distractions and impair their training.
So confident are the Masters of the Blue Ridge Hunt, however, of professional huntsman Dennis Downing’s management of his pack that cubbing is treated informally. Everyone is notified of cubbing meets and everyone is invited to attend.
During cubbing, traditional hunt uniforms are not worn. The correct attire, referred to as Ratcatcher, consists of non-formal hunting boots, a tweed coat, and a collared shirt and necktie. This summer was exceptionally warm, so even though starting early in the morning, the Blue Ridge field yesterday was prepared for warm weather, eschewing even Ratcatcher jacket and tie in favor of polo shirts.
Yesterday morning at 7:00 A.M., the Blue Ridge Hunt conducted its first cubbing of the year from kennels.
Staff and experienced members of the field stand guard on Kennel Road to keep any young hounds from crossing and going astray. (Click on photo for larger image)
Whipping in in the morning mist.
Huntsman Dennis Downing, accompanied by Whips Ross Salter and Sue Downing, brings the pack down the road in astonishingly good order.