Category Archive 'Blue Ridge Hunt'
25 Sep 2012

New Member of the Field

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Yesterday: there is an addition to the Blue Ridge Hunt’s field waiting for the appearance of huntsman and hounds on the road outside Greenwood in White Post, Virginia.(photo: David Norman) click on picture for larger image

Although it’s the preseason, and Blue Ridge is cubbing and therefore the field is attired in Ratcatcher, our professional staff wears red as a safety measure while cubbing to help deer hunters who often share the same woods distinguish them from the local whitetails.

09 Mar 2012

Blue Ridge Hunt Point-to-Point Races

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Linda Volrath painting

My apologies. There will not be much blogging for the next two days. I’ll be working as a judge at the Blue Ridge Point-to-Point Races on Saturday and at the Blue Ridge Hunt Hunter Pace on Sunday.

20 Dec 2011

I Have No Explanation

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As to how it happens that our own Blue Ridge Hunt was recently filmed hunting at Persimmon Hill by a Korean NBC station for its news coverage. Principals featured included: retired Huntsman Chris Howells (releasing the hounds from the hounds truck), MFH Linda Armbrust and Huntsman Dennis Downing (both briefly commenting), and Charlie (dashing gallantly through the countryside).

1:49 video

14 Dec 2011

Thursday A.M., Gone Hunting

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I’ll be gone hunting at Oxbow Farm (Raymond Guest’s old place) with the Blue Ridge Hunt in the morning, so blogging will be done late.

05 Nov 2011

Blue Ridge Hunt, 2011 Opening Meet

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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.

20 Mar 2011

Karen and Thunderstorms in Art

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Linda Volrath, Bundled at the Races, oil on panel, 2008

On Friday, a new issue of Norman Fine’s Foxhunting Life appeared on-line, featuring a lead article by Linda Volrath, a well-known local artist, on “Equestrian Sports and Oil Paintings.” My wife Karen was somewhat startled to recognize herself as the figure in the foreground of the painting.

Ms. Volrath’s painting was inspired by a photograph taken at the 59th Running of Blue Ridge Hunt Point-To-Point Races at Woodley in Berryville, Virginia on March 8th 2008.

Karen and I had just become members of the Blue Ridge Hunt that season, and we were already drafted into serving as officials at the races. I was registering entries and issuing numbers. Karen was in charge of the trophies.

The weather was dark and chilly that day, and thunderstorms were predicted.

Sure enough, midway through the races, the heavens opened and violent winds buffeted the field. So powerful were the blasts of wind that a Porta Potty was actually blown over with a prominent local physician inside. He was photographed grinning gamely on his emergence, his trousers stained with blue disinfectant (Photograph 116 in Karen’s photo essay).

The storm even included an interval of golf ball-sized hail.

The Volrath painting shows Karen holding on to her hat in the high winds with aid of an ancient, moth-damaged Yale club scarf. Eventually, the storm passed, and the races were successfully concluded.

Karen was naturally amused to find that her image had been recorded in oils by someone whom (at the time) she had never met. She inquired about purchasing the painting, but the artist regretfully informed Karen that the painting had been sold very soon after its completion at a gallery in Annapolis.

It’s really quite a nice painting, too.

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There is clearly some kind of artistic connection between Karen and thunderstorms.

A number of years ago, Maine artist Tom Hennessey executed in water-colors a painting of a dramatic incident featuring Karen landing a salmon on the Restigouche River in a thunderstorm.

We were fishing Red Pine Lodge’s pools from a 26′ Sharpe canoe, and it began to rain lightly just as I was starting my turn casting. I handed the 12′ Payne to Karen to hold for me, while I slipped on my jacket, and she insolently flipped out a short cast next to the canoe.

The red gods could not resist the opportunity for a joke, so instantly up came a salmon and seized the fly. (We’d been fishing for three days without the slightest action.)

The rain rapidly intensified, and soon it was coming down in torrents. The salmon ran powerfully downstream, out of the pool, and we were forced to raise the anchor and follow him.

Karen fought the salmon for ten or 15 minutes as we traversed hundreds of yards of river. Finally, he seemed to be beginning to tire, and the guide beached the canoe by a slow drift which seemed like a convenient location to try to land the fish.

As the storm intensified, one bolt of lightning after another began to strike the trees on top of the mountains above us, and I strongly urged Karen to get out of the river, at least, and stand on the beach (though I was far from confident of the effectiveness of such a precaution).

(I recall thinking that I was very happy about my reactionary preference for wooden fly rods, knowing what an excellent conductor graphite is.)

The guide was bent over and cringing, in his rain gear, and manifested no desire to get near enough to the river to net the fish but, finally, threats and encouragement prevailed. Karen reeled in the mighty salmon. The guide netted it, and the salmon was duly unhooked and released. (The Restigouche counts as New Brunswick water and has a no-kill policy on salmon.)

We returned to camp, soaked to the skin, but triumphant and alive.

Appropriately enough, the fly that Karen caught the salmon on was a Thunder and Lightning. The actual fly that took the salmon is mounted in the mat around the painting.

22 Jan 2011

Not Far Behind

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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.

08 Dec 2010

Last Saturday’s Moment of Comedy

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photo 1, click on picture for larger image

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.


photo 2, click on picture for larger image

26 Nov 2010

He Survived Thanksgiving

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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.

06 Sep 2010

Blue Ridge Hunt Cubbing at Fox Spring Woods

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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.

29 Aug 2010

2010 Cubbing Begins

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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.

Karen’s photo essay.

30 Nov 2009

Chapel Hill Meet

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Huntsman Dennis Downing salutes, as he leads out the Blue Ridge hounds at Chapel Hill (Click on images for larger version)

Yesterday’s hunt met at Chapel Hill, in front of the historic stone house which was once the home of “Wild Bill” Donovan (1883-1959), Medal of Honor winner and founder of the OSS.

photo: Karen L. MyersThis handsome fox had no difficulty eluding hounds (photo: Karen L. Myers)

27 Nov 2009

Thanksgiving Day Meet

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Members of the Blue Ridge Hunt first flight gallop down Swift Shoals Road in Boyce, Virginia yesterday endeavoring to catch up to hounds (click on image for larger version — clicking again on the second page will make the photo larger still)

Doesn’t this look like fun?

21 Nov 2009

The Blue Ridge Hunt Met Today at Stonefield

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Huntsman Dennis Dowling and the Blue Ridge Hunt round a corner coming out of the woods earlier today at Pagebrook in Boyce, Virginia (Click on photo for larger version)

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