You go out very early, around dawn, while it’s still cool. The hunt staff and field are less formally dressed for cubbing, wearing brown boots, tweed jacket and four-in-hand tie, a form of dress referred to as “Ratcatcher.” When it is really warm, standards of dress may subside to the level of polo shirts.
British eventer Alice Pearson took a tremendous fall out with the Ledbury Hunt at Murrells End on January 15th latest, winding up under her struggling horse. Meanwhile, other members of the field poured over the same hedge, landing on both sides of the fallen horse and rider. This is the kind of thing the Irish refer to as “a crucifying fall.”
The ground must have been soft that day because both Alice & Chocky survived without serious injury.
Catching up with my back issues of Chronicle of the Horse, I found in the December 16, 2013 issue the obituary of another great sportsman.
“When his cardiologist advised him to quit polo, Mr. Davis took up three-day eventing at Goose Downs Farm (N.M.). ‘I think his doctor only agreed because he didn’t know what three-day eventing was,’ said Audrey Hays, his second wife.”
Horseman Abel Davis died at the University of New Mexico Hospital in Albuquerque on Sept. 30 due to complications from a chronic spinal cord injury. He was 88.
Mr. Davis was born on Feb. 14, 1925, to Gen. Abel Davis and Marjorie Mayer Davis in Glencoe, Ill.
At 18, Mr. Davis was drafted into the 14th Infantry Division of the U.S. Army. He served in World War II, and on Jan. 1, 1945, he was shot five times during the Battle of the Bulge. He received a Purple Heart and spent 1½ years recovering in Virginia hospitals.
Mr. Davis’ first job was selling “Big Yank” overalls. He moved to Chicago, where he started one of the first direct mail businesses in the country, National Business Lists, and raised four children with his wife of 46 years, Susan Frank.
He spent free time foxhunting and skiing with his family in Aspen, Colo., and moved permanently to Tesuque, N.M., after he sold the business in 1968.
Together with Philip Naumberg, Jim Alley and Jim Ritchie, he established the Santa Fe Polo Grounds (later renamed the Santa Fe Horse Park and now called the Santa Fe Equestrian Center).
When his cardiologist advised him to quit polo, Mr. Davis took up three-day eventing at Goose Downs Farm (N.M.). “I think his doctor only agreed because he didn’t know what three-day eventing was,” said Audrey Hays, his second wife.
At 75, Mr. Davis achieved his goal of competing preliminary with his mount, Sir Francis Drake.
In addition, he was a whipper-in for the Juan Tomás Hounds (N.M.) for 20 years.
At 80, he broke his neck in a jumping accident, but he still took dressage lessons after recovering.
“After they made him, they broke the mold,” said Audrey. “He marched to the beat of his own drum. He bought all of his horses young and green and brought them up himself. There was no way you could tell him to get off his horse when he was older.”
He was a founding member of the Tesuque Volunteer Fire Department and an avid animal lover, who was known for his pack of red Dobermans.
Mr. Davis was preceded in death by his wife, Susan, and daughter, Leslie Davis. He is survived by his second wife, Audrey; his daughter Patricia Willson and her husband, Rich, of Albuquerque; his daughter Lauren Davis and her husband, Charles Stathacos, of Croton, N.Y.; his son Jad Davis and his wife, Sarah, of Santa Fe, N.M.; his son-in-law Bill Lazar and his wife, Lynn Rosen, of Bozeman, Mont.; and four grandchildren.
Our hunting friend from the British Lakeland Fells, Ron Black, forwarded this delightful video of several sessions of pub singing back in 2000 of hunting and humorous songs, doubtless featuring friends and neighbors of his own from the North of England.
Members of the West Midlands Ledbury Hunt conduct a riding “Hen Do” (female-version of a bachelor party) riding over hunt territory in formal hunt attire, recorded by one of the participants wearing a helmet cam. Go, Bertie!
Famed retired Orange County huntsman, who still hunts hounds as Master of his own Bath County pack, Melvin Poe celebrated his 93rd birthday with a pre-season trail ride near his home in Hume, Virginia.
The population of wild foxes in London has exploded in recent years. Though attractive animals, foxes can be nuisance scavengers toppling your garbage can in the same fashion as raccoons, but foxes are also liable to eat the family cat. One overly-ambitious fox earlier this year made headlines by trying to carry off a four-week-old baby in South London. The infant survived, but lost a finger.
Boris Johnson, the current flamboyant mayor of London, apparently recently had his cat attacked, and Johnson was provoked to come out against the 2004 Hunt Ban, and (amusingly) express support for fox hunting in metropolitan London.
Boris Johnson has called for fox hunts in London to deal with the problem of increased numbers of the animals in the capital.
The mayor of London described how he was enraged after his cat was attacked and was tempted to go out and ‘blaze away’ at the fox with his air rifle.
There are around 10,000 foxes in the capital out of a total 33,000 living in urban areas across the UK, around 14 per cent of the total population of the animals.
Earlier this year a four-week-old baby had his finger ripped off by a fox.
Mr Johnson said it was time to brining in culling to keep numbers in check.
‘This will cause massive unpopularity and I don’t care. I’m pro liberty and individual freedom. If people want to get together to form the fox hounds of Islington I’m all for it,’ he said.
‘I got wild with anger not so long ago because I thought our cat had been mauled by a fox. I wanted to go out with my 2.2 [sic] and blaze away.’
Was it the mayor or reporter Tariq Tahir who thinks that air rifles are chambered in “2.2”?
The concept of fox hunting in heart of London, alas! neither Boris Johnson nor Tariq Tahir will be aware, is actually a famous literary theme.
In 1932, Gordon Grand published a wonderful story, titled The Silver Horn, A Nocturne of Old London Town, in The Sportsman, the opulent monthly catering to the wealthy and well-educated American sporting community, edited by Richard Danielson and published in Boston from 1927 to 1937.
One of the female members of the Millbeck Hunt tells Arthur Pendleton a story of observing during a recent visit to the metropolis a tipsy gentleman in evening dress, carrying a silver hunting horn, and hunting a notional pack of hounds through the heart of London’s fashionable West End. She describes the hunt in marvelous detail, remembering every check and incident of the hunt, producing a splendidly imaginative piece of sporting whimsy.
The story is a masterpiece, which manages to convey the technical sophistication and aesthetic charm of hunting through a verbal account of an entirely imaginary hunt in incongruous surroundings.
The Silver Horn was published the same year by Eugene V. Connett’s Derrydale Press as the title story of a collection of Grand’s foxhunting stories. The same story was also published privately in very small editions to be presented as gifts in Montreal in 1935 and Honolulu in 1941.
Colleen from Chicago put up a post last year arguing that fox hunting is the best extreme sport, which has started making the rounds today in hunting circles.
Fox Hunting is the hottest extreme sport you’ve never seen, let alone tried.
Who doesn’t like the thrill of the chase? How about a sport that is hundreds of years old, involves a private club, speed, thrills, horses, hounds and the rugged outdoors? What if it involved lots of ladies in tight pants straddling horses, spurs, whips, alcohol and getting to say “bitch” as much as you like? Mounting regularly? Breeding? How about offering the lady of your choice the chance to wrap her lips around your flask in public? Thinking you will surely die, yet living to tell about it? Who wouldn’t like this sport?
Guess what? Our ancestors were on to something. They may not have had Xbox but they did have the hunt box. They practiced the extreme sport of foxhunting – formal, expensive, dangerous and an incredible amount of fun. Traditionally a very private and exclusive sport, fox hunting has been made rarer over time by urbanization. While it may be difficult to pursue country sport in the city, fox hunting continues today -even just outside most of our major cities. Today, fox hunting is also much more egalitarian and truly more about chasing rather than harming fox these days. If you enjoy risk, danger, adventure and nature, and have a desire to party like your ancestors, fox hunting might be the sport for you.
She’s perfectly right. As Mr. Jorrocks observed:
“‘Unting is the sport of kings, the image of war without its guilt, and only five-and-twenty per cent. of its danger!”
Old Dominion Masters Douglas Wise and Gus Forbush in front of Henchman’s Lea announcing the beginning of the hunt and identifying the leadership of the various fields of riders.
We’ve been having a balmy Fall hunting season up until yesterday. The previous night a front rolled in dropping the temperature 20 degrees and bringing biting winds.
Nonetheless, an exceptionally large field turned out for the Saturday meet at Henchman’s Lea, doubtless motivated in part by the lavish hospitality of the hosts manifested at a Lucullan post-hunt breakfast.
Watch Karen’s photography site for the eventual appearance of a full photoessay devoted to this particular hunting day.
Huntsman Gerald Keal leads the Old Dominion Hounds out to hunt.