Master’s Report February 2016

Every year differs from every other which makes hunting interesting. Our season started as it always does with cubbing right after Labor Day. Conditions remained warm and relatively dry for weeks. We cast hounds early enough to benefit a bit from dew.

Entering young hounds in less-than-perfect conditions actually helps. If youngsters only know great scent and long runs when less-than-perfect conditions occur, they can be at a loss. Of course, the older hounds help as they keep pushing.

The weather that’s impossible for everyone is drought. While we did have dryness we did not have a drought, so our hounds would pick up the line, run it for 10 or 15 minutes and lose it. They kept trying and staff was happy to see the youngsters pick up that work ethic.

Opening Hunt was as always. However, the black fox that lives on the eastern side of the cistern, down there where the creek is deep, made an appearance and just as quickly ducked back into the rough. We used to have trails in there and, with luck, we can again open them this summer. The creek flows behind the old beef barns and provide some moisture, no matter what. I have walked that area as recently as last spring so I know where some of the dens are, quite cleverly hidden. He’s a smarty.

November’s temperatures bounced around. This combined with deer season made for tough going but hounds pushed out foxes. Nothing lasted for long.

December defied description. The Mercury read 77° F  at my house on Christmas Eve and about the same for Christmas. I remember a similar experience once in the nineties. God bless the hounds. They went out wearing their winter coats and tried.

Then like magic everything changed. Deer season stopped as the weather turned more wintry. We enjoyed a few good runs. The deer season ended, as it always does, the firstSaturday after New Year’s. Usually it takes foxes about a week to no longer sit tight.

As it happened, we put in a special Wednesday hunt on January 6, pretty cold and overcast. No one showed up but Jacque and it was the run of the season! Maria cast hounds, they hit within 15 minutes up behind The Arena and they ran, they flew, until sunset, when it became both dark and bitter. She had a bit of coaxing to do to bring them back to the horn, but good kids that they are, they did come. And since that afternoon hunt, the season has really picked up. Hounds have locked onto visiting dog foxes so the runs have been boisterous and long. Footing, bad in spots, is okay.

That is about to change. We’ve had Jonas. Naming the storms makes them easier to remember, I guess, and this was a whopper. Tucked up in the kennels, lots of straw to burrow into, all was well. Some of the older hounds liked their condos. In winter we put on their cold-weather doors, jam them full of straw and they preferred them. Well, what a surprise when hounds looked at all that snow about two and a half feet with bigger drifts.

Once the storm passed, they ventured out of the kennels and condos. There’s always some joker who rolls around, the canine version of snow angels. Given the depth of the snow they can’t run, but they can throw snow on one another. What a happy crew.

I have no idea when we will hunt again because the days, according to my weather app, will be high 30s, 40s, and the nights will plunge into the teens. That means melting and ice. As we’ve had so much snow it won’t disappear rapidly but there will be so much ice in the mornings. Even if you have studs in your horse’s shoes, it’s dicey, plus we have no idea of the condition in the mornings of the public roads. As to the roads on our fixtures, there’s no way we can remove the ice. So right now it doesn’t appear promising.

As soon as it’s reasonably safe for man and beast, we will go. Meanwhile, the foxes on the home fixture have plenty to eat. Some of our other fixtures have feeder boxes, some do not, but I expect those boxes need refills. Getting to them right now is impossible. Fortunately foxes are smart and good hunters. Still, I like to help them when times are harsh.

Have you noticed how thick and beautiful the coats are on our foxes? One of the reasons for this is our parasite control program. Once a month we mix some wormer in the kibble for them. Occasionally, we pour grease on the kibble, too. We used to be able to get restaurant grease but our source has dried up, so we purchase corn oil. They don’t need a lot, more like a healthy drizzle. The worming stops in March, usually mid-March, when the vixens are pregnant.  Can’t give any wormer as you’ll kill the babies. So we start worming again in September, when the kits are about half-grown and all is well.

But our maintenance program is one of the reasons you see such healthy foxes. We have got to figure out a way to manage our far away fixtures on a regular basis. Of course you can hunt foxes without such a program, but I really believe in taking care of our quarry. They provide us with such pleasure, let’s give them the best.

We do have one fox on Tea Time Farm who has become a real smart ass, forgive the slight profanity. This fellow lives somewhere near the stick and ball field. I like to cruise the farm at dusk, and occasionally right after dawn, when the game moves about. Well, this guy is a medium-sized red. He walks in no hurry. Sometimes he will sit down and look at the car. When he’s satisfied that a large idiot is inside, he then moves along, beautiful brush much in evidence.

He may be the fellow hounds pick up south of The Arena, or just on the other side of the road behind the kennel, which goes down to the Jerusalem field. He knows every trick in the book.

With a bit of wandering off the actual hunting, that’s been our season to date.

 

OPENING HUNT

 

Yes, it was warm. It was the miracle of the fishes and the loaves, but the best part of Opening Hunt is I couldn’t go on, and after about 15 or 20 minutes, gave the horn to Maria Johnson. I’d called her the night before stating I felt I wouldn’t last, thanks to the ever increasing pain in my broken hip.

Maria, who has been working with hounds and doing wonderfully well, still had never hunted hounds with that many people behind her. Well, she did like a champ and she’s carried the rest of the season.

This thrills me, and hounds are happy, too. Once I’m put back together, we will work out a schedule next season so she can keep up her skills. Good for both of us and this is the first time in 23 years when I could take a hunt day off. Naturally I never wish to do so, but this does please my publisher.

Maria and I have even talked about taking a day or two each month and hunting in tandem which would be enormous fun, I think.

She’s done a great job and do tell her. The whippers-in adjusted quickly and really like whipping-in to her. Oak Ridge is very fortunate.

 

EMERT

 

Yes, Emert is back and better than ever! Hounds hunted there for the first time in years on Friday, January 15 and pushed a fox out on the west side of the paved road and off they went. The music was lovely.

With a bit of care here and there, this will be an outstanding fixture.

 

PENLAN STATION

 

We are becoming more efficient here as we know it better and better. As topography goes this is our most generous fixture. The bears think so, too.

We are eager to keep hunting there, but Sunday, January 24th, we were snowed out.

Emert and Penlan Station are on the south side of the James River in Buckingham County, which is our territory. The soil is different than north of the James. Fortunately, our hounds are so versatile, more so than we humans. We keep learning. What we are learning is how much we like Buckingham County.

 

TECHNICAL TIDBIT

 

Our territory encompasses rolling hills, deep ravines, some wide, some narrow and the last remnant of the eastern ridge of the Blue Ridge Mountains, which is Ennis Mountain, to the east of State Road 611. The true last gasp of the chain is the Southwest Range, which is in Keswick’s territory.

The Rockfish River runs through Tea Time Farm, Rucker’s Run barrels through Oak Ridge and Cherry Hill, backed by Turner’s Ridge, sports a narrow but fast running creek, which ultimately empties into the Upper James, which you can see from the top of Turner’s Ridge.

The territories on the south side of the James have a lovely roll to them, but the steep, steep ravines are gone, plus you are that much further from the Blue Ridge Mountains, which are almost in the backyard of Tea Time Farm.

For a huntsman and whippers-in this means the winds can really fool you. Hounds can be traveling along Miss Wood’s Creek and the slight wind is right in their faces, where overhead it is whistling in the opposite direction. Hunt staff has to keep adjusting, tacking as it were, to that wind, knowing the minute they come up on the high meadows, it’s a whole new game.

Then there are the wind devils. Of course, they can occur anywhere but there are spots on the home fixtures where even if there’s a two mph wind, you’ll get a wind devil. The fox knows them. The fox also knows where all the running cedar grows and s/he makes good use of it.

If you’re riding in the field, certainly you feel the wind. The huntsman must use it. You don’t want the wind at your hounds’ tails. Now you can’t always help this as you may need to get from A to C, so you push through the unfavorable wind direction. Ideally, you want the wind in hound noses. Sometimes crosswinds work well, too.

Actually, most huntsmen learn to use wind and a cubbing wind is vastly different than a February wind. It’s harder for the whippers-in. A whipper-in usually tries to place her or himself in a place where they’ve got a good sight line. So they are often higher than the huntsman or, if asked to guard a bridge, etc., lower. Lower is always tougher. Anyway, that whipper-in can be waiting in a west wind and sees or hears the huntsman push hounds south. Here is where the whipper-in must trust the huntsman. Conditions are different and the huntsman is trying to use them to find scent.

If a whipper-in tries to second guess the huntsman, they will usually be a step slow. This doesn’t mean they are to mindlessly run about. Whipping-in is always about position.

As to the wind, next time you’re out there, see if you can figure it out.

Thank our whippers-in. We have good ones.

 

YOUR HISTORY

 

Hunting, central to high court life, was well recorded. I have no idea of the earliest documents of game, expenses or staff salaries, but I cite a few that we do have.

In 1398, the French Royal Account marks the annual salary of Philippe de Courguilleroy at 100.1 livres per year. He was the Master Huntsman to the King.

Added to this would be extra for clothing, living quarters, if needed, plus a bonus or two for an exceptional day. 100 livres was really good money in the late 14th century.

The next huntsman in line, probably a younger man in training, was Robert de Franconville and he was paid 46.1 livres per annum  with a few extras thrown in for boots, axes, etc. (de Franconville was well born.)

The keeper of the hounds, called Varlet of Hounds, Robin Rasson on was paid around 14 livres per year.

Lodging, wood for the stove and fires, was part of the salary and if horses were needed, they, too, were provided.

A skilled huntsman or anyone involved in the hunting, including the keeper of the books, was assured a decent to good living. Also, they had the great good fortune of sharing with the king what he and his court loved.

 

HISTORY

 

Alfonso V of Portugal, in the mid-15th century, had written Ordinances of Hunting which his father instituted. One of these states if any huntsman reaches the age of 70, he will be lodged by the current Master Huntsman and retains all the privileges he enjoyed in his prime. This was written down, which does tell us the favor in which such individuals were held.

Regarding being given a horse! Remember, a non-noble as a youngster might sleep with the hounds, no matter what country he lived in, and receive only food. These boys would be under the charge of the page des chiens (even in England much was written and spoken in Latin or French, and you know chien is dog in French). Anyway this page was the lowest -ranked officer in the hunting establishment but a man could rise, as could the boys over time. Then as now, reliability, aptitude, and a pleasant manner paid off.

If a man evidenced talent, he may not have been noble, a night or a squire, but he was given a horse which today would be like being given a Ferrari. Riding literary literally raised a man above others.

So coveted were hunting positions that members of the nobility entered hunt’s service. A non-noble might well end up a squire or a knight and that led to advantageous marriages, etc.

I mention all this as I am now 71. I would like to think the king would take care of me.

Up and over,

Rita Mae

Big Daddy

Stuart Jones left us October 14, 2015. Born in Richmond in 1931, he graduated from Glen Allen High School and served in the Navy during the Korean War. After that he attended the University of Virginia, made the Dean’s list and improved all the many clubs of which he was a member. This experience inculcated in him a great fondness for UVA sports. Football, however, usually let him down.

Those of us at Oak Ridge who hunted with him over the decades often heard about the latest defeat, snatched from the jaws of victory.

Few who saw him in the field would believe that he didn’t take up riding until his sixties. He found Karen Osborne who worked with him and it didn’t take Stuart long to find his way to the hunt field. It helped that he was a natural athlete and not given to excessive fear. Of course, there were times when he put the fear of God in us.

His service in the Navy, he really did see the world, either gave him or brought out in him a flexibility, a curiosity about other cultures. Stuart could work with anyone. He listened and he was respectful of differences. He was a man who learned from life and we were all the better for it.

He was a lifetime member of the Sons of the American Revolution, as was my father and we would often talk about history, what our forefathers and foremothers in endured, built and hoped for, and perhaps we represented their hopes. We had a lot to live up to and he did.

Boy Scout, Stuart’s horse, had his number. Early on, when these two were getting acquainted, Boy Scout stopped, refusing to move. This irritated Big Daddy who expanded his vocabulary of abuse. The field moved on and there was Stuart trying every way to move Boy Scout forward. No sooner was everyone out of view than Boy Scout, ears pricked up, watched as a healthy red fox emerged from the woods, trotted across the pasture, walked, no trotting, walked in front of Stuart and his horse. Stuart had to admit that Boy Scout knew more than he did and an accord was reached. Lavish offerings of apples and carrots cemented this accord. Boy Scout loved Big Daddy.

Mustard also loved him. Mustard was born in 2013 by Archie out of Moxy. Slight, mustard colored, she’d come out for her walks, see Stuart and run in wild circles until she calmed down. He had to praise her then she would behave herself. Stuart walked and worked hounds with me for years. Emily Schilling, Maria Johnson, Mary Shriver, John Morris, Toot Morris, along with Sonia Johnson, worked puppies and hounds in the off-season. We work harder in the off-season than actual hunting. If I’ve forgotten one of our regulars forgive me.

He loved hounds and they returned the affection but Mustard was just besotted with him. He’d also walk and hunt the bassets with me on foot, enjoying the music from those deep voices.

As years flew by, his whipping-in finally landed him at the utmost perimeter. He didn’t feel he could run full out, plus Boy Scout was so good at knowing where the fox was, he viewed more than if he was flying along. During the last year of his life, he became a wheel whipper-in where he, John and Toot could watch, listen, and delight in tormenting one another.

He didn’t want to leave us. Stuart loved life and would have lived to two hundred, if there was a way.

Our relationship grew over the years. He never could resist teasing me over feminism. I would return the favor. Back and forth, how we would laugh. His good humor touched us all and you really could talk to this wonderful man about anything and everything. Much as he teased me and vice versa, Stuart gave me and everyone else a fair hearing.

As he began to fail, I would call him after the hunts to give a full report. Not long before he died I called, he still had his voice, and told him Mustard had been naughty.

“Well, what are you going to do about it?” He wanted to know.

“Blame you.” I fired back.

That essentially encapsulates our friendship: devilment, laughter, a lot of love.

Oak Ridge is especially grateful to Karen, Pete, Hayley, and Lindsay Osborne for their kindness to Stuart. Karen would carry him to appointments; pick up what he and Cushman (his wife) needed with the assistance of her family.

At the very end, Karen recalled to Stuart a glorious hunt they had been on in prior years and it made him happy.

He asked that donations be made to the hounds in his honor. When staff heard of this final wish, it was difficult not to just fall apart.

As one should, I told Boy Scout that Big Daddy was gone. He dropped his head, put his forehead on mine and we stood that way for a bit.

Then I told Mustard. Sweet little thing, it took her over a month to come back to herself. She’d get off the trailer and look for Big Daddy.

Anyone who thinks we anthropomorphize animal emotions doesn’t live with them. They know and they loved him as did we all.

I am sorry it took me so long to write this. I just couldn’t bring myself to do it.

 

Rita Mae Brown, MFH

Master’s Report July 2015

The first day of cubbing is Friday, September 11, 2015, seventy-two days from today as I write this, 9 July 2015. For those of you going on vacation, I hope the time is restorative, great fun. For those of you staying home, I expect you will be repairing fences, boots, sewing ripped hunt coats and for those of you who were truly impressive, weeding your garden. I am looking out my window at wisteria that needs cutting before it takes over the state of Virginia. As for my gardens, well, I tell myself that flowers were once weeds so really, my gardens do have flowers. Oh, the fibs we tell ourselves.

Even with the heat I know most of you are walking out your horses. We start the true conditioning in about three weeks, taking it slow. By the first day of cubbing the horses are ready and so are the hounds. As always, there’s a bit of fat. Never start cubbing 100% fit. A little pad provides insurance because once we pass Opening Hunt, November 1 this year (yes, it will be 80° F, I swear) but once we get through it the temperatures drop, many more calories are burned. If you start cubbing without that insurance you can really run down horses and hounds. Then again, they will lose warmth.

While most of you know how focused we are on nutrition, conditioning, training it occurred to me this morning after working puppies that I have never discussed our physical structures, land or rationale behind the same.

Before that, puppies are doing very well. They aren’t ready to walk out alone but they can go one or two at a time with the big kids. Wednesday or Friday mornings they “play” just with themselves. So this morning, lots of running about, then called back to me, a little walking, packing in. Pretty good but Lego feels being in front is more important than being with the group. Just takes time. They are surprisingly good about loading up on the party wagon. Yes, a few need to run laps around the wagon but they finally load up. And the puppies immediately rush to the top tier of the trailer so they can see outside. You know they might miss something otherwise and this group doesn’t want to miss a thing. We are preparing ourselves for that first deer jumping in front of their noses. What a shock. A few will go after the deer but this class is very wanting to please so a call should bring them back. Remember, the youngsters are seeing everything for the first time. They’ve already seen foxes because the foxes patrol the kennel. I always fear that unkind words are spoken.

As to the wildlife, our bears, plural, are much in evidence. Docile, they keep to their routine but they’ve been hell on the feeder boxes.

More wild turkeys than I remember and rude, too. Those pompous lead hens will stop in the middle of the road and shoot the bird at you, forgive the pun. Really, this younger generation, no manners at all and their parents are even worse.

Hawks, owls in abundance, as well, which means a bumper crop of small game which means happy foxes.

That’s the home fixture report. Now on to our Oak Ridge kennels.

Roughly an acre and a half plus are fenced and cross fenced. We also have a third of an acre or more to the south of the kennels with a narrow creek through with if we ever need to expand. We are fortunate to have so much land and we always have acres across the road that could be used.

MAIN KENNEL

One story high, cinder block construction with a concrete floor, a slanted roof, and three rubber base painted bays inside and a tiny room with an even tinier bathroom and sink, a refrigerator for meds and a small desk.

Each bay has a partially covered back section which can be closed if a hound or hounds needs to be sequestered. The floor is also concrete.

Immediately behind this is a trench, concrete, which carries water and waste to a buried tank. You have to lift off the cover, let everything run down, then put the cover back. There are two of these tanks in the main kennel which are pumped out each year before cubbing. There is also one at the Puppy Palace, thousand gallons. Because we keep the heavy lid on, we have not endured overflow which would happen with these torrential rains. This system which was costly to install and necessary, according to newer state laws, cuts down on odor.

If in the narrow aisle you face the bays, the first two bays to your right open out onto an enormous run which wraps behind the side yard, more on that later, to another large yard containing a pond, small, and two condos along with a raised wooden bench. There is also a condo in the section of the run closest to the kennels.

Hounds love, love, love their condos which have removable doors for summer, replaced in winter along with straw.

Housing choices make for happy hounds. Some like the raised benches inside, others want to curl up in their condos or lounge on the porches built on to the condos. The porches delight the hounds in all but the most inclement weather.

Also, inside the main kennel is a whelping room which doubles as a recuperation room. This space has good ventilation and is easy to keep warm when bitterly cold. The concrete floor has rubber mats such as you use in your trailer. And yes, they can be chewed to bits faster than you can realize but they are easy to replace and if a hound is bone weary, the mat helps. Also, it’s easy to clean.

To the left of this is a feed room with built in wooden coffers, shelves and this room can be closed off.

To the right of the whelping room is the large feeding room and draw pen. This is two stories high, a concrete floor and three ways in and out.

You can open the draw pen door from inside or outside but if you are inside you have to have help in lifting the heavy outside bar. The bar closes upon to thick wooden doors.

The sides are 10 or 12 feet high so this, while roofed, has plenty of ventilation. It’s easier to keep hounds warm than cool.

Large troughs are used to feed and they are hosed out daily. Part of this space has a loft for storage. We put the summer fans up here when fall comes along with some odds and ends.

Our dream is to extend the floor across the space. We would not enclose below this room as we still want the ventilation. This would be our office and with lots of windows, we could monitor hounds in the main kennel and the side yard without going out there which, of course, changes their behavior. We’re lucky, they get along but it’s helpful to observe them among themselves.

The little room with the drain and bathroom is too small for an office, plus mud slides in on the bad rains. Comes in right under the door. It’s easy enough to clean but this isn’t a place to put records. Too difficult to protect plus the humidity won’t help the papers.

I would like my whippers-in, John and Toot to have access to hound papers, medical records, etc. A computer up there would help, too, as we could get into the MFHA stud book whenever we needed something. There’s no way we could put a computer in that tiny room.

We would like a place to sit down, talk over the hunt, etc. Right now we try to cram into a truck with double doors, huddle together for a little bit around the tailgate table. Being able to review a hunt after it has just concluded allows us to iron out some wrinkles, most especially to review hound performance. As we each cover different territory we each see different things.

This is a dream, one we’ve had for years but in the fullness of time, I believe it will come to pass.

As it now stands we have one full staff meeting once a year usually at Mary Shriver’s. She is excessively generous so this year we had it at Tea Time and we will probably move it each year until we get our true office. You’d be amazed at what we cover. To give you an idea, this year, I posed three questions which led to many others.

  1. How do you know when hounds have overrun the line?
  2. How do you know when hounds are running heel?
  3. How do you know when the fox has doubled back?

Maria brought aerial maps of our territory and Mary and Dee brought more maps from the MFHA seminar and Becky brought a grill! (She brought other things, too) but our Becky B. lashed her big grill onto her truck. Sonia helped her lift it off. I think we have resourceful and creative ladies here.

I mention all this because it might please you; interest you to know what goes on. We all look forward to being able to do this on a more regular basis right there with our hounds.

PUPPY PALACE

This is the octagonal building you pass when we ride back to the kennels coming from a westerly direction. Four pie shaped rooms feed into a center space with a large drain, the hose hangs overhead. You can wash out this kennel in the blink of an eye. The fourth bay stores food, broom, and mop.

If you close the outside door and the outside window, open the door into the kennel you can keep it warm or open and keep it cool. The outside runs are nothing like the huge runs at the main kennel but they each have condos.

As this was originally built for puppies, we didn’t need a lot of space and we were careful about the chain-link fencing. Puppies can crawl under, through, do the damnedest things. The priority was safety, fresh air, cleanliness, and sunshine. Each bay has a mud flap entrance for hounds and each bay has a raised bench now that this isn’t used for puppies anymore. One bay is used as a backup whelping room but now that we have the big whelping room we may change this. There is quite a bit of light in this kennel.

If I could do things over I would build a gigantic octagonal kennel because cleaning is quick, the shape lends itself to conserving energy. The ventilation and natural light are so healthy, pleasant. We now use this for old hounds, a retirement place with some younger hounds they are also. The small puppies are up in the grey kennel which I will come to later.

I forgot the side yard at the main kennel. It’s just that, to the right of the kennels, secured so the hounds can’t get in. Two condos and one big outside water trough take care of the hounds in this space who are some of our more sensitive girls.

HERBIE’S RUN

Another very large space at least one quarter of an acre. This is Herb’s old four horse trailer with a big pitched roof and surround porch and steps. Inside is a raised area across the nose which we bed with straw in winter. Lucite panels are slipped into the side slats and a heat lamp, as well as a big fan, is fixed to the ceiling.

This area like all of them uses a frost free pump. On the bitterest of nights the big outdoor water trough freezes. The indoor buckets have only frozen on the subzero nights but it takes a lot of refilling on a winter’s day. A wonderful new condo is also on these grounds along with too many pine trees.

Gyps in season are put up here as it is further away from the other kennels. The distance goes a long way to keeping order. It’s harder on John and Toot but better for hounds.

Oak Ridge hounds enjoy an abundance of space, light, fresh air, and shade. They can run and play to their hearts content. Happy hounds are easy to work with plus why have hounds if you don’t give them the best?

THE GREY KENNEL

A gambrel roof building about 14’ x 12’, 10 foot high ceiling, insulated, with a wrap around porch on two sides with a railing. Very warm in winter and the porch, as well as a raised bench, plus a small, low condo help in summers.

The puppies and mom come here. After weaning, the mother returns to the kennel. We introduce her again to her friends over a period of days, returning her to the grey kennels later each day. We’ve never had a problem but why take a chance? The inside of the grey kennel has a raised bench where mom can repose if she needs a break.

Puppies are kept here until at least six months old. I work with them almost every day except when I’m on the road. It’s really playing with some horn calls and running around the area which is a square about half a football field maybe a tad larger. It’s next to the five bastards so no one is out of the gossip loop.

Keeping the puppies close has drastically cut down on training time once they go down to the big kennels. We are very careful about this and initially take them down for an hour, monitored. Each day it’s a bit more time. However, I will feel better when I can put half-grown puppies in the yet to be built second trailer run.

There you have it. With the exception of the ladies planting flowers last year, our kennels aren’t pretty but they are tidy and serviceable. Hounds are happy and we have few problems with sickness or parasites. The only real problem we’ve had was kidney failure due to old age. I believe our hounds stay healthy because they are not in crowded spaces, have with the exception of the Puppy Palace, and many choices as to where to sleep and play. In good weather they all choose to be outside. Of course, keeping current on all their shots, monthly worming helps, too. And that is your complete kennel report.

Rita Mae

2015 Spring Hunter Pace results

Thank you to all participants….the riders, the workers, ground crew and spectators. Our event would not have been as successful without your help. Congratulations to our winners:
Full Cry:
1st – Kathleen King, Jacque Franco, and Amy Burke
2nd – Sandra Dawson and Sue Migliore
3rd – Joy Watkins
4th – Becky Birnbaum and Meghan Custer
Second Flight:
1st – Maria Johnson and Mark Catron
2nd – Liz Taylor and Marty Szczur
3rd – Cheryl and Budd Riddle
4th – Meredith Peyton and Christine Mahoney
Hilltoppers:
1st – Barbara Barrell and Kathleen Anderson
2nd – Karen Catron, Julia Scheibel, and Cameron Thomas
3rd – Elesteen Hager and Evelyn Mawacke
Juniors:
1st – Lynne Gebhard and Cate Albright
2nd – Jaimee Dolan and Tristin Lucas
3rd – Jane Gatewood and Brigid Albright
4th – Schuyler Hall and Harriet Albright
Again, congratulations to all the winners…..ribbons will be forthcoming shortly….

Master’s Report March 2015

The daffodils are up but two days ago we could see the snow swirling on the top of the mountains. By April 15, I figure the last of the frosts are over but this year, who knows?
If any of you are interested, I am judging the Maury River Hunter Trials this year, April 4, Saturday at the Virginia Horse Center. Schooling starts at 9 AM and the first class is that 10 AM. Not having a computer, I can’t tell you how to get the class list but there’s something there for everyone and I’m sure our foxhunting friends in The Valley will be there (Editor’s note: http://www.soareventing.com/index.php?option=com_registrationpro&Itemid=198&view=event&did=91)
Here’s how it works for you. Anything I judge, anywhere, anytime, that an Oak Ridge member rides in, I will be tougher on you. I expect impeccable turnout, I expect a sparkling horse with clean tack. As to what happens on any course, there are so many variables but I repeat, I will be tougher on you. Any ribbons you ever win when I am in the chair will be more than fairly won.
I have two reasons for this. I would never wish any contestant to think I favored my own. Secondly, I want people to see how proper Oak Ridge people are. As to our members, good manners and friendliness, I am never in doubt.
Next week we start the youngsters back in the arena. In prior years we gave hounds a month off but the mini Ice Age did give hounds more rest than usual, hence an earlier start.
We bid goodbye to our beloved Allie, entered into 2006 and Vandal, entered into 2005. What good long years they enjoyed. As with most all our hounds, John walked into the kennels and they appeared to be asleep.
Both hounds hunted briefly closing high and Allie found the second fox, the one they put to ground in the big brush pile. Vandal was content to stick right by me. I’d look down, he’d look up. I recognize that not too many hunts would allow an older lady or gentleman to go out a bit, but we pick them up when they fall too far behind. They live for this and if they can keep up for an hour, why not? They are so happy and they make me happy. I rather hope what I reach that stage that like Vandal, you will humor me, a rider on each side to jolly me along. And if the Fates are kind, I, too, can fall eternally asleep after a good hunt.
Sisters and brothers, what’s the point of being alive if you don’t grab mane and kick on?

Up and Over,
Rita Mae

BOOKS, ETC.
Found the full title of the book on quantum biology which is published by Bantam Books. “Life on the Edge: The Coming of Age of Quantum Biology” by Jim Al-Khalili and John Joe McFadden, Bantam 368 pages. I don’t have a price in dollars but it must be around 40.
Also, for those of you who like fiction, this is the bicentennial of Anthony Trollope’s birth so I’m sure there will be new releases, etc. Like Dickens and Surtees he could create living, breathing characters that stay with you. And like Surtees, he was a passionate fox hunter and by all accounts, a good one. Virginia Woolf said of Trollope that readers believe in the reality of his characters “as we do in the reality of our weekly bills”.
For those of you fascinated by Virginia Woolf, there is a new book out on her and her sister, Vanessa. Haven’t read it. Perhaps some of you have.
I pass these things on because who knows when you will be imprisoned by rains, winds, sleet, bands of pirates. (Do read the letters of St. Paul. What a drama queen. First I was set upon by pirates, then a great tempest blew up, once on land I was attacked by thieves, etc. etc. I do think it possible to be a good Christian and a critical reader, although I do better on one side of that equation than the other.
Ever and Always,
RMB

HUNT KIT:
Now’s the time to air out coats and vests before putting them up. Clean your boots and stuff them with newspapers or trees, if you have them.
For those of you wanting to add bespoke clothing to your wardrobe, this is the time to be measured for cubbing. The cutoff date for Opening Hunt is about mid-August, cubbing mid-July, at the latest.
Dee Phillips and I stopped by LK design in Richmond to look at fabrics and chat. The owner and designer, Lilya, (hope I spelled that correctly) is good company. Dee, Mary Shriver, John Western, and Sara Bateman, all wear jackets made for them by LK. The prices are very reasonable and of course, the fit, is perfect.
She has many fabrics there but for the hunt jackets and vests, best you bring along an idea of what you want i.e. Tattersall for a vest, or white on white for the most formal type of vest. As for jacket fabrics, she has some gorgeous tweeds but you will want to consider weight, when you’ll be wearing a jacket, etc.
Do talk to the above-mentioned members who will give a positive referral, but then you’ve seen them, which is the acid test. Should you be interested: LK Design, LLC –    414 Libby Ave., Richmond, VA, 23226 – 804-282-3555. Be sure to mention that you are from Oak Ridge.

BOOTS:
Now is also the time to order bespoke boots. You all know of Dehner, as well as Vogle. Mark Catron also knows of a bookmaker, should you want to ask him. If you order now, you will have your boots in time for cubbing.
Boots made expressly for you are not cheap but when you’re in the field for four hours or so, in all kinds of weather, it does make a difference.

DODGER:
The last hunt, cold, slick, Dodger the house mutt, who was old enough to vote, came along per usual. However, I had locked him up as he had a stroke. He knew how to unlock the door and walked all the way down to The Arena where John and Toot put him in the truck so he could participate.
He was there for Closing Hunt and so many of you gave him a treat. He had also been in the truck offering, I’m sure, advice to John and Toot.
He couldn’t get into the car after the Closing Hunt party so Maria Johnson helped me put him in. Easier with two as we didn’t hurt him plus he weighed more than you might think.
Like Vandal and Allie, he’s gone on. He knew more about hunting than most of us but was a gentleman and didn’t lord it over anyone except for Tally, the Jack Russell. Those of you keeping company with a Jack Russell understand.
I thank you for tolerating a cur dog in the field and ultimately, I suspect many of you got a kick out of them. He was always there; ready to go no matter how hard or far the hunt and he always came home to a bowl of crunchies, a big sleep in his bed with many cats snuggling up.