Hot Shots benefit Hound Welfare Fund

Thanks to all of you who bought the Sporting Clays Afternoon and Picnic at the 2010 Hound Welfare Fund auction!

IT looks like Sunday’s Sporting Clays Afternoon and Picnic hit the target for these happy participants. The group won the package at the 2010 Hound Welfare Fund benefit auction back in March, and their winning bid went straight to the Iroquois retired hounds. Thank you!

Thanks also to Tommy Dulin and Andre Pater for offering their good coaching services and to hosts Jerry and Susan Miller, who held the event on their farm. After several hours of shooting clay pigeons, the party moved creekside, where Susan Miller laid on a sumptuous spread at one of the prettiest spots in the hunt country, on the shaded banks of Boone Creek. The participants also will receive a DVD highlighting their shooting exploits.

A lavish creekside picnic followed the afternoon's shooting.

The company was excellent, the conversation great, the food and wine delicious–and it all benefitted the hounds. Thanks again to everyone for making the day such fun!

Here are a few highlights from the day, first in video and then in some photos. If you missed out of the Sporting Clays afternoon this year, keep your eyes open for the 2011 HWF benefit auction program and come back to bid again!

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A party for Harlequin!

Cheers to Harlequin! Photo by Peggy Maness. Click to enlarge!

FRIDAY evening had a golden sunset–what a fitting display for the sunset of Harlequin’s hunting career and the start of his golden years!

Harlequin, nicknamed “The Boomerang” by the hunt staff, is one of our most remarkable hounds. To read his story, click here. But we’ll give you a taste of the kind of foxhound this rebel-turned-leader was with this excerpt:

“I can tell you he was a good leader,” Lilla says. And I’ll turn the mike over to Lilla to tell you how, because she tells the tale better than anyone, having seen it first hand:

“One time hounds were in a covert in Possum Hollow, and it had been a blank day up to that point, dry and hot, one of those days in the drought. It seemed hopeless. But we got in Possum Hollow, and one hound spoke, then two hounds spoke, and then they just erupted. At the very west end of Possum Hollow, out popped a coyote. There just happened to be a medium-sized cow standing there eating by itself. It had obviously gotten out of the field where it belonged. When the coyote came out of the covert, the cow took off and ran down the fenceline. The coyote got right underneath it and ran along with it for about 200 or 300 yards. Then the coyote turned right under the cow and went straight west while the cow continued on north.

Harlequin enjoyed hearing huntsman Lilla Mason tell his story. Photo by Peggy Maness.

“That particular day, we had a few older hounds and a lot of younger hounds, because the fixture was a good place to bring younger hounds. One of older hounds was Harlequin. The hounds came spilling out of covert in full cry, but when they got out they quickly had a check, I suppose because they could smell that cow. We’d all seen the coyote come out, but the cow had foiled his scent. So the hounds swirled around and around, and it was Harlequin that left the group and went up and down that fence line, up and down, again and again. You could see he smelled smething but wasn’t sure. But then he struck off on the line right where the coyote had split off from the cow, like he was saying, ‘Here it is! Here it is!’

“He was that kind of hound: he would rely on himself to help. He puzzled it out, and he was the one who went back on his own to do that. And that does a lot for the puppies coming along, when you have a seasoned hound like that to lead your puppies. That what makes your puppies.”

Harlequin arrives for his retirement party with escorts Michael Edwards (kennel manager) and Amy Dillon. Photo by Peggy Maness.

We auctioned tickets to Harlequin’s retirement party at the Hound Welfare Fund’s 2010 fundraising dinner and auction in March, and what a perfect evening it was. The location was a lovely refurbished log cabin, owned by Iroquois president Derek Vaughan and his wife Neal, that sits on the palisades above Boone Creek and the old Grimes Mill that serves as the Iroquois Hunt’s headquarters. Tucked away in the woods and surrounded by gardens, the cabin provided a perfect setting for Harlequin to receive his guests. Foremost among those was Betsy van Nagell, wife of joint-Master Dr. Jack van Nagell, and a special friend to this special hound. Huntsman Lilla Mason explained why when she took the floor to honor Harlequin: at hunt meets, when she and kennel manager Michael Edwards would count hounds, they often would turn up one hound–or a half-couple, as foxhunters say–short in the count. They’d count again, maybe even debate how many they’d brought, and then one of them would spot the “missing” hound. That would be Harlequin, who, upon being let out of the hound trailer would head straight off for Betsy and sit down next to her horse. Every. single. time. He would gaze adoringly up at her, and nothing would divert his attention from the object of his affection.

Harlequin (Shamrock Xray '96-Bicester Harmony '97), by Peggy Maness

Betsy loves Harlequin as much as he loves her, and his retirement party was made possible in large part by her generous donation, including the Moet & Chandon Champagne whose corks popped cheerfully before the big toast to the evening’s star.

Harlequin with his closest friend, Betsy van Nagell (right). Photo by Peggy Maness.

The Hound Welfare Fund thanks Betsy not only for her contributions to Harlequin’s party, but also for her years of support for the fund. We also thank Derek and Neal Vaughan for opening their cabin for this special occasion, caterer Cooper Vaughan of Dupree Catering for a splendid repast, and photographer and frequent Hound Welfare Fund volunteer Peggy Maness for capturing it all in pictures.

Thanks are also due to the many hound lovers, Iroquois members and non-members alike, who have helped to make wonderful retirements like Harlequin’s possible. Thanks to your support, the Iroquois Hunt retires all of its hounds, allowing them to live out their days in comfort at the kennel and to pass away peacefully and with dignity when the times comes.

The Iroquois Hunt has been around for more than 125 years. It was founded in 1881 in a very different era, and it has endured in large measure because its members and Masters have been responsible stewards who maintained the hunt’s good name and honorable reputation among landowners and in the larger community. It’s in this spirit that the Hound Welfare Fund continues the tradition of responsible breeding, care, and retirement for every member of the hunt’s working pack–a tradition that also burnishes the good name of the Iroquois Hunt Club, and, by extension, that of its members, both hunting and social.

An elegant setting for Harlequin's party.

All of our hounds are valuable to us, and, frankly, it’s not easy to come up with just one as our annual Retiree of the Year!

So, please, wherever you are, please raise a glass to Harlequin, and to all the other hounds you know. They deserve it!

Iroquois at the Virginia Hound Show (with video)

The Virginia Hound Show: foxhounds everywhere you looked!

IT was hot, but it was fun. Hundreds of hounds, from horizon to horizon. If you can’t be out hunting, freezing in the sleet and gale-force winds atop Pauline’s Ridge or some other place while the hounds go singing along Boone Creek, well, if you can’t be doing that, standing in the shade of massive old trees and watching just about every kind of foxhound with every kind of coat–English woollies, American tri-colors, and black-and-tan Penn Marydels–parading by isn’t too shabby as an alternative. Especially when one of your hounds takes home a trophy, which is kind of nice!

Best fun of the day: seeing relatives to our hounds, such as Hailstone’s sire Live Oak Hasty and Iroquois Gloucester’s son Mill Creek Rasta.

Click to play this Smilebox slideshow: Virginia Hound Show 2010
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But now, as Iroquois huntsman Lilla Mason put it, the fun really begins: summer hound walk. That starts in just a few days, and the houndbloggers are especially looking forward to it. Paper, the clown of last year’s puppy crop, is now a hunting veteran, and it’s time for Driver and the BA litter to start walking out with some of the big pack. We’ll be following their adventures!

How ’bout that Box!

HE didn’t win, but, man oh man, Ice Box overcame significant traffic trouble and was closing fastest of all with a furious, blazing run on the far outside! If you had him across the board in the Kentucky Derby yesterday, you got a nice payoff anyway for place and show. Ice Box paid $11.20 to place and $8 to show. Not to mention you got a thrilling run for your money!

He’s a mudder, and his mother musta been a mudder. Which is interesting, because our Icebox actually isn’t a mudder at all.

Oh, right, yes, Super Saver won by 2 1/2 lengths.

If you don’t remember why the hound blog cares so much about the 2010 Kentucky Derby’s second-place finisher, click here for a refresher.

Ice Box wasn't the only mudder at the 2010 Kentucky Derby. Trust me, we saw worse than this!

When we returned home from Churchill Downs last night, we asked Mr. Box how he managed to pull it off.

“I think I probably was running to  get out of the mud,” he said.

Will he go to the Preakness?

“Oh, I don’t know,” he demurred. “Are there biscuits? I hear the Belmont has great big biscuits.”

At least Mr. Box didn’t lose a shoe. Judging by the number of flip-flops (more like flip-slops after the heavy rains on Derby Day), tennis shoes, and hiking boots we found abandoned in the parking lot and on the sidewalks around Churchill Downs, a fair number of the patrons did. Here are a couple of especially compelling examples in a department we’ll call …

Lost Soles of the Kentucky Derby

Some of the numerous shoes we saw left behind in the parking lot near Churchill Downs after the Derby, their owners apparently having been Raptured .... but they were nice enough to leave their drinks behind for the rest of us!

... but it was nice of them to leave their drinks behind!

The evidence tells the tale: this guy was handicapping the second race when he simply vanished, leaving muddy shoes, damp socks, and the all-important Daily Racing Form Derby Edition behind.

The Derby is really one big party, and there’s a lot of debris in the aftermath. Amazingly, by dawn on Sunday, the track’s all-night cleaning crew sweeps everything up. But before then … it looks like an impossibly large job.

This morning, our Derby runner-up slept in (“It was raining,” he explained), stretched his legs with a little run around the bottom of the staircase with Harry and Bingo, and declined to go outside, even for Important Business (“It’s still raining,” he explained.). Asked how his life had changed, Mr. Box said, “Well, it seems like it’s rained a whole lot more.”

Paging Noah …

Icebox is right. We’re in the middle of the worst full-day downpour we’ve seen in months. This prompted the houndbloggers to take a drive back down to Boone Creek and the Iroquois Hunt Club to see how things were looking. The creek was rising fast, and we estimated that the rapids were only about 18 inches under the bridge by the time we left at about 3:30 p.m. Luckily, the intrepid Debbie Young had already been in to bring things up from the basement, and while we were there IHC president Derek Vaughan and neighboring landowner Chas Martin also were on the scene, so Grimes Mill was in good hands.

This flood already looked larger than the one we saw last fall.

The ground was thoroughly waterlogged, but we hope things will start to dry out soon so that we can get back to riding. In the meantime, we hope you’re all staying warm and dry–and that you cashed a ticket on Mr. Box!

A houndblogger at the mutuel window. Hooray for Ice Box!

Happy Sunday, everyone!

Blessed are the foxhounds (with much video!)

IHC Blessing of the Hounds 11-07-09

The Iroquois Hunt's Blessing of the Hounds honored the pack's retirees as well as its current hunting members. The human "new entry" also were well represented among the riders!

THERE’S something truly beautiful about the Blessing of the Hounds ceremony that opens the formal foxhunting season. It’s a “high church” event for foxhunters, a way to honor the sport’s most important players: the hounds, the game, and the land.

At Iroquois, we add a special twist by including retired hounds in the blessing ceremony, a tip of the top hat to their years of service and all the sport they and their progeny have given the club.

A good many of the Iroquois Hunt’s neighbors and landowners were in attendance today as the riders, horses, hounds, and hunt staff gathered in toasty sunshine on the clubhouse lawn. Deacon Bryant Kibbler conducted the service, and in his brief homily, he, too, made a point to honor our old soldiers who were standing nearby with huntsman Lilla Mason, their sterns gently waving as if they were remembering their glory days in the hills and fields around them.

They were joined by a sprinkling of current members in the hunting pack. Our big woolly, Grundy’s son Sassoon, is “far from retired,” Lilla said, “but he loves a party.” The sisters Finite and Finesse, fondly known as “two bodies, one brain,” also attended before taking to the hunt field.

Finite and Finesse

Two bodies, one brain: Finite and Finesse

(In case you need a reminder about how they got their nickname, here is their story, originally posted in Hound’s Life: Summer Walk earlier this year:

They are a testament to this hunt staff’s patience. They showed little real interest in hunting early on in their careers and usually could be found loping along together as if in their own world. But one day, something clicked.

“Lilla spotted them on a run out hunting one day near Blue Fox Farm,” Miller recalls. “She said over the radio, ‘It’s Finesse!’ I said, ‘No, you’ve got that wrong,’ and she came back on the radio and said, ‘And Finite!’  I couldn’t believe it.”

But there they were, the two sisters leading the whole pack.

“They lost 10 or 15 pounds that season because they finally started hunting,” Miller said. “Before then it seemed like they could just live on air. We used to feed them about this much”–cupping his hand–”and they still stayed fat because they expended so little energy on the hunt field.”

Sassoon, Finesse, and Finite are all woolly hounds rather than smooth-coated. The other woollies out this morning to receive their blessing were Gloucester, Fickle, and Stalker.

For Stalker, it was an especially important milestone. Stalker is nine years old this season, and he has a heart ailment. “Every day is a blessing for Stalker,” said Lilla, and that’s true. We don’t know how long we will have old Stalker around, but he has earned the hunt’s special affection for his courage.

Stalker '01

For Stalker, every day is Blessing Day

The other retired hounds who enjoyed a nostalgic visit to the hunt club were Parapet, Pancake (better known in her early hunting days as “Pancake. Pancake. PANCAKE!”); Glamorous, so named because she appears to be wearing an ermine wrap around her neck and shoulders; Radiant; Glowworm (whose father, Captain, was the first hound retired under the auspices of the Hound Welfare Fund); and Harlequin, the HWF’s retiree of the year for 2009 who was featured in the blog earlier this year.

Harlequin photographed by Peggy Manness

Harlequin, as captured by Peggy Manness of Maness Photography

The older hounds stepped right back into their familiar role, pushing their way right up with the younger hounds to compete for biscuits and trotting over to visit spectators gathered around the lawn for the ceremony. One child could be heard to say, “Mommy! That dog’s got a beard!”

We love our woollies!

The clip below is from the beginning of the Blessing of the Hounds ceremony; the two biggest woollies are Sassoon and Stalker.

Then it was on up the road for a stirrup cup in a field adjacent to Miller Trust Farm, where the hounds are kenneled.

It was especially nice to see so many young riders out today! They took everything in stride. The smallest riders retired from the field after having their photos taken (and some ham biscuits and cake, provided by Lilla as part of the stirrup cup). But the other juniors joined right in for the hunt day, galloping and jumping and watching the hounds work in the grassy fields, woods, and creek bottoms on Miller Trust and the surrounding country.

We think everyone–hounds, horses, and riders–went home happy. The weather was too hot for good scenting, but the hounds worked well together, and, all in all, it was a pleasant start to the formal season, complete with some impromptu schooling over fences in “the bowl” near Boone Creek on Miller Trust. In the clip below, you get a good idea of how high some of the growth is now, courtesy of the unusually wet summer we’ve had. The clip starts with the field jumping a coop and also includes the sound of Lilla’s horn and the hounds speaking briefly.

Finally, it was time to hack home again. Lilla rode her horse, Lager, right into the kennel to make sure everyone was home safely.

Blessing Day - Back in kennels

Lilla and Lager make sure everyone's back safe at the kennel

Hound at Miller Trust

"I'd rather be hunting!"

We hope you had a happy hack home, too.

Long hack home

The end of the day. We hope you enjoyed it as much as we did!

Happy Blessing Day, everyone!