Happy Blessing Day!

Just part of the Blessing Day field!

The hounds at this year’s blessing ceremony included Hound Welfare Fund Retiree of the Year Sassoon, the giant woolly in the middle of the picture, who retired at the end of the 2011-2012 hunt season.

Grimes Mill, the Iroquois Hunt Club headquarters, all dressed up for the big day.

Whipper-in Cice Bowers accepts a piece of cake from hunt member Leslie Penn as part of the stirrup cup Iroquois huntsman Lilla Mason hosted after the blessing ceremony. Looks like Cice’s horse, Turnip, would like some, too!

Happy Blessing Day, everyone!

A sneak peek at 2012’s auction art!

Sandra Oppegard was inspired by this month's Blessing of the Hounds ceremony and painted this, which she generously has donated to the 2012 Hound Welfare Fund auction on June 16!

ARTIST Sandra Oppegard is one of the hounds’ best friends. Not only is she a staunch supporter of the Hound Welfare Fund who regularly donates her wildly popular art to the fund’s annual auction. She’s also got a foxhound of her own, Whistle.

Sandra already has donated her painting–photographed here shortly after its completion–for next year’s auction. The watercolor has a timely subject: it depicts part of the Iroquois Hunt’s annual Blessing of the Hounds, which Sandra attended. Thank you so much, Sandra, for your generous support of the retired hounds!

Please go on and mark your calendars! The 2012 Hound Welfare Fund dinner and silent/live auction will take place on June 16 at Grimes Mill!

To see photographs of last year’s event and some of the people who supported it, click here. To see short videos highlighting some of last year’s auction items, click here. We hope to see you at this year’s event! If you can’t be there in person, you can still bid–watch this space for more details closer to the auction. And, of course, you can donate to the retired hounds anytime either by snail mail or via PayPal. Visit the donation page at www.houndwelfarefund.org to get the HWF mailing address and PayPal information.

All donations are tax-deductible, and 100 percent of your donation goes straight to the hounds’ care.

Blessings all around


The Iroquois Hunt's Blessing of the Hounds took place earlier this month, with some of the retired hounds participating. Photo by Dave Traxler.

AND so begins the formal season, with the blessing of hounds and riders gathered once again at the old Grimes Mill. Blessing Day harks back to St. Hubert, about whom we have written a great deal in the past. But it also, in a way, “harks forrard” to the hunting season proper, and God knows we need blessings aplenty for that, when somber weathermen and the Farmer’s Almanac both are making ominous noises about a winter of snow and ice. Phooey. The temperature is in the 40s today, and, though it is wet, the houndbloggers are determined that It Will Not Snow as much this year as it did last year.

Baffle got a blessing, too, along with Iroquois huntsman Lilla S. Mason, from the Venerable Bryant Kibler. Photo by Dave Traxler.

The Iroquois hounds and followers were blessed on Nov. 5 to have very fine weather for celebrating hunting’s high holy day, as you can see from the pictures and video accompanying. The hunt, founded in 1880 and reincorporated (after a 12-year hiatus) in 1926, has been honoring the Blessing Day tradition since 1931, when Almon H. P. Abbott, 2nd Bishop of Lexington presided. To read more about the history of the club and of the hunt’s Grimes Mill headquarters, click here. Norm Fine, our good friend over at the Foxhunting Life website, recently unearthed a tiny jewel of a film that provides a glimpse of the Iroquois Hunt’s Blessing Day from 1934. To see it, click here.  Interestingly, the 1934 blessing shown in this one-minute Universal newsreel isn’t at Grimes Mill, but, we believe, a stone church near Winchester. The following year, on Nov. 4, 1935, the Blessing of the Hounds took place at Grimes Mill (click here for a Universal newsreel of that Blessing Day), where it looked very like today’s ceremony: horses lined up along the drive, hounds brought down from the kennel behind the huntsman’s cottage, where our kennel manager Michael Edwards now resides. The priest today, as then, stands on the  same old millstone to deliver his remarks.

Photo by Dave Traxler.

From the Houndbloggers’ perspective, it’s especially interesting to look at the hounds, which then were of the rangy, longer-eared American type prevalent in the area at the time.

Today’s Blessing Day, as illustrated in the video below, shows that the hounds and the setting may have changed since 1934, but the basic ceremony (and its appeal to the general public) have not:

We’re also pleased to include a photo slideshow of pictures that our excellent friend (and excellent photographer!) Dave Traxler took on the day.

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Several years ago, a friend sent me the text of the 1984 Blessing of the Hounds made by the Right Reverend Robert W. Estill, 9th Bishop of North Carolina, who, incidentally, also came back to the Mill for its centennial in 2008. Estill also was an Iroquois member before he moved to North Carlina, and so he was an especially interesting candidate to bless the hunt’s hounds for the 1984-’85 formal season.

“When I got my buttons and began to hunt with you while I was rector  of Christ Church,” Estill said in 1984, “my Senior Warden and godfather, Cllinton Harbison, penned a poem to ‘Our Riding Rector.’ It read:

‘A parson should have a ‘good seat’

Amd ‘light hands’ and an ardor complete

For riding to hounds

Where clean sport abounds.

May no spill that parson delete!

Photo by Dave Traxler.

“So you and I and this crowd of friends and well wishers come together for the Blessing of the Hounds,” Estill continued. “Yet are we not the ones who are blessed? Look around you. Even the person farthest removed from horses, foxes, or hounds could not fail to catch the blessings of the day, the place, and the occasion. We urbanites often lose touch with the good earth and with its creatures. We Americans have shoved our sports so deeply into commercialism and professionalism and competition that we have lost the sense of pleasure in sport for sport’s sake.

We lose touch with our past, too. With those who have gone before us. You and I are blessed today (in this time of the church’s year called All Saints) by those whom George Eliot first called ‘the choir invisible … those immortal dead who live again in minds made better by their presence.’ When those of you who will hunt step into the stirrups today, you will join, if not a ‘choir invisible,’ at least a bunch of interesting women and men who have done just that in years gone by.

Photo by Dave Traxler.

“From the time of 1774 to about 1810, settlers from Virginia ‘came swarming over that high-swung gateway of the Cumberlands into Kentucky,’ bringing with them hounds, whose descendants are here before us now carrying their names as Walker foxhounds. They were first developed by John W. Walker and his cousin, Uncle ‘Wash’ (for George Washington) Maupin. Wash hunted as soon after his birth in 1807 as was practicable and continued to do so until close to his death in 1868.”

Today, the Iroquois hounds are English and crossbred, and the game is more often the coyote, who came into Kentucky from the opposite route that the Virginia settlers took, arriving instead from the West. We do still see the occasional fox, and the Houndbloggers take it as a lucky sign. We viewed a long red one on Blessing Day, racing across Master MIller’s driveway, and we hope he was an omen for good sport and safety for the season to come. But we are just Houndbloggers, and we will leave the actual, formal blessings to the professionals! And so we return to Estill, whose 1984 Blessing of the Hounds seems entirely apt today:

Lord, you bless us this day with all the abundance of your hand.

For horses which obey our commands,

and for mules with good manners,

for hounds in joyful voice,

for foxes given us to hunt,

and for covert in which you provide for their safety,

for friends and partners in the chase,

for food and drink and for those who prepared and served it,

for those whose vision and care made all this possible and for those who have gone before os and are now in your nearer presence,

for St. Hubert, our Patron, and his life in fact and fantasy, we give thanks to you, O Lord.

Photo by Dave Traxler.

The Houndbloggers would like to add a particular blessing for the retired hounds, several of whom attend the Blessing of the Hounds each year. We’re lucky to have them and however many months or years of their good company left, and they are blessed to receive the Hound Welfare Fund‘s support. We hope you’ll give them a blessing of your own, a way of thanking them for their years of service and sport, by donating to the Hound Welfare Fund. One hundred percent of your tax-deductible donation goes directly to the retired hounds’ care. 

Iroquois hound show pictures and video!

Kids and the Iroquois retired hounds also participated in the show. Photo by Dave Traxler.

THE Iroquois Hunt‘s hound and puppy show on Saturday proved a good practice session for the upcoming Virginia Hound Show, and it also gave the HA puppies, sons and daughters of Hawkeye and Baffle, valuable exposure to the world beyond the kennel and their woods.

By the way, Judge Bud Murphy chose Hawkeye as the “grand champion” of our informal event. He just nosed out Sassoon, in Bud’s opinion, in the older male category. The houndbloggers will, of course, abide by the judge’s decision, but at least one of us reminds our readers that Sassoon Is The Best Hound Ever. This blog is too short to extol his many virtues, but suffice to say we love him.

Two of our other favorites also were on the boards at the hound show, young Bagshot, who showed last year at Virginia and then enjoyed a good first season in 2010-’11, and the chestnut-colored retiree Glog, last seen out hunting on Blessing Day 2010 and now taking great pleasure in his retirement activities–including, as you’ll see in the video below, pats and scratches from his new best friends, the children at Saturday’s show.

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The weather gods were smiling on us, because we got just about the only two hours of sunshine central Kentucky saw all weekend, and in that warm, sunny window we were treated to romping puppies, fine-tuned canine athletes, brief presentations on basic hound conformation and the whipper-in’s job, and Pimm’s served out of the Iroquois Hunt’s silver Kentucky Hunt Cup trophy punch bowl.

Sassoon enjoys a one-on-one conversation with IHC member and volunteer Leesa Moorman. Photo by Dave Traxler.

For a spectator’s view the show, click here, where Samantha Clark also has posted photographs and a story about the day’s events.

Thanks to everyone who participated, volunteered, and attended!

Now our thoughts turn toward the Virginia Hound Show and preparation for summer hound walks. And, of course, the annual Hound Welfare Fund dinner and auction, which takes place on June 4 at the hunt’s Grimes Mill headquarters. One hundred percent of your tax-deductible donations to this 501(c)(3) charity go directly to the retired hounds’ care. The retirees–who clearly relish their role as ambassadors!–appreciate it.

If you’re interested in attending the dinner and auction, please send an e-mail to hannah[at]iglou.com. If you want more information about the Hound Welfare Fund or would like to make a donation, please feel free to check out the fund’s website here.

An Iroquois first: a puppy show! (with HD video)

Iroquois Hunt will host its first puppy show on Saturday at the hunt’s headquarters, the Grimes Mill, seen in the video above. The six-month-old HA puppies and the young entered hounds, including the beloved Paper and Driver, have been hard at work practicing for the big day–and so have the Iroquois members who have volunteered to be on the human end of the leash!

To see what they’ve all been doing and hear Iroquois huntsman Lilla Mason’s comments on the hounds’ progress and on the purpose of the puppy show, click on the video. To see the video in high-definition, after you click the “play” triangle, look for the box in the upper-right corner that says HD. Click it!

Our puppy show will have a different twist on it from the traditional ones in England, which you can see in this Horse & Country TV video from the Berkeley Hunt’s puppy show. The most significant difference is that our attendees on Saturday, including children, will have a chance to try their hand at hound-showing, too! And kids also can enjoy supervised playtime in a pen with the HA puppies, now about six months old. There also will be snacks for kids.

For the adults, there will be the traditional puppy show Pimm’s, as well as hors d’oeuvres. Bud Murphy kindly has agreed to be our judge for the day.

The HA puppies will be shown for the first time on Saturday, but the now-entered BA litter will be using this as a dress rehearsal in their training for the prestigious Virginia Hound Show at the end of the month. You can see how they and other Iroquois hounds did last year at Virginia, and get a feel for this beautiful hound show, here.

The  houndbloggers will be at the Mill Saturday to catch some video, and later this month we’ll see you in Virginia!

Anything but a blank day …

The Clear Creek Beagles, photographed by Jean MacLean.

WE ran across an interesting note from the past in a Horse and Hound magazine, detailing one of the Ampleforth Beagles’ more interesting–and unsettling–finds back in 2001. The pack hunts in Yorkshire. Said Horse and Hound:

“Ampleforth College students were returning to the meet after following the beagles when they discovered what appeared to be an unexploded shell. Police called in the Army bomb disposal unit to detonate the shell, thought to be a World War II relic.”

It’s not something American packs have to deal with very often!

The Ampleforth Beagles were a college pack at Ampleforth College  from 1915 to 1994. They’ve since been taken over by an alumni group but still attract students as followers and as staff, including one who is named, endearingly, a Captain of Beagling. Happily, the pack is still featured under “Activities” on the Ampleforth College website, which notes that “through the Beagles, the boys and girls of the College have the chance to enjoy close and friendly links with local people across the Moors, links often shown in the farmhouse teas provided after hunting. The Beagles also give boys and girls some experience of animal welfare through visits to the kennels and some local students help at hound shows during the Summer months.”

Puppy show next week!

Which makes a nice segue back to the Bluegrass, whereIroquois members, their guests, and the Iroquois Hounds are busy preparing for their first-ever puppy show, to be held May 14 in front of the Grimes Mill. The show starts at 4 p.m. and will feature children’s activities and chances for kids and adults to meet the puppies, retired hounds, and the Iroquois hounds that are being prepared for the prestigious Virginia Hound Show at the end of the month. Also on offer: Pimm’s! Watch this space for more information in the coming days.

Houndbloggers Abroad–and an excellent fundraiser

THE houndbloggers are back in England for the next week or so, so we’ll be posting on a variety of topics as anything interesting comes up.

The most interesting thing so far has already happened, and that was the annual Hound Welfare Fund dinner and auction that took place on March 20 at the Iroquois Hunt Club. Thank you so much to all who bought tickets, attended, donated items, volunteered and bid–even if you didn’t end up buying, your bids helped the hounds. We thought the evening turned out splendidly, and auctioneer Walt Robertson of the Fasig-Tipton Company was a great help, as was caterer Cooper Vaughan, and so many others.

They’re still tallying up the income, but all in all it seemed a highly successful night for the retired hounds. Two of them–Stammer and Starburst–attended the silent auction and circulated among the partygoers to thank them for being there (and, more importantly, to remind them of what they were really bidding for). Thanks to one and all for helping the retired hounds again this year!