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!

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!

Of horses and hounds

Stalker the horse and Stalker the hound

Stalker the horse and Stalker the hound

IROQUOIS has a lot of horses that are named for hounds. Joint-MFH Jerry Miller always has named all his horses for hounds, not all of them Iroquois hounds. Miller’s great hunt horses Furrier and Tennessee Lead, for example, were both named for famous hounds from history. (Furrier was described as “crooked as a crab’s claw” but the black and white Belvoir-born hound “ran hard at head and was as stout as oak” in his career with the Quorn and Brocklesby, according to author William Scarth Dixon; Furrier went on to become not only a famed hunting hound but also a renowned sire).  

But many of Miller’s current horses–such as Gangster, Farmer, Bonfire, and Grundy–are named for Iroquois hounds of the recent past. A few are named for hounds that are still with us, such as Stalker (pictured above with his equine namesake). Now retired under the auspices of the Hound Welfare Fund, Stalker is the fourth hound profiled in the “Meet the Hounds” link provided with his name above.

The Iroquois field secretary has a hunter named Harlequin after her favorite hound, the Hound Welfare Fund’s retiree of the year for 2009-2010.

Members of the field also have honored hounds by naming horses after them. I understand one of our accomplished young riders has a horse named Glog, just as Iroquois has a hound named Glog. Willy, if you’re out there, send us a photo of your horse!

If you’ve got a horse who shares a name with a hound, please e-mail beagle52@aol.com. Tell us why you chose the name you did and a little about your horse. If you’ve got a picture of your horse, send that as a JPEG file, too, and we’ll post it.

I’ll get the ball rolling. My horse, Sassoon, and the hound Iroquois Sassoon ’04 both were named for the English writer and World War I soldier Siegfried Sassoon. He’s best known for his poetry about the war, but he also is the author of the sporting classic Memoirs of a Fox-Hunting Man. I got my Sassoon in 2003 from the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation. The same summer, Jerry gave the name Sassoon to the only male puppy in that year’s litter by the great Iroquois stallion hound Grundy and out of Bicester Sandal.

The hound Sassoon was entered at Iroquois in 2004, the same year my Sassoon hunted his first full season.

Sassoon hound

Sassoon hound

 Iroquois Sassoon ’04 has gone on to fame and fortune! He won the foxhound championship at the Mid-America Hound Show a couple of years ago and has turned into an exemplary hunting hound. He’s easily recognizable in the hunt field, because he’s large and woolly.

My Sassoon has had a more up-and-down path. In 2005, just before the start of what would have been his second full hunt season, Sassoon got a tiny puncture wound underneath his fetlock while he was turned out. The puncture went into the tendon, infecting the tendon sheath, which then required four surgical tendon flushes and a stay at Hagyard Equine Medical Institute.

We weren’t at all sure he’d survive, but he did. Then we were pretty certain he’d never be rideable again, but he surprised all of us by coming all the way back. It was a long recovery, but in 2008 my vets declared him hunting sound again. He had missed two full seasons when I took him out again last October for the first time since his injury.

 

Sassoon horse

Sassoon horse (the black one!)

He’d been off so long, I put a green ribbon in his tail to let everyone know he might be unpredictable. That morning I overheard another rider remark, “She’s saying that horse is still green?”  That seemed unkind, but then she didn’t know the full story!

Sassoon doesn’t get out hunting as much as either of us would like (this really is true, according to a “horse psychic” I met at a horse sale the other day!), but he’s a great pleasure in my life, as I’m sure your horse is, too.

By the way, Siegfried Sassoon died in 1967, but his son George carried on his father’s support for hunting. When the foxhunting ban was debated in England, George and his stepson put pro-hunting signs on the family’s pasture fencing. The day the ban went into effect in 2005, George attended a local hunt’s first post-ban meet for drag hunting. He was too frail to ride anymore, but he wore a Countryside Alliance sticker (and an old Soviet army hat!).

George Sassoon and his furry Soviet hat attended a local drag-hunt meet in February 2005 after live fox-hunting was banned in England. He thought it was both flattering an amusing that there was a hound named Sassoon across the Atlantic in Kentucky!

George Sassoon and his furry Soviet hat attended a local drag-hunt meet in February 2005 after live fox-hunting was banned in England. He thought it was both flattering and amusing that there were canine and equine Sassoons hunting across the Atlantic in Kentucky!

George, a farmer, engineer, and linguist, died in 2006 after a remarkably interesting , though sometimes turbulent, life. After his funeral, the attendees gathered in in his regular pub. One of his pals at the bar, on hearing I was from Kentucky, said, “That’s where they’ve  got that hound and horse called Sassoon!” I got a kick out of that, and I guess George did, too.

Harlequin gets his gold watch

Harlequin, as captured by Peggy Manness of Maness Photography

Harlequin, a nine-year-old son of Shamrock Xray '96 and Bicester Harmony '97, as captured by Peggy Maness of Maness Photography

THEY call Harlequin “the boomerang.” Two times Iroquois drafted him out to another hunt, and two times he came back. How lucky that turned out to be for us!

“He was a difficult puppy. He didn’t respond to authority well,” is how Iroquois huntsman Lilla Mason puts it.

But the boy sure turned out to be a good hunting hound. When Iroquois got him back the second time, MFH Jerry Miller decided it might be best to try neutering Harlequin, and that helped. So did the passage of time.

“As with a lot of hounds, I think he was just immature,” Lilla says, “and as he hunted more, he matured and became a really good hound.”

One creative training strategy Jerry used to correct Harlequin whenever he was errant was to leave him home from a hunt when Harlequin misbehaved.

“He was frustrated when he saw his pack mates leaving to hunt, and he would straighten up very quickly in order to be invited back out hunting next time,” Lilla recalls. “Hounds really do understand when everyone goes out to hunt. They know the pattern of a hunt day: you get drawn out, you get your tracking collar put on, you get loaded into the hound trailer. They know what all that means, and they know they’re missing it when they’re left behind. They realize that they’re part of the pack, and I think they get humbled. The cockiness that made them errant is dashed in the disappointment of not being invited to participate.”

This year, when they open the kennel gate at Iroquois to load the hounds up for the first meet, Harlequin will stay behind. He’s the newest member of the shuffleboard-and-golf set, living out the remainder of his days with his new pack, the Iroquois retired hounds. He can rest on his laurels now, and there are plenty of those. Despite his rebellious beginings, this good-looking young tough with those jaunty spots–a sort of Rebel with Four Paws–became a leader of the pack.

“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.

Many thanks to Peggy Maness for these beautiful portraits of Harlequin! You can visit her at manessphotography.com

Many thanks to Peggy Maness for these beautiful portraits of Harlequin! You can visit her at manessphotography.com

“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, a Crossbred, was bred at Iroquois out of Harmony, an English bitch Iroquois imported from the Bicester. Harlequin was entered at Shamrock, before he boomeranged back to us the first time. He’ll have a home for life here at the Iroquois kennels now under the auspices of the Hound Welfare Fund. Incidentally, like pretty much everybody’s 401(k) these days, the hounds’ retirement fund can always use support, so we encourage y’all to donate.

Thank you, Harlequin. Happy retirement!