A Tale of Three Litters … and One Stick

A Puppy For Everyone! The BO puppies back in December with friends Hannah Emig, Mary Hicks, Nancy Clinkinbeard, Maggie Wright, Eloise Penn, and Christine Baker. The BO puppies are by Samson out of Bonsai. Photo by Gene Baker.

The puppies of the Iroquois Hunt foxhound pack have been keeping busy these days, as you can see in the videos below. The younger set, the SA and BO litters, even went on their first “hunt” for unusually wooden quarry! Luckily, the chase–with good cry, we might add–was captured by huntsman Lilla Mason, who put together the first video. And, no, that sound was not dubbed in! Those are the puppies themselves taking charge of the soundtrack.

Meanwhile, the “big puppies” of the HA litter have matured into breathtakingly noble and elegant creatures. They might have stepped right out of a medieval tapestry.

It’s not many more months now before the HAs will join their elders in the pack, where the BA litter, the first puppies the hound blog started following back in 2009, are now leaders. More on that later. For now, please just relax and enjoy some warm puppies on a winter afternoon!

Casting back on a rainy day

Photo by Dave Traxler.

Thank heavens for rain. God knows we need it sometimes, and so do our landowners. But does it have to fall, and fall so heavily, on days when hounds are supposed to meet? At least there is a silver lining: poor weather provides a fine opportunity to think back to sunnier days. The summer hound walk and roading season ended several weeks ago, but we thought we’d cast back a bit and enjoy a last look at some video and photographs we and photographer Dave Traxler collected over the summer.

Click to play this Smilebox slideshow

Now, of course, our thoughts have turned back to fall and the new hunt season. Which means the return of the Hound of the Day series, as well as more photos from Dave, and video when the houndbloggers are out with the camera. Stay tuned for all of that when the weather allows us back out again, and, in the meantime, stay warm and dry!

Princes, Kings, Champagne, and a Scratch

HA puppy Hamlet, as photographed by IHC member Gene Baker.

IT’S hard to believe how much the HA puppies have grown! Iroquois Hunt member Gene Baker caught young Hamlet looking regal and mature–and wise beyond his years. Amazing to think he and his siblings are only seven months old.

To see the HA pups on the move, click here and here for videos from their hound walks. Thanks, Gene, for sending the photograph!

Kennel reception a hit

The HA puppies recently provided entertainment to visitors at the Iroquois kennel’s Champagne reception, hosted by the hunting hounds and the retirees.

The hounds hosted a crowd last month at the kennel's Champagne reception.

Now, when the Iroquois hounds put on a party they really, er, put on the dog. Their friends Uschi Graham and Kasia Pater, who also is the honorary chair of this year’s Hound Welfare Fund dinner and auction (June 4: mark your calendars!), lent a stylish hand and decorated the kennels with Persian carpets, potted palms, bronzes, and a work by Andre Pater.

Despite the afternoon’s very windy conditions, a good time was had by all–and the wind even died down eventually, making it easier to keep hold of your Champagne flute and hors d’oeuvres!

Iroquois member Robin Doller chats with one of the day's hosts.

Also within easy reach at all times: bottles of bubbly. Yes, the good stuff. The hounds know what they’re doing when they choose Champagne!

Many, many thanks to everyone who helped make the day so much fun, including Michael Edwards and Alan Foy for answering questions and showing off the hounds and their living quarters and Gene Baker and Blaine Holloway for providing a pair of handsome examples of proper hunt attire–and, of course, thanks to all the guests!

King’s Troop and the Foxhunting Tradition

One of the houndbloggers’ pet topics is the long and close relationship between foxhunting and the military, and we were especially excited to see a story touching on that shared history in the May 2011 issue of The Field.

The story on p. 80, which you can read online here, is about the King’s Troop. The King’s Troop grew out of the Riding Troop, a ceremonial troop that was part of the Royal Horse Artillery. In 1947, King George VI–he of “The King’s Speech,” if you’re a movie fan–changed the troop’s name to the King’s Troop. Upon King George VI’s death, his daughter Queen Elizabeth II left the name unchanged in his honor. The King’s Troop is a highly prestigious unit and, although the Troop’s function is ceremonial, its members are serving military and trained fighting soldiers. According to the Ministry of Defence, six members of the Troop are deployed in Afghanistan at any given time.

So what’s the hunting connection? The Royal Artillery has its own hunt (that link includes video; you can also see more video of their hounds here), and King’s Troop members frequently are to be found riding there. The King’s Troop also has its own hunt button. A few tidbits from The Field:

  • “In the hall above the door is a fox’s mask, the conclusion of a 50-minute hunt with the Derwent (24 February 1953) from Rowe Bridge to Howl Dale. The precise accounting of a boar’s head nearby is unrecorded.”
  • Neil Cross, the troop’s current commanding officer, commented on the King’s Troop’s close involvement in hunting: “It is important that we know how to get something extra out of a horse and how to ride the terrain. This is critical when towing a 1 1/2-ton gun carriage.” His words reflect the longstanding view among cavalry officers that foxhunting provided excellent training, because it taught not only a good seat at speed across country, but, more importantly, the importance of terrain and natural conditions in battle.
  • Patrick Martin, now huntsman for the Bicester with Whaddon Chase, is a former soldier who joined the King’s Troop in 1977 at age 17. “What my three years with the Troop taught me was discipline, respect for authority, and to turn yourself out to the top standard,” he told The Field.

The King's Troop. Photo courtesy of Kuva1574/Creative Commons.

The King’s Troop is a thing of beauty to watch in its state duties, which include providing the gun carriage and a team of black horses for state and military funerals, as well as firing royal salutes on state occasions and royal anniversaries. the King’s Troop also takes over duties of the Life Guards at Horse Guards for one month each year.

Hound Blog Hunch Bet update: no Toby!

Sadly, the houndbloggers received word this morning that Toby’s Corner will not run in the Kentucky Derby after showing some lameness in a hind leg. To read more about Toby and his withdrawal from the Derby, click here and here.

Master of Hounds is still in the race, though!

Toby (right) and cousin Eider are feeling pretty glum about Toby's Corner's withdrawal from the 2011 Kentucky Derby.

And obviously we weren’t the only ones rooting for Toby’s Corner. Photographer Maggie Kimmitt kindly sent us a shot of this banner in Fair Hill, Maryland, where Toby’s Corner is based with trainer Graham Motion.

It’s disappointing news, but here’s hoping Toby’s Corner gets over his lameness quickly and returns to competition soon! Until then, it looks like our Toby is considering ways to console himself on Derby day. Drink responsibly, Tobes!

Photo by Gina Spadafori.

The HA puppies take a hike (with video!)

The HA puppies on their recent walk, as photographed by Dave Traxler.

WE don’t want to say anything too soon, but … it looks like spring finally is here. With hunt season behind them, the change of seasons mean the hounds’ attention turns to hound shows and summer walk. For the newest puppies at Iroquois, the so-called HA litter (click here for pictures and video from when they were teeny, tiny pups!) by Hawkeye out of Baffle, everything is brand new–including the change of season. Well, almost everything. While we were out hunting (or, in my case, riding with Michael Edwards in the hound truck), Iroquois member and kennel volunteer Cice Bowers was back on the farm, working with the HA puppies.

As a result, the growing hounds have made an extraordinary amount of progress. At just five months of age, they already have been taking daily walks and learning to come back as a group when called. So by the time we and an enthusiastic group of Iroquois members showed up for the first official puppy walk of spring, walking and coming back when called was almost old hat for the precocious HAs.

Creek crossing were part of the adventure for the HA puppies. Photo by Dave Traxler.

“Cice has been taking them out on walks and letting them go out away from her, then rewarding them for coming back, so that they learn to come back,” Lilla said. “She’s also taken Magic, who is quite a bit older than they are, so they’re exposed to someone they don’t live with, and she’s given them a lot of individual attention.”

“We try to give them as much exposure to other people as possible at the age they are, because you don’t want them to grow up knowing only the two people in the kennel who manage them,” explained Iroquois huntsman Lilla Mason. “We want them to experience people, children, the house dogs, and strange environments. These puppies had never been away from the kennel and loose in the direction we went on Saturday.”

Cice Bowers (left, in gray fleece and light cap) has been working closely with the puppies all season. Photo by Dave Traxler.

Why let the puppies run loose on the walk rather than put them on leashes or the traditional couples?

“They learn more,” Lilla said. “They get to make their own decisions. I wanted to see whether they would stay with us, which they did. They’re kind of young yet to leash train, but even if we had them on leashes, it would be like having a fish on the end of a fishing line. They wouldn’t experience the walk we wanted them to experience: to be free in the woods, walk along with us, and go out from us and come back.

“We also wanted them to be exposed to house dogs, which we seemed to collect along the way, since we had biscuits upon us!”

A walk in the woods benefitted everyone, not just the puppies! Photo by Dave Traxler.

On Saturday’s walk, the puppies did get some new experiences, including meeting the local terriers and chasing after their companion, Magic, when she found what can best be described as an ex-rabbit. That presented a special challenge to the puppies’ discipline. You might forgive a five-month-old hound puppy, or a litter of puppies, for getting so distracted by a dead rabbit that they forget to come back when called. But, amazingly, no forgiveness was necessary. Magic galloped down a narrow path with her long-eared prize, pursued by a line of wildly curious puppies, and they all disappeared around a bend. But when Lilla called out to them, here they all came back again, one by one. Except Magic, who enjoyed her rabbit lunch and met up with the group a bit later on the walk.

It was frankly amazing to see how responsive the five-month-old HA puppies were, especially under circumstances that could invite disorder. You can actually see one of the puppies, Hanbury, making the decision whether to chase after Magic or return to Lilla at the 2:17 mark on our video from the walk; click below to see it. To see the high-definition version, roll your cursor over the video window; you’ll see a box that says “HD” appear in the upper right-hand corner. Click it!

“When they’re all together and following another dog, that’s when they’re more likely to switch off to commands and keep going, so I was extremely pleased that they came back when we called,” Lilla said. “It showed a lot of focus on their part. They had to make a decision. They had to hear the command then decide to come back; they didn’t just blindly run on. That was great.”

That good decision-making will be important when these puppies eventually join the working pack for summer hound walk and then hunting.

The HA puppies and the kids on the walk found each other entertaining. Photo by Dave Traxler.

“It’s immensely important,” Lilla said. “You want to turn them loose, but you want them to have that invisible thread with you at the same time. In our training program, this kind of training has been much more successful. We’re lucky to have the leeway to train this way rather than on couples. When they’re on couples, they learn nothing. But on a walk like this one, they get to make a lot of decisions, and they learn a lot. We want to let them make decisions, and then reward the right decisions.

“The hounds have to have the confidence to go away from you but the attention to come back. That’s what the invisible thread is.”

Magic (far right) joined the HA puppies on their walk. Photo by Dave Traxler.

There’s a happy side-effect for the human participants, too–especially the younger ones.

“What a wonderful way to get these young kids hooked into the sport,” Lilla added. “They relate to puppies and love puppies, and it’s a fun outing for the parents.”

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!

Kennel characters: Foxy, the boss

Foxy checks everyone out on entry to the kennel. A biscuit gratuity is always appreciated!

Foxy checks everyone out on entry to the kennel. A biscuit gratuity is always appreciated!

FOXY does what she likes. And why not? She’s the boss. Foxy is a hound, but, strictly speaking, she’s not part of the pack. Jerry Miller adopted her about seven years ago when her first owner discovered that Foxy’s two main attributes (as she sees it) made her incompatible with life as a house dog. First, no fence is big enough to keep her in. Second, she’s loud. Really loud.

Now about 10 years old, Foxy can still scale any fence, but she doesn’t seem as inclined to these days. Probably that’s because she takes her kennel duties so seriously.

“She bosses the hounds around,” says Michael Edwards, the Iroquois Hunt’s kennelman. “I guess it’s because she’s so loud, and it intimidates the hell out of them. When we turn the hounds out, Foxy runs them out, and when we bring the hounds back in, she runs them back in the kennel. If we turn them out and someone doesn’t want to come out, she goes in and pretty much runs them out, barking at them.”

Like any good den mother, Foxy doesn’t take any guff, either. The “GL” puppies–the litter of hounds whose names begin with the letter combination GL–learned this early on when a few of them got a little sassy with her one day, getting in her face and barking back at her. Foxy gave them a good growl and unleashed her most ferocious bark, startling the GLs, who promptly rolled over in submission. Foxy’s authority hasn’t been challenged since.

Does she boss the kennel staff, too? “You know, I guess she does,” Michael acknowledges. “She barks to be let out and barks to be let in again.”

Foxy on patrol!

Foxy on patrol!

Interestingly, Foxy always seeks out the largest male hound for a playmate. “I don’t know whether she’s showing her dominance or whether she thinks they’re handsome, but she always seems to go for the big guys to run around and play with,” Michael says.

Foxy’s job has its perks. She comes and goes as she pleases. She gets to chase rabbits all over the farm. She used to follow the hunt during the season from the comfort of the hound truck, “but she just wanted to hunt too much, and she was also just too loud,” Michael explains. At the end of her long workday, Foxy usully dines with the retired hounds cared for by the Hound Welfare Fund, and then she retires to her bed in the kennel office, which is cool in the summer and warm in the winter.

Her duties don’t always end at bedtime. “When we have a hound that’s sick or injured, we usually separate it out from the group and put it in the office while it’s recovering,” says Michael. “She seems to know that when there’s someone in the office with her, they need a little extra care. She’ll settle down with them, and her demeanor changes then. She’s not as bossy then.”