With Philip Carroll's beautiful Doughoregan Manor near West Friendship as the backdrop, hounds, horses and riders of the Howard-Iron Bridge Hunt gathered on the rolling green lawns Thanksgiving morning to receive the benediction of Father Harry Brunett of Saint Andrews in Union Chapel.
Father Harry, who hasn't ridden since his student daysat McDonough School, asked for blessings for all -- including the fox -- during the annual rite.
Afterward the hounds set off under the direction of Joint Mastersof Foxhounds Dr. Roger Scullin of Damascus and J. Thomas Scrivener of Ellicott City, and huntsman Allan Forney. More than 60 spiffily turned-out riders followed.
Although scenting conditions could have been better, hounds found and ran four foxes to ground. As befitting the day on which they had been blessed, they saved the best for last.
"They worked very well, even though the first three foxes we foundwent to ground in about 100 yards, " Scrivener said. "The final fox was waiting for us at his den and said, 'Let's go for a little run.' Hounds picked him up at his hole, and ran for about 40 minutes."
The field -- horses and riders who are not staff of the Hunt -- thinned out during the day. Thanksgiving is always one of the biggest meetsof the year. Scrivener said he was particularly pleased with the number of junior riders who came to the hunt.
"It's so super when thekids come out," Scrivener said. "It's important for the Hunt to knowthat we have new riders coming up."
Joe Sniveley and his wife, Barbara, brought their two children, 13-year-old Ryan Reid was aboard his pony King for his very first day of fox hunting, and Charlie Conaway Jr., brought his son.
"It was a beautiful day to be out hunting," Conaway said. "The country around Doughoregan is not jumping country, but Charlie (III) had a good time anyway.
"The last fox had everything well organized, too. His den was only about a quarter-mile from where the horse trailers were parked, and he got us back there right at 3:00."
Conaway's wife Barbara and daughter Kelly came for the blessing. Both of them usually ride, but not on Thanksgiving.
"I'm not hunting today -- I'm cooking!" laughed Barb Conaway.
KellyConaway also had a good reason for leaving her boots and britches athome.
"My hunting pony is in foal," she explained. "I'd have to ride my race pony, and I don't think I want to do that."
When the hounds set off, the large crowd who had come to see the blessing beganto disperse. Among the hundreds of people who came were horse peoplelike Josephine Nippard and Debbie Wilson, who ride at the Columbia horse center and vowed to be fox hunting here next year, non-horse people like their friend Nancy Hiegel, folks from nearby such as Ed Mariani and his son, Ed, from Daisy Crossroads ("I'm having that hip replacement operation," Mariani said, "I'll be back in the saddle again in the spring"), and people from far away like Beth Kise of Mount Arlington, N.J.
Kise also had the distinction of bringing the youngestprospective fox hunter, her 5 1/2-week son, Will.
"We'll bring Will back next year, maybe by then his eyes will be open," Kise said.
"It's so beautiful here and so perfect for Thanksgiving Day. The hounds are so happy and excited, and I loved seeing the horses.
Martha Hayner of Baltimore brought her two dogs, Cagney and Effi, for theblessing, saying "they need it, but they are city dogs."
Debbie Wilson, a Columbia dentist, regretted not bringing her 8-year-old Cocker Spaniel, Bicuspid.
"Actually he could probably show these hounds a thing or two," Wilson said. "Nobody beats my dog for hunting."