Wet opener pleasing one for fox hunters


November 28, 1993|By MUPHEN WHITNEY

Nov. 13 dawned dank, damp and dreary. Although those conditions might put a damper on the spirits of most riders, they elated fox hunters preparing for opening day of the Howard County-Iron Bridge Hounds.

"Excellent scenting conditions!" said HC-IB Master of Fox Hounds Roger Scullin, as he prepared to mount up, ready to give the field of almost 100 fox hunters an excellent day of sport.

"We had a great cubbing season [twice-weekly informal hunting for a month or so before opening day]," Scullin said.

"We found at least one fox every day and the new entry [young hounds in their first hunting season] all worked very well."

The greatest thing about fox hunting is watching and listening to hounds as they work.

Another great thing about the sport is the variety and diversity of people who tack up once or twice a week during hunting season to ride out with hounds.

The opening-day field consisted of young and not-so-young riders -- men, women, boys and girls.

Some were mounted on huge Irish-bred hunters, others on teeny little ponies and the rest on everything in between.

There were people who were in their fifth decade of hunting and those who had not yet hunted five times. There were farmers, housewives, doctors and secretaries.

The youngest field member -- 5-year-old Alexandra Curtiss of Silver Spring -- began hunting this year during cubbing season on her pony Shadrack.

The field's veteran member, Jane Toal of Annapolis, who has fox hunted regularly for close to 50 years, was mounted on her 27-year-old Arab-Standardbred cross Gypsy Lad, which she has owned since he was 2 years old.

The blessing of the HC-IB hounds was given by Gene Guazzo, former MFH of the De La Brooke Hounds in St. Mary's County. "I'm not a priest, I'm a GP [general practitioner] from the country," Guazzo said, "but I am a reader in the Episcopal Church."

At one opening hunt in dim memory, the regular priest did not show up and the blessing duties fell to Guazzo.

He read the traditional Episcopal hound blessing, including the passage about "compassionate hearts, gentle hands and kind words," and called for singing the Doxology.

Somehow the words to the Doxology do not roll as trippingly from the faithful's tongues when standing in a damp field as they do when you are in church holding a hymnal in front of you.

Elizabeth Harlow, at whose place -- Harwood -- the opening day hunt was held, has given Guazzo an appropriate sobriquet: "the priest in spurs."

Staff assembled in their positions, huntsman Allan Forney gathered the hounds and headed them out to the first covert, and the huge field fell into place behind.

More than 50 spectators watched as the field moved off toward the first covert -- a long stand of trees surrounding a pond. Hounds did not wait long to get their noses to the ground and begin the search for the big red fox who usually inhabits the pond area.

A huge buck was disturbed by the working hounds and took off for a far cornfield, magnificently jumping all obstacles in his way.

The hounds were well-behaved and did not riot on the deer; they all kept their noses to the ground in search of the fox. This particular search was futile, however. It seems Reynard had found safer pastures.

The second covert yielded a fox who gave a good 20-minute chase before going to ground.

At a third covert hounds found a fox of great stamina who kept hounds, horses and riders in full cry until huntsman Forney lifted the hounds at 3:30.

"It was a great day of hunting," said Marian Scullin. "We had many views of the fox throughout the chase and we heard lots of great hound work."

K? Rain or no rain, you couldn't ask for a better opening day.

Calendar of events

PTC Saturday -- Mid-Maryland Horse and Pony Association Award Banquet. Frock's in Westminster. 6 p.m. Send checks ($18 adults, $8 children) to Jim Wiles, 608 Jasontown Road, Westminster, 21158.

Dec. 5 -- Hunter Schooling Show. Equilibrium Horse Center, Gambrills. (410) 721-0885.

Dec. 7 -- Carroll Council Equestrian Council general meeting. East Middle School, Longwell Avenue, Westminster. (410) 833-4593 or (410) 857-2103.

Dec. 12 -- Longeing the Horse and Rider Clinic. Equilibrium Horse Center, Gambrills. (410) 721-0885.

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