For many people, the middle of July means vacationing with family, trips to the beach, and a slightly relaxed schedule. For hunt staff, it's a busy time of preparation and planning ahead. Huntsmen, whippers-in, and Masters are working hard now to have all the elements of a great season ready in a few weeks. We asked a dozen professional and amateur staff members how they're spending their summer days.
Keswick Hunt (VA) hounds walk out with professional whipper-in Mike Gottier. Photo by Melanie Kennedy.
Sheri Bayly, professional whipper-in, Blue Ridge Hunt (VA): Hound exercise, horse fitness, whelps, puppies, puppy show practice, coop building, trail clearing.
Grady Collier, kennelman, Farmington Hunt (VA): Cleaning kennels, tending to puppies, building jumps, setting up show tent and of course trail cutting - enjoying the country living!
Kim Cutler, MFH, Myopia Hunt (MA): Hound exercises two times a week, walking out the rest to train puppies, trail clearing, mowing, fence building, painting stables and kennels. Exercising horses and parading hounds at polo a few times this season...definitely not vacation time!
Sarah Martin, whipper-in at Bridlespur Hunt (KY): My good finished staff horses are off for another two weeks. In the meantime I have been working my young OTTB and getting her ready to step into staff positions and some first flight this fall. She only hunted a few times second flight last season and then took most of the winter off to correct some OTT health issues. I've been helping hound walking and learning new hounds. I am also mentoring a junior and her family down the street who is fostering their first group of three foxhound puppies. We send our puppies out for a couple months to get socialized, learn to walk on a leash, their names, etc. I take puppies usually once a year as well.
Mark McManus, huntsman, Chagrin Valley Hunt (OH): Roading this week and start hunting on Saturday morning at 7:00am.
Angela Murray, MFH, Red Rock Hounds (NV): Parading hounds in different events, walking out hounds, roading hounds, training puppies and mostly trying to stay cool!
Sarah Fox Sears, first whipper-in, South Creek Foxhounds (FL): Hound walks on foot now and towards the end of July starts mounted hound walks. Staff horses have been in a fitness program to get ready for hunt season that starts up in September for us.
Kate Selby, huntsman, Green Mountain Hounds (VT): Kennel, yard and fence maintenance (before the snow flies), prepping trailer & truck, deworming, tick treatment, toes and ears, mounted exercise plus on foot, legging up horses (aka removing the fat!) - gearing up because we start in three and a half weeks!
Cathleen Springer, MFH, Smithtown Hunt (NY): 13 members rode together at a recently opened riding area here on Long Island - it is virtually unheard of to get NEW property on our tiny island. Three Jt. MFH's, Honorary Secretary, whipper-in and a couple of field masters were in this group. Though there was significant overgrowth, the paths were easily identifiable and carefully marked. The pine forests were so pretty to pass through almost silently amid the glorious aroma. We should be able to keep our hounds busy and safe in the fall as we all look forward to the 2017-2018 season.
Michelle St. Onge, Stable Manager, Piedmont Fox Hounds (VA): I currently have 17 horses in work, which includes two new horses that have hunted before and FIVE that have never hunted. I've been riding the 'greenies' since the second week of April, showing them hunt country, teaching them to jump, etc. We just started mounted exercise, and we do that four days a week. All of my horses get worked five days a week, and I leg them up for eight weeks before staff hunting starts. I could literally write a book called Body By Chavez which would chronicle the time that my barn guy goes out of town and I do half of the riding (I have part time riding help) and all of the barn work!
John Tabachka, huntsman, Sewickley Hunt (PA): Mounted hound exercise, trail clearing, trail clearing, and did I mention trail clearing?
Douglas Ottis Russell: Worming, keeping bugs away, walking out, and fox pen.