On the frigid and blustery weekend of December 10-11, 2016, Bridlespur Hunt (MO) hosted a tri-meet with Mells Foxhounds (TN) and Mill Creek Hunt (IL). Mill Creek and Bridlespur have enjoyed an annual joint meet, and this year expanded to include Mells. Masters Keith Gray, Mill Creek and Gene Deutsch, Bridlespur, as well as professional huntsmen Brenda Yost of Mill Creek and Eleanor Hartwell of Bridlespur have worked hard over the last decade to cultivate a close relationship between their hunts.
Riders from Illinois, Tennessee, and Missouri sported the colors of their respective hunts. Photo courtesy of Leslie Granger.
“Our season ends in early December because of ‘Chicago’ weather, and our club members always look forward to the trip south to Bridlespur. They are terrific hosts and show excellent sport. It gives us a chance to keep our hounds going so that they maintain some level of fitness ahead of the Belle Meade hound trials in January,” said Gray.
Mells MFH and huntsman, Karen Kressenberg, was pleased the tri-meet finally came to fruition. “Bridlespur MFH Mary Hensel and I have been outriders at the Rolex CCI**** together for a long time, and have been plotting this for years. To finally pull it off gave us both tremendous personal satisfaction.” According to Hensel, “These are two of my favorite groups of foxhunters. I was happy to get everyone together.” Members were welcomed Friday evening with margaritas and Mexican food while stories of travails of travel were exchanged. “Everyone had stories from their trip, from failed running lights on a Mells trailer to a flat tire on a Mill Creek trailer!” said Kressenberg.
The first meet was held at Bridlespur’s main fixture in Eolia, MO. The old adage “Bad weather is good hunting” was certainly proven true over the weekend. Temperatures Saturday were biting cold and the wind was unforgiving. Riders donning several layers of their best Under Armour and wool squeezed into their meltons like stuffed Christmas geese to brave the cold. This bravery was rewarded, as hounds prevailed beautifully despite difficult scenting conditions.
All three female huntsmen, led by Hartwell, worked together and cast the mixed pack of handsome ticked Penn-Marydels (Mells), Scarteen-esque Penn-Marydel/Crossbreds (Mill Creek), and Crossbreds (Bridlespur). The first covert provided a difficult run on a nice red fox who was viewed around the unique natural rock formations of the Sandy Creek Conservation Area. These bluffs stand tall above Sandy Creek just beyond the kennel and cut back and forth throughout Bridlespur’s country. They contain many small caves and the Natural Tunnel making them a prime choice of local game for dens. Hounds worked hard in the wind to find and regain the line, but were eventually lifted by Hartwell.
Crossbred and Penn-Marydel hounds hunted Bridlespur's Missouri country together. Photo courtesy of Leslie Granger.
Hounds were cast further southeast at the Old Hog Farm on a viewed coyote and ran the line a good hour. At this point the field was no longer feeling chilly. Everyone was tickled with the uniqueness of the combined and deafening voice of the mixed pack, which was easily heard over the rolling hills and reverberated off the bluffs. Tracking collars on Mells’ hounds revealed an average of 19 miles covered by their Penn-Marydels, who did an admirable job staying with their leggy Crossbred cousins.
The hunt concluded, members fed, and enough time was allotted for a short respite prior to a hearty dinner hosted by Russ and Kathy Laramie at their lovely home. Members enjoyed getting to know one another and of course recanting tales of the day’s frivolities. The house was atwitter and the combined sound was equally as unique as the morning’s mixed pack, from warm southern drawls to cheerful Chicago accents.
Sunday was forgivingly a touch warmer. Bridlespur and Mill Creek hounds were cast in the Spigots covert and diligently worked a cold line in the low valley back and forth, then crossed over the top and struck the hot line. Ever the good host, Wiley E. Coyote kindly provided a full tilt galloping tour of the entire 3300 acre fixture. The blistering run lasted nearly two hours, with only one check in the pipeline at the center of the country until Bridlespur road whip Steven Webb viewed and hounds regained the line. Hounds were collected after completing a full loop of the fixture.
At the final brunch, Mells MFH Bill Haggard said, “I have had the privilege of hunting in many places over the years and I do believe that God smiled on Bridlespur Hunt when they obtained their hunt country. Your beautiful gently rolling hills, grand old oak and sycamore trees, magnificent bluffs dotted with caves and meandering streams. How fun it was watching the hounds from all three hunts working together coursing through the fields and over the ridges.” Quite the compliment from such a well-traveled hunter. “The three packs have vastly different home territories, big hills for Mells, bluffs for Bridlespur and large open fields for Mill Creek,” added Hensel. “It is great to see such variety and to watch the packs work well, no matter what they encounter.” Kressenberg said, “For me, as a huntsman, the opportunity to ride and network with two esteemed professionals was a valuable experience.”
Unlike the east coast, the distances between hunts in the Midwest are substantial. Despite this, the Bridlespur-Mill Creek alliance has blossomed, and continues to grow, “Last year, Bridlespur joined Mells in our country, and our plan going forward is to alternate joint meets in our territories. We hope to continue to include Mill Creek in the fun!” states Kressenberg.