Originally a New Yorker, Katherine Selby moved to Vermont 31 years ago and hasn’t looked back. A professional horse trainer and instructor all of her working life, Selby serves as kennel huntsman for the Green Mountain Hounds (VT), a drag pack with kennels at her farm in New Haven, VT and territory throughout the Champlain Valley.
The Green Mountain territory consists of fixtures from Colchester to Shoreham and contains open farmland, some woods and coverts, and gentle hills. Although the season can be short, running from August to the end of November (plus a short spring season in June), Selby makes the most of every opportunity in hunting the eight couple Crossbreds and three American hounds that make up the Green Mountain pack, as they attend and host several joint meets, have two clinics, one or two hunter paces or rides, and other events in the year.
In addition to her duties as kennel huntsman, Selby puts her myriad equine skills to work as coach of the Middlebury College Equestrian Team and is equestrian director/partner of two equine dance companies that create performances for dressage riders and modern dancers together.
eCovertside: How did you become involved in hunting?
Kate: I attended an "Introduction to Hunting” clinic offered by GMH with a few clients, and we all became members. By the end of my first season, I was learning how to whip-in. Shortly after the kennels moved here, our MFH and huntsman broke her ankle galloping too close to a tree in the woods during August cubbing, and I began hunting hounds and have done so ever since.
eCovertside: Name three things you never hunt without.
Kate: Whatever it was I was missing, I’d figure it out and go anyway. But if had to pick, I’d choose my horse Grace, my leatherman, and my horn.
eCovertside: What characteristics of your pack and the hunt itself do you most appreciate?
Kate: My pack was very forgiving as I learned the ropes. It is a very different view from the middle than from the edges! I’ve watched them improve and become steadier, keener, and develop better cry. And they have come to appreciate that I will show them a good time, and keep them safe and cared for.
Ours is very friendly and welcoming hunt. We encourage newcomers, and help them get acquainted with the sport, all the myriad details and customs, and also show them how much fun it is! My staff is so great—I couldn’t do my job half as well without their support and faith in me and the hounds.
eCovertside: What is the best characteristic of the pack?
Kate: They are a happy pack, very keen and getting more and more biddable; and their music is incredible!! We have all the players—a good strike hound or two, a couple of great anchors, a solid middle, and even a few slower hounds who are dead honest on the line, so show me where the others maybe missed a bit and just got lucky, or can even correct them if they overrun.
eCovertside: What makes your territory unique?
Kate: Our rolling farm fields with big and small patches of woods makes for excellent viewing for the fields, and allows their voices to be heard at a great distance.
eCovertside: What are you goals for the pack and the organization?
Kate: I would like increase our membership, and to that end work very hard on educational outreach, giving talks and demos to various clubs and groups. I want to continue develop a great pack of hounds for our territory and our task. Drag hunting requires super biddability while maintaining the hounds’ joy for the chase. They live to hunt their scent, not for the “blood”.
eCovertside: You perform many different duties on a daily basis— how do you balance everything?
Kate: Though my primary responsibility is to care for, develop, and hunt the hounds, it is not the only thing I do. I take working with our members and educating the public as a very important role. If the MFHs develop and maintain landowner relations, then my first whipper-in and I can concentrate on getting the word out that 1) we exist; 2) it’s fun, and not a crazy/dangerous thing that we do; and 3) yes, with the right horse and some practice almost anyone can enjoy it!