At its Annual Meeting in New York City on Friday, January 27th, the Masters of Foxhounds Association (MFHA) welcomed new leaders, recognized the service of departing board members, and unveiled plans for a busy year ahead. A packed crowd of Masters and subscribing members filled every seat at the Union Club for the official meeting, followed by an entertaining presentation on hound breeding from featured speaker Tim Easby, executive director of the United Kingdom's MFHA.
Stepping down after three years as president, Dr. Jack van Nagell reviewed areas of focus from his tenure. These included improving communication with member hunts and with the general public; promoting land and habitat conservation; supporting the hound shows; encouraging young riders; and continuing to enrich the Professional Development Program. He also described plans for improvement of the new MFHA headquarters in Middleburg, Virginia, and emphasized that the building will be "a space for all of us."
New President Tony Leahy honors his predecessor with a fine rendition of "gone to ground."
Thanking Dennis Foster for 24 years as executive director, van Nagell outlined the process to find his successor. From 120 applicants, the search committee ultimately recommended David Twiggs, whom van Nagell described as having 'a track record of organization building." He indicated that these skills will enable Twiggs to grow subscribing memberships, support member hunts, facilitate the development of new hunts, and increase the financial base of the MFHA.
As he welcomed incoming President Tony Leahy, van Nagell said, "The MFHA is poised to achieve great things in the future under the leadership of our new president." Leahy then came forward and blew "gone to ground" before presenting the horn to van Nagell in honor of his service.
Secretary and Treasurer, Joe Kent, delivered his reports, encouraging Masters of the 154 member hunts to increase the subscribing membership among their riders. He also read the names of those who had passed away last year and a moment of silence was observed in their memory. On the financial side, he noted that "many hours of work and collaboration" had gone into preparing a conservative budget to see through many personnel and other changes in the year ahead. Dennis Foster reminded attendees that the MFHA Foundation is the "workhorse of what we do" in terms of research and education, and also encouraged donations to the HSBF.
Daphne Wood presented the Hunting Habitat Conservation Award to Middleburg Hunt and member Scott Kasprowicz. Jack van Nagell, Middleburg joint Master Penny Denegre, Wood, and Middelburg joint Masters Jeff Blue and Tim Harmon.
Van Nagell next acknowledged Mason Lampton and Daphne Wood, two members of the board's Executive Committee who have stepped down after many years of service. Fortunately, they will continue to work on other MFHA committees; Lampton with the Professional Development Program, and Wood on the Conservation Committee. Wood then presented the Hunting Habitat Conservation Award to Middleburg Hunt and member Scott Kasprowicz. Middleburg Masters Jeff Blue, Penny Denegre, and Tim Harmon were present to receive the award, which recognized significant, sustained work protecting open space in rapidly growing Loudoun County, Virginia.
Ed Kelly, chair of the Nominating Committee, announced the new officers, board members, and district representatives, who were unanimously approved by the membership. Leahy commented that he was "super excited about what we're going to do in the future." Executive Director David Twiggs said he is "excited to serve you and learn from you," and outlined his goals for developing the new headquarters, building the subscribing membership, and planning activities to "celebrate the fellowship of foxhunters." [Editor's Note: Stay tuned for announcements of special events coming later this year.]
MFHA colleagues from either side of the pond: Tim Easby and David Twiggs.
Major Tim Easby, of the UK's MFHA, then gave an interesting and humorous talk about hound breeding, emphasizing the importance of the female line, of considering hounds as parts of families, not just one or two individual lines, and working to improve one's pack, rather than drafting hounds. He closed by encouraging us to promote all the good aspects of our sport: "Hunting is a serious business, to be taken lightly."