Spring beagle and basset trials are underway at the National Beagle Club's Institute Farm in Aldie, VA. The historic property, a variety of woodland and open fields cultivated to maintain coverts for rabbits, will host the "Hounds f4r Heroes" Field Trials Event and Gala April 26-28. Bringing together both types of foot packs, the weekend's proceeds benefit the Hunter Holmes McGuire VA Medical Center & Boulder Crest Retreat for veteran’s recovery and rehabilitation in Bluemont, VA.

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Old Chatham Beagles approach the judges earlier this month in the three couple competition.

Mounted foxhunters, event those with no experience following "the short leggeds," are welcome to join the foot fields at these trials. As with any hunt meet, members of the field stay together some distance from the working pack and make way for whippers-in (on foot) and judges (on horseback). Attire is tidy, but less homogenous than foxhunting, and suited to walking up hills and across wet places: brush pants or similar, layers depending on weather, perhaps a cap, definitely comfortable hiking-type shoes and often a favorite walking stick. 

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The Ardrossan Beagles are ready to go for James Dean.

Trials are held over a few days, with different classes based on the number of beagles or bassets hunting (for example, three or five couple). Each entry has 50 minutes to impress the judges with their ability, with the first pack typically moving off at 7am and competition continuing through mid- to late afternoon. A lunch break brings everyone together for a hearty meal in the congenial dining room of the main building. Plaques listing the past winners of special trophies and awards decorate the walls and contribute to the palpable sense of history.

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In a timeless image, Alasdair Storer encourages the Middletown Valley Beagles to mark their first rabbit to ground.

Hounds f4r Heroes' benefit weekend kicks off Friday, April 26, with Two-Couple Pack Basset Trials and the two-hour Friday Fun Run Beagle/Basset Stake, plus a basset bench (conformation) show. The Two-Couple Pack Beagles Trials will take place on Saturday, April 27 and Sunday, April 28, with the beagle bench show on Saturday. Also that evening, there will be cocktails at 6pm followed by a Pig Roast and Silent Auction. Music will be provided by Ricky J's Blue Rhythm Band featuring Fast Eddie.  For more information, please email h4h.nbc@gmail.com or call 540-303-3908. 

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Judges at this month's beagle trials included Charles Montgomery, left, and Jeff Eichler.

There are many more opportunities to get some exercise on your own two feet at Aldie. The weekend of May 4-5 will see the Triple Challenge Trial (for information, please contact Ms. Jen Buckley, 404-308-0616, buckleyj333@ymail.com). The Basset Pack Fall Trials are scheduled for October 24-27. The Beagle Pack Fall Trials will run November 6-10. For more information, visit the National Beagle Club website. You might also enjoy reading our article from last spring about the Aldie property.

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The historic main building, rear, once an agricultural institute and later a Civil War-era hospital, looks out at the charming cabins around its quadrangle. 

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