Performance Trials bring great hounds, fit horses, enthusiastic people and big expectations. The pressure on the staff is huge. The pressure on the judges and guest huntsman is even bigger. This is the event we work toward all season. For many of us it is the high point of our entire hunt season.
So, when we say we had two of the best days of hunting we ever had, we do not take it lightly. We say it with appreciation. We say it with pride. We say it with gratitude for all the landowners who let us ride over 35,000 contiguous acres of hunt country. We say it with a lot of relief. When the expectations are so high, it is hard to meet them.
We are lucky that everything came together so that the hunting met and exceeded expectations. Remember the snow storm? Then the ice storm? We haven’t had this much snow and ice in about 10 years. Ice prunes the forest like nothing else – small limbs, big limbs, entire trees – we had it all. It wrecked the trails in many areas. We have about 100 miles of trails, so when even one third of our trails are damaged, it is a huge task to even check them. Clearing them would be impossible without our hard working members. Our Belle Meade volunteers rallied and got 90% of the ice damage cleared so we could hunt safely.
Thanks to the staff and members of Belle Meade who worked so hard to get everything ready and make it runsmoothly. Thanks to all the hunts that came and participated with good sportsmanship; thanks to the Good Lord for good weather, good scenting and good running game. With six hunts and six hounds per hunt, this would be an All Star Game of fox and coyote hunting!
Master Charlie told everyone that even though the day had been one of the best ever, tomorrow would be even better! I thought, just how the hell are we going to do that? I was wishing he had not said that part. It just put even more pressure on those of us in the staff than we already felt. What if it is a blank day?
I went to sleep thinking of all the possibilities for the casts the next morning. Better sleep fast. The alarm goes off at 5:00 am; the judges meeting is at 7. The stirrup cup at 7:30; trotting out the gate at 8 – with Great Expectations. I hope we can pull the rabbit out of the hat one more time. I hope we haven’t used up all our good luck in the first day…
The most interesting thing to me was the way the black coyote ran back to Cattle Pens Field with all the noise and spectators there. Between the trucks and the horses and riders, there were over 2 dozen people there. I am sure that is why he did not cross the open part of the field in that last part of his run, but it amazed me that he came back there at all. When he crossed in front of LuAnne earlier, was he taunting us – daring us to chase him? He makes a regular appearance there almost every week.
The second day was a fine day. And, yes, it was even better than the day before. We were very lucky; 16.5 miles by the GPS. Our tired and happy group went home to another fine hunt breakfast.
At the awards ceremony, Michael told the story of the hunt. He told of the different quarries and what we think each did at the end. It was instructional and entertaining. He is a great story teller and the audience was hanging on every word.
Again, each hunt got lots of ribbons. Performance Trials are a great way for hunts to play together. They are like a joint meet on steroids. It is in fact a joint meet of several hunts. The focus is different from most joint meets. The focus is on the hounds and their performance. Seeing all these great hounds in action on the same day at the same time with the same scenting conditions is a great way to compare hounds. Each time I see outstanding hounds that I want to breed to.
If you haven’t been to one, I recommend it. You will be glad you did.
Even if your hunt does not participate, you may certainly come and cap at ours and at many of the other PerformanceTrials. Our tentative date for next year is Thu - Sat Feb 26 – 28, 2015.
Come have fun with us! See some of the best hounds in American foxhunting in actions. And share some of our “Gone Away With The Wind” Southern Hospitality. We have four fields – so you can go any speed you want. We also have Tally Ho trucks that follow each day.
Michael Hoffman, ex-MFH Loudoun Hunt - Judge and event President
Ken George, Professional Huntsman Moingona Hunt
Rosie Campbell, MFH Bull Run Hunt
Joey Peace, MFH Aiken Hounds
Ria Burton, Honorary Whipper in Aiken Hounds
Jean Derrick was Honorary Secretary for the Performance Trials.
2nd Belle Meade
3rd Mill Creek
1st Mill Creek Golding
2nd Hillsboro Keystone
3rd Belle Meade Lifeguard
4th Hillsboro Bruin
5th Belle Meade Nova
6th Hillsboro Kingpin
7th Belle Meade Partner
8th Hillsboro Nigel
9th Hillsboro Parson
10th Midland Maribel