an Klye, Master of The Northern Hunt Club in Tasmania, must have thought I was deaf as a post. I had repeatedly asked him the same question because I couldn’t wrap my mind around what he was telling me.
My daughter and I stood among the eucalyptus on this far-flung island, south of mainland Australia. We felt honored to see the hunt’s hounds and talk with Ian about Tasmanian style hunting. Although not a horse person, Rachel had agreed to take part of our holiday for this sortie to meet hunt folk whom I had found online. Anna Hayward, Hunt secretary/treasurer, invited us to visit her and asked me to speak to the Hunt members as part of a fund-raiser for their coffers.
“What do you mean, there are no wells for water?” I asked again. I am from Indiana where we have so much water that floods are a nemesis and wells are an unspoken part of the landscape. I’d seen Tasmanian lakes, ponds, creeks, and serious flooding (part of the calamitous storm in Queensland) so I couldn’t comprehend the phrase, ‘no wells’.
“Nah, no wells here,” said Ian with his broad Aussie accent. He grinned at my confusion and repeated questions.
I then realized that the corrugated metal roofs we had seen all over the island are for channeling rain into catchment systems. Anna collects rainwater into a freestanding metal tank, about half the height of my farm silo back in Indiana. The overflow runs down to her horses on pasture. If Tasmanians are short on water in their catchment system or have none, they buy hauled water for their above or belowground cisterns.
Now that I had the water situation under my belt, Rachel and I walked on to the kennels where I was amazed to not hear a deafening cry from the excited hounds. Ian opened the kennel door and, not only did the hounds not bowl us over in a race to freedom, but the hounds also refrained from jumping on Rachel and me as we were bid to approach. Having been pushed over by many an excited hunt hound, I was impressed with the good manners instilled into Ian’s pack. These hounds have English bloodlines with big chests, solid bone and build.
Later that evening, I spoke to the gathered members of the hunt. Anna had asked me to describe hunting in the U.S. I tried as best I could to explain the different hunt terrains I’d experienced in Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina, California, Nevada and northern Arizona. I was also able to visually show our terrain and hounds thanks to excellent digital photos prepared by Paul Delaney, Grand Canyon Hounds Master, and Peter and Amanda Wilson, Huntsman and professional Whipper-In.
If the concept of “no wells” was difficult for me to comprehend, the size of our hunt fixtures in northern Arizona was equally incomprehensible for the Northern Hunt Club members. Members of the audience quickly figured the acreages of Grand Canyon Hounds’ fixtures which are three main land tracts: 20 by 25 miles, 7 by 12 miles and 8 by 8 miles. I also heard a collective gasp when I said I trailer 5 hours round trip for one of our fixtures. Compared to a small island, it’s a ‘big country’ in the Southwest.
Rachel and my visit corresponded with Tasmania’s summer, with no hunts to experience. I made do by saying hello to Anna’s hunters in her lush pastures. Anna has a precious filly that I hoped to steal away in our rental car. The filly has a perfect white blaze down her forehead and kept backing up to us since she had learned the inimitably wondrous feeling of a bum ‘scritch’. Anna hunts thoroughbreds. Her family has bred for the racetrack for decades.
I so enjoyed learning more about the Northern Hunt Club’s drag hunting. Anise seed scent is marked every six strides. I later heard this pack in full cry when I watched Anna’s videos she generously shared of the Club’s adventures on their many fixtures. The film footage showed magnificent scenery with native Wattles, Blackwood and Bottlebrush trees as well as various species of gum trees and gorse. Having met the pack, the huntsman, Anna and the members, and having seen hunt footage, I almost felt like I was on an actual hunt in that beautiful Tasmanian countryside.
During our visit, Rachel and I felt as welcome as if we had been family. New friends, Sandra and Owen Atkins, proudly told us about flying to Lexington, Kentucky to support their son, Peter Atkins, who finished 24th in the October 2010 World Equestrian Games. (I’ve seen eventing at the Kentucky Horse Park and understood their pride.) Peter grew up hunting with his parents. The Club encourages young riders, important for the longevity of any hunt, anywhere. A recent Learner’s One Day Event was well attended by young riders interested in hunting. Anna states that the Hunt markets cubbing hunts as Beginner hunts since “they are usually slower and less intimidating for the nervous riders.”
Just as our American hunts support and visit each other, Midlands Hunt Club was in attendance that evening. Steve Griffiths, Huntsman, his wife, Carol, Whipper-in, and members hunt forest kangaroo to the south, near Hobart. Both hunts zealously work together to keep our sport healthy and vital in Tasmania.
I had such a joyful experience with Anna, Ian and hunt members that I can hardly wait to see if a hunt exists in our next international travel destination as well as possibly returning during Tasmania’s hunt season.
My thanks to Anna Hayward, who mercilessly spoiled us and to the Northern Hunt Club members for the welcoming evening and spirited hunt dialogue.
Karen Custer Thurston (www.karencusterthurston.com) is a past member of Trader’s Point Hunt and Questover Hounds. (Indiana) She is a current member of Grand Canyon Hounds, Flagstaff, Arizona. Master: Paul Delaney. Huntsman: Peter Wilson. Professional Whippers-in: James Boyle and Amanda Wilson. www.grandcanyonhounds.org