Last month, we shared Part One of a report by Woodbrook Hunt Club Huntsman, Jennifer Hansen, about her experience as an apprentice judge at the Virginia Foxhound Show. Along with MFHA Professional Staff Development Program participants and program co-coordinator, Andrew Barclay, she spent the days after the show touring kennels at Warrenton, Old Dominion, Blue Ridge, and Piedmont. She shared the following observations from that portion of her educational weekend:
May 31, 2016
The first kennel we visited was Warrenton with Huntsman Matt Van Der Woude. He has had the position for 10 seasons. The pack is half American and half Old English, all tri-colored. He feeds Southern States 24/20 and chicken necks when they are available for a reasonable price. Matt whelps two litters each spring. He had a great set up for the pups and made a very functional box for whelping. His hounds walk about two miles, six days a week. They hunt without tracking collars or radios. All hounds are microchipped. The kennel had a nice shed-row feel, with large lodges and yards. It would have been a wet layout for Washington state [where Woodbrook is located].
Next we visited Jeff Woodall at Old Dominion. Jeff had just finished his first season as huntsman. He had whipped-in for Bull Run Hunt, and I think one other hunt, but was primarily a hunter/jumper trainer prior to becoming huntsman. Apparently, the kennel was in some disrepair when he arrived; he’s done a great job cleaning and making functional all the older buildings near the kennel. Hounds seemed quite happy and content. Jeff is still working to figure out who the challenges are and sort out those hounds that don’t work for him (I could relate). Jeff feeds Southern States 24/20, uses Frontline for ticks and fleas, and hounds walk out in a large field and then go on a two mile walk. He also hunts without radios or collars (he only had three collars in the whole kennel). Jeff came up with a great idea to put the waterers up on blocks so the dog hounds cannot pee in them.
Our third stop for the day was Blue Ridge, with Huntsman Graham Buston and his wife, Sheri. This kennel is much newer and has some very nice features.
They feed flesh and have quite a system for that. Hounds have a large yard for turnout. They are very broke and well behaved. The brood bitches whelp in a separate building, and once pups are old enough, they move outside to great little grass yards with calf houses for them to get out of the sun. They have a very nice (large) grass area with attached shelter for hot bitches. It’s nice that they can be far away from the other hounds.
Walking out with Blue Ridge was an exceptionally professional experience. Graham and his wife are able to allow hounds freedom while maintaining calm and quiet control of the pack. We walked right past a vixen with kit living in a drainpipe. Graham’s wife made reference to her having four cubs and that they have been making sure she is fed. Our walk was short due to the hot, humid weather. After our thank yous and goodbyes, Andrew drove us back to Dennis Foster's home, where the group enjoyed a cold drink and we were able to reflect on the day.
June 1, 2016
9am on the dot: Piedmont Fox Hounds, here we come. Andrew was determined to be punctual so Dennis couldn’t give him a hard time! We got an early start and Andrew took us for a tour of Piedmont country, complete with some great stories of his days hunting there.
We were greeted by Huntsman Jordan Hicks and his professional whippers-in, Neil Amatt (who is also kennelman) and Michelle St. Onge (who also manages the stable of staff horses), and two young men who are honorary staff. They were standing in front of Piedmont's brand new state-of-the-art kennel [read more about Piedmont kennels' design and construction on page 10 of Covertside's Summer 2016 print issue]. It seems that the highly qualified team who designed this kennel thought of absolutely everything, so hounds are comfortable and huntsman and staff can feed and clean efficiently. The ceiling is lined with foam to quiet the noise, the concrete has been brushed down with the slope to make cleaning easier, the lodge beds have been lined with rubber mats, and the fences are tall enough to keep even the best jumpers in.
Jordan keeps his dogs and bitch hounds together as a mixed pack. Only the hot bitches are separated out to the lodge farthest from the other hounds. Piedmont feeds some flesh and some kibble (Southern States 24/20). After hounds are fed, they are turned out to large, very well-fenced grass runs where they can relax while staff cleans the kennel and freshens water. Then hounds are taken for a walk. The kennel is situated on 92 acres with ponds, creek beds, and great roads and trails for walking hounds. Jordan is gentle and confident with his hounds. He gives them room to explore and be playful, while maintaining clear boundaries. Piedmont is located in extremely foxy country. He expressed some of the same challenges I feel with hounds — having so many hot days that it can be hard to really slow them down and have a day they have to work things out as a pack. I enjoyed listening to his ideas and observing his relationship and interaction with his hounds.
For more information on the MFHA Foundation's Professional Development Program, click here.