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An Upstate New York State of Mind

Marion Thorne smallPhoto by William GambleHunting the hounds of the Genesee Valley Hunt has been a family affair for Marion Thorne for decades. Thorne’s stepfather, W. Austin Wadsworth, was Master and Huntsman of the pack during her childhood, and Thorne spent many days hunting, walking puppies, and whipping in before assuming the duties as Joint Master (2006) and Huntsman (2001) herself, presiding over the care of the 44 couple Crossbred and ½ couple English Foxhounds kenneled in the bucolic college town of Geneseo, NY. Her husband, Travis, serves as professional Whipper in and Kennelman.

e-Covertside: Name three things you never hunt without.
Marion: My breastplate, cell phone and lucky stock pin.

Oklahoma, OK! Julie Free and Laura Ruskoski of the Harvard Fox Hounds

Julie FreeJulie Free, photo by ArtbyJewell.comAlthough they differ in their choice of towing vehicle, Julie Free ("Ford trucks...is this a serious question?") and Laura Ruskowski ("Chevy all the way!"), honorary whippers-in for the Harvard Foxhounds, share a dedication and love for hunting that finds them not only whipping in, but in kennels, feeding, walking and caring for the beloved pack of American and Crossbred hounds in Glenpool, OK, just south of Tulsa.

Free, who recently celebrated the “20th Anniversary of her 21st birthday”, has a “real job” supervising the sex offender team at the Oklahoma Department of Corrections, and is a convert from the world of barrel racing. Native Alaskan Ruskowski, 21, is a full-time student studying Medical Laboratory Science at Northeastern State University who plans on attending graduate school and forging a career in forensic anthropology.

They kindly and enthusiastically shared a few moments of their busy lives with e-Covertside. 

Noel Ryan's Floridays

Noel Ryan has hunted hounds on three different continents, played a lot of polo and was even the 2009 Virginia palm beach hounds smallCourtesy Palm Beach HoundsSteeplechase Association Foxhunter Timber Series champion. But in his current role as huntsman of Palm Beach Hounds, the native of County Limerick, Ireland encounters the most challenging and rewarding moments of his career. 

 e-Covertside: You have hunted hounds all over the world and you say that, without a doubt, South Florida offers the most difficult territory you’ve experienced. Tell us a bit about it.

Painting Her Dream

Eleanor HartwellPhoto by Leslie GrangerHuntsman. Artist. Mother. Chef. Neil Young fan. Rennaisance woman Eleanor Hartwell, 47, hunts the mostly crossbred 28 couple hounds of the Bridlespur Hunt near St. Louis, MO. With her family deeply rooted in the sport, Eleanor started hunting at an early age and followed in the footsteps of her mother, Betsy Park, the first female professional in the United States. Eleanor kindly shared with e-Covertside a few tidbits and factoids that easily make her one of the most interesting people in hunting.

e-Covertside: How did you become involved with hunting?
Eleanor: My mother had a pack of Bassets (Flint Hill Bassets) until she started hunting The Millbrook in 1978 (I think) ... she then merged the bassets with the Sandanona Beagles and became the Sandanona Harehounds. My first day foxhunting was from the Smithfield Church on my ten hand pony when I was seven. I foothunted from when I cannot remember. Later I whipped in to her at Millbrook until I left in 1990. What a grand time!

Head of the Class

Former University Chancellor Stephen R. Portch, 62, knew from a young age that he had to hunt. He specifically friends all_around_smallPhoto by Barbara Portchplanned his career so that it ensured him the ability to one day have his own pack of hounds. The Master of Foxhounds and Huntsman for the Hard Away Whitworth Hounds of Greensboro, AL  spends his days attending to the 35 ½ couple crossbred hounds, in addition to advising institutes of higher learning. Portch has generated a fiercely dedicated following, with membership representing five states and perhaps a couple of time zones.

e-Covertside: Tell us a bit about your pack of hounds.
Stephen: We are disciples of Ben Hardaway and the crossbred, with the foundations of our pack being Midland and Fox River Valley bloodlines. Our crossbreds have a little bit of everything in them and our focus is clearly on performance, not beauty. 
We also adhere to Hardaway’s dictum: ”Have as much July blood in your pack as you can stand.” And, I like my hounds to be like my favorite singer, Tina Turner. She has the drive, voice, and stamina I want in my pack.

Wonderwoman Whipper In

To say that Natalie Wales is a busy woman is an understatement. In addition to her position as Honorary Whipper In natalie w_houndsPhoto by Jeanne Morencyto Huntsman Reg Spreadborough and the easily recognizable pack of ring-necked American Foxhounds of Orange County, she runs a successful training and sales business, where she focuses on developing horses for eventing and hunting. And because that is clearly not enough to do, Natalie does triple duty as a jump jockey riding in the Virginia Point to Point Circuit, where she earned the Leading Lady Rider title in 2010. A wicked person to have on your Hunter Pace Team (especially fast time division), the perpetually friendly and hardworking Brit took a few moments to share her experiences with e-Covertside.

e-Covertside: How did you become involved with hunting?
Natalie: I got into hunting through riding. I grew up eventing in Europe- we mostly lived in Scotland, but spent quite a few years in Holland, and then I went to university at Warwickshire College in England. I took a year out during uni and worked for the master of Warwickshire Hunt. Since moving to the states eleven and a half years ago, I have hunted here in Virginia, and with Aiken and Cheshire. This will be my third season as an honorary whipper in for Orange County.

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