Whipper-in Lowcountry Hunt
Junior National Field Hunter Florida/Lowcountry SC District Coordinator
As agrarian culture fades and urban lifestyle encroaches on subdivided farms across the countryside, a haven in the South Carolina Lowcountry offers a bucolic reminder to a time gone with the wind.
With omnipresent changes in the landscape, the tradition of foxhunting is adapting to meet the needs of all yet maintain its standards to the venery of the sport. Children are the future of foxhunting and to instill a passion can change a hobby into a lifestyle. Lowcountry Hunt is doing just that by providing opportunities for local youth to experience superb hunting, ride on a variety of historic plantations, and promote the necessity to conserve resources for future generations.
On Sunday, January 12th, 2020, despite Mother Nature’s best attempts, nothing could dampen the spirits of the crowd gathered for Lowcountry Hunt’s Junior Invitational. Beneath the moss-covered oaks of Master Christina Bates’s Huspa Plantation, 41 riders, their families, coaches, and trusty mounts eagerly gathered to partake in the thrill of the chase for the very first time and the American Foxhounds of Lowcountry’s pack did not disappoint.
The morning began with a hot chocolate stirrup-cup, shortbread cookies, and an enthusiastic “WELCOME LOWCOUNTRY” from founding Master Nina Burke. The ardent riders had the ability to choose from three flights specifically designed to accommodate and allow differently-abled youth to experience the joy of riding to hounds, showcase the hound work, yet provide a safe and pleasurable day of hunting. Whether the child was on a leadline accompanied by a parent, riding independently with a coach (as five Special Olympic gold medalists and other mentored students from Pegasus Therapeutic Riding Academy chose), or a short-stirrup show student out of the ring for the first time, there was a place for all.
Peggi Noon, Director of Pegasus Riding Academy and founding member of LCH, did not hesitate when invited to attend the sponsored event. “Knowing the environment that the Master and Staff of the LCH work hard to create, I had no doubt that our special needs riders would be enthusiastically welcomed to a caring and very safe activity,” she said. “My confidence in LCH, the horses, and the special riders made our participation possible. I am so proud of them.”
Under the direction of huntsman, Tony Gammell, and with a melodious call from the horn, riders and hounds set off in search of a fox. Each flight under the guidance of experienced field masters traversed the scenic pastureland and shoreline of Huspa Creek. Within minutes of the first draw, hounds erupted with enthusiasm on a red fox which was quickly matched by the glee of all in attendance. Third flight was treated to the added thrill of a view as Reynard dashed amongst a tree line of coastal flora and across open fields for the sanctuary of the estate’s wooden barn.
After a brief tack adjustment, recap, and elucidation of the recent happenings, huntsman, hounds, and overjoyed company resumed pursuit of their quarry. Through Antebellum Live Oaks, past Gullah Geechee gravestones, and along former shrimp ponds, hounds drew with each participant awaiting the music signaling the chase was on. All were keen, and well-warranted, as one voice then another rapidly combined for the euphony of full cry on a second red fox. Each adapted field followed over logs, ditches, and creek crossing to the delight those mounted, accompanying on foot or in the tally-ho wagon. Charlie again found refuge, this time in the soft earth of a creek bank and after the call of “Gone to Ground” all joined in the cheer of an unparalleled successful first hunt.
But there was still more elation and education to experience after ponies were untacked and watered. Tony Gammell then called the invitation for all to join in a meet and greet of Lowcountry’s pack. Some 15 ½ couple of hounds reciprocated the head pats, rubs, and “good jobs” with plenty of tail wags, licks, and a few hugs.
“How refreshing it is to experience the unadulterated joy of foxhunting through the eyes of a child! There is no preconceived idea of fashion, pageantry, pomp and circumstance, just the sheer happiness of hounds, their music, and being one with a horse” exclaimed, Gammell. At the indulgently delicious hunt breakfast, families were treated to a brief history of foxhunting, the origins of Lowcountry Hunt, and a “day of hunting” through various horn calls by their huntsman. A question and answer segment followed, accompanied by the wishes for all juniors to hunt again at historic Old Boone Doone Plantation on February 17th, 2020.
Eight-year-old Emme Gardner exclaimed, “Foxhunting is the most fun I have had with my pony and I want to go EVERY weekend.”
Young Emme’s sentiments were echoed by her mother, Hilary, who said, “Foxhunting has been incredible for me and now my daughter. It gives us the opportunity to truly partner with our horses and face challenges to which we would not normally be exposed. I have seen our confidence and ability levels rise at a more rapid rate than they would in the arena. Perhaps the more meaningful part of it all has been the community. My husband and other children are even finding ways into the saddle and hoping to hunt in the near future. It will be a family affair.”
This unique event showcasing the tradition of foxhunting and the importance of preserving the serenity of South Carolina’s pastoral landscape will become an annual event for Lowcountry Hunt. The goal of inviting all to participate in this thrilling sport, regardless of ability, with the core passions of comradery and conservation are fundamental to the future of its existence.
Set in the arcadian ACE Basin region of South Carolina, the Lowcountry Hunt was founded in the spring of 2006 and recognized by the Masters of Foxhounds Association in 2007. Through the generosity of landowners/partners such as the Limehouse Family and Palmetto Bluff Plantation, LH bringing the centuries-old tradition of foxhunting to this area. Together we enjoy hunting on some of the oldest and most beautiful plantations in the state. From the salt marshes to the groves of ancient live oaks, the landscapes are undeniably certainly breathtaking. To commemorate the traditions of the region, our hunt colors are indigo blue and gold in honor of two vital historical crops: indigo and Carolina gold rice.
Lowcountry Hunt hunts Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and maintains a pack of 15 ½ couple American Foxhounds and 1 ½ couple of Crossbred Foxhounds. In 2010 Lowcountry was awarded the prestigious National Hunting Habitat Conservation Award in conjunction with The Lowcountry Open Land Trust. For additional information on how to hunt with Lowcountry please contact Elizabeth Howard at firstname.lastname@example.org.