Attendees at the MFHA's 2016 Biennial Staff Seminar took advantage of two opportunities to visit historic Huntland, Dr. Parker's home and ongoing labor of love in renovation and preservation. Saturday morning, Dr. Parker herself gave an entertaining, detailed tour of the former kennels and current stables. That evening, she kindly welcomed us back to the gracious main house and gardens for heavy hors d'oeuvres, cocktails, and two special MFHA presentations.
Huntland was a fantastic setting for Staff Seminar attendees to socialize. Photo by Liz Callar, lizcallar.com.
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 2013, Huntland's earliest section dates to 1834 and includes Federal and Colonial Revival style elements, the latter added circa 1915 by owner Joseph Thomas. At Huntland, Mr. Thomas created a state-of-the-art sporting facility, a landmark in foxhunting and other country pursuits in the second and third decades of the twentieth century.
Shrugging off a light drizzle, Dr. Parker explained to the large crowd the step-by-step process of historical research, excavation, and restoration she has undertaken to restore the buildings as closely as possible to their 1920's appearance. We enjoyed stepping through the lodges and courtyards, hearing her knowledgeable presentation of the many architectural details and management techniques which, a century ago, were truly innovative. Welcoming questions throughout her talk, Dr. Parker finished in the courtyard of the completed stables, where a number of her champion show hunters enjoy a comfortable retirement. We were invited for light refreshments outside the tackrooms, full of show trunks and decorated, floor to ceiling, with numerous show and circuit champion coolers, ribbons, sashes and trophies.
Dr. Parker, at center facing the camera, just outside the Huntland stables near Middleburg, Virginia. M. Drum photo.
Saturday evening, we dressed up and returned to the meticulously maintained brick manor house, enjoying drinks on the curving front staircase and admiring many portraits of Dr. Parker's equine and canine charges in the beautiful, period-decorated rooms of the main level.
During this merry gathering, two significant presentations were made on behalf of the MFHA. John Gray, Hillsboro Hounds (TN) huntsman, received the prestigious Ian Milne Award. This award is presented by the MFHA Foundation at each Biennial Staff Seminar to a professional huntsman representing a MFHA member hunt. It recognizes an individual who has distinguished himself or herself and been recognized by peers as an exceptional contributor to the sport of foxhunting. Twenty professional colleagues nominated candidates, and the final selection was made, after considering these proposals, by a panel of Masters who also hunt their own hounds. Mr. Gray received a trophy and check as part of his award.
Dennis Foster, with Dr. Parker, is delighted with the painting given to him in recognition of his service to the MFHA. Photo by Liz Callar, lizcallar.com.
Dennis Foster, who steps down in 2017 after twenty-five years as Executive Director of the MFHA, was surprised with the gift of a beautiful oil painting from the MFHA Board. The image shows him jumping a wire fence - a typical obstacle in New Zealand and Australia - aboard a fine gray hunter. The evening was also an opportunity for many MFHA members to thank him for his tireless advocacy for our organization and our sport.