By Sean Cully, MFH & Huntsman, Rose Tree-Blue Mountain Hunt, 2nd Vice President, MFHA
A great time was had by all that attended the MFHA Biennial Seminar held June 17-19 in Nashville. Besides the great speakers and accommodations, the city of Nashville was a wonderful place to visit.
As the organizer of the event, my goal was to encourage attendees to do and be, the best they can. The four topics offered were led by some of the best Masters, Huntsman, Whippers-in, and horse professionals that the sport has to offer. They all go above and beyond to do and be the best they can be, and I hope they provided quality information and inspiration to those that attended. With that said, I found it remarkable that many of the attendees were also successful leaders of some of the best packs in the US, ready and willing to learn more. If you did not attend, I hope you take the time to read the remainder of this article and find some inspiration to improve and elevate your own hunt.
The “Masters Round Table” featured a discussion on the appropriate type of hound for a hunt with shrinking territory. This is a common situation throughout the US and many clubs find it difficult to make a change, putting off the inevitable and in the end their hunting suffers because of it. Shrinking territory has become so troublesome for clubs that we encouraged changing from a live hunt to a drag hunt to better suit the situation when needed. Understanding and acting upon the need to make a change is not a step backwards instead, it is potentially strengthening and solidifying the future of a club and the sport. Although it may be a difficult decision, it may be in the best interest of the club to introduce a slower hound or switch to a drag hunt allowing the membership to continue to enjoy all the entertainment and excitement of the chase while providing a safer environment for the riders/horses, hounds, and motorists. Another topic discussed at the “Masters Round Table” was the breeding of hounds. The thought, time and work that goes into raising our hounds by some Masters is incredible. Putting your best foot forward by making the best crosses is important to provide the best sport possible for your hunt.
We had two great seminars that dealt with horses. They covered subjects including: the duties of a field master, what is expected of riders participating in the field and taking your OTTB from the racetrack to the hunt field. Much like raising and maintaining a good pack of hounds, making a good hunt horse can take a great deal of time – from finding a suitable horse to properly training it. Whether you are a field member or a field master, the information provided during these seminars was priceless and could be a benefit to anyone that hunts. For me, a highlight of the horse seminars was hearing what it takes to ride with the best of the best. Not everyone is out for a day of forward riding over fences, but hearing stories from the field from some of the most forward riding hunts in the country provided me and many others in attendance with great inspiration.
We were incredibly fortunate to have some of the best hunt staff from around the country on the panel for the fourth seminar. They presented their thoughts on hounds, hunting and whipping in. A step-by-step guide for the professional or amateur whipper-in was presented. This was wonderful information that could be a great benefit to any whipper in regardless of experience. The panel also discussed the use of road whips, GPS tracking for hounds and radios in the hunt field – which are all becoming more and more necessary in certain parts of the country. The knowledge and insight shared by our panelists was incredible and truly motivational.
After a day of educational seminars on Saturday, we headed out Sunday morning to visit the Hillsboro Hounds kennels. The kennel tour was another example of how to do the best we can for our hounds and the hunt. The Hillsboro facility was designed with the absolute best in mind. It was obvious that everything was meticulously planned out – from the location, layout, materials used, consideration of the hounds’ comfort and safety, as well as the ease and efficiency of the building for the staff. It is a first- rate facility that all hunts cannot afford to build but can very well strive to emulate.
In addition to the tour and explanation of the design and building process, we had an impromptu hound show. Several hounds including a couple Grand Champions from the 2022 hound shows were pulled out and displayed while a detailed explanation was given of the hounds’ conformation. I, as well as many others on the kennel tour commented it was one of the best presentations/tutorials on hound conformation we had ever seen. It was also remarkable that in the 2-3 hours we were at the kennels with approximately 130 people roaming around – inside and out, I only remember one hound speaking once. As the caretaker of a pack of hounds myself, I was incredibly impressed and found it yet another sign of what a good breeding and handling program can achieve.
After a weekend packed full of education and inspiration, I hope those in attendance went home feeling refreshed and ready to share what they had learned with others. For those who could not attend, mark your calendars for the next Biennial Seminar in 2024. Until then, do whatever you can to help your club be the best it can be!