By Dr. Mark Smith MFH
The term “master” in this day and time seems archaic at best and at its worst, racist.  But foxhunting is a sport heavily founded in tradition, and the term is firmly grounded in the history of the sport.  Before trucks and horse trailers, people attending a hunt got there on horseback.  The hunt was typically hosted by the owner of a large estate who was referred to as the master of the house by not only his servants and employees, but also the local population. The pack was privately owned by the master who would invite friends, family, business associates and politicians to come to his estate and spend up to a week, hunting daily, and wining and dining nightly.  One can only imagine a week of foxhunting all day and partying every night at Mt Vernon with George Washington, who regularly hosted such events.

Those days are long gone. Today, most Masters are middle income. They are either elected or appointed depending on how the hunt is organized. It is expected that a Master dedicate his time, talents, knowledge and wealth for the benefit of the hunt. In this way he is really more of a servant of the hunt.
The responsibilities of the Master include   Obtaining land to hunt on, maintaining landowner relations, setting the time and place for the hunts, resolving landowner complaints, overseeing any professional staff, maintaining and managing the kennel, care of the hounds, hound breeding, setting up joint meets, helping to maintain trails.  A good Master should know the hounds in the kennel almost as well as the huntsman. He or she should know the names of all members/subscribers.  The Master is the point of contact with the Masters of Foxhounds Association. Many Masters host parties for the membership. And many Masters reach into their packets to makeup shortfalls in the hunt’s budget.  

The average term of a Master is about eight years.  This is because the responsibilities of being a Master takes a toll.  A Master knows it is time to retire when he can no longer ride, when health dictates, or when he is burned out by the responsibilities.
 So what does a person get out of being Master?  He becomes a dues paying member of the MFHA and can attend the Master’s ball the last weekend in January in New York.   He can attend the MFHA annual meeting and vote along with any member of the MFHA who attends. He gets the satisfaction of maintaining an age old tradition.  And he gets to ride at his leisure (wherever he wants) to the hounds, and participate in the high speed chase on the back  fast horse across open country behind the quarry, being pursued by a screaming pack of glorious hounds.


Puppy Naming Party 2021

By Cheryl Hanschen

The annual puppy auction is one of the highlights of the year for Shawnee Hounds. This year Stacey Silver, husband John and son Carter hosted the party at their home near Carbondale and what a party it was. Great food, great drinks and live music on their beautiful lawn!

Photo Credit Kalie Smith

Of course the best part of the evening was meeting the twelve newest members of the Shawnee Hounds pack. If there is anything cuter than a hound dog puppy, I haven’t seen it. With their long ears, wrinkled noses, puppy breath and sweet little baby grunts, these cuties stole the hearts of everyone present, and gave lots of cuddles to prospective bidders. We look forward every year to seeing the new pups grow into their paws and their heritage as prime foxhunting hounds, but we are especially grateful for this litter. Their mama Apache gave birth to fifteen puppies and unfortunately died immediately afterward. For the first 48 hours, all fifteen puppies had to be bottle-fed every hour and fifteen minutes. Twelve of the little orphans survived, thanks to heroic efforts by Shawnee members, Gail, Heather, Kalie and Anne, and an especially loving and generous white German shepherd named Rosa who took in the seven smallest, just after her own puppies were weaned. The other puppies stayed together at Mama Gail’s. Without the hard work and loving attention of Gail, Kalie, Heather, Anne and, of course, Rosa, these puppies would not have survived.

photo credit Kalie Smith

At Shawnee we auction off the right to name the puppies. This year each name started with the letter I. By having the same letter for every pup in a litter, the huntsman and staff can more easily keep track of the age and parentage of the hounds. For the auction, each puppy is presented and the bidding begins. Normally, after all the puppies are auctioned, the highest bidder names his pup first, followed by the next highest bidder down the line. This year because of the unusual circumstances, Rosa’s family chose their pick Izzy, followed by Gail, Heather and Kalie who named Ironman, Itonya and Igloo. The bidders then named the remaining puppies Ishamel, Ichabod, Indigo, Isaac, Intel, Ivory, Iceberg and Idjit. This year also featured a raffle, with the first prize winner naming a puppy.  Other prizes in the raffle were a Shawnee Hounds coffee mug and a free capping fee. The auction and the raffle brought in $3150.00 for the hunt. 


Common Hand Signals for Foxhunting

Here are some of the hand signals you will see commonly used out hunting all over the world. Often it is imperative to keep quiet out hunting and these are used to communicate with your fellow riders.

Photo Credit Sarah Martin

“Hold Hard” means stop, stand still, and be quiet. Hold hard may also be silently signaled by a vertically raised forearm. Raise your arm while stopping to alert those coming behind you.

photo credit Sarah Martin

Although you should never be so close to be kicked, a horse that has proven on multiple occasions to kick should not be brought out hunting. A red ribbon in a horse’s tail does not absolve you of the consequences of this dangerous habit. A rider may hold their arm behind their back to signal their horse is becoming irritated and that you are too close. Back off promptly and you should strongly consider moving to the back of the field or to a field with less excitement for your horse.

Photo credit Sarah Martin

Ware Wire/post/hole/etc” Short for Beware, point to any potential hazards you are passing and if appropriate announce just loud enough to be heard by those behind you.

By: Sarah Martin, Huntsman and Master of Ozark Highland Hounds.


Cubbing Season

What is Cubbing?

Cubbing is the informal beginning of Foxhunting. Shawnee hounds start their cubbing season in the middle of September when the weather starts to cool down for fall. Cubbing season is used to train the first year hounds (for Shawnee it will be our H litter this year, 2021) how to hunt with the pack, what is good scent and what is bad scent. It is also a time to train new horses about hunting as well. The scenting during Cubbing in the Midwest is often not good due to the warm temperatures often experienced here, so it is a great time to get hounds, horses and riders ready and fit for the formal season. 

Performance Trial at Hillsboro Hounds during Cubbing Season 2019

What is the Attire for Cubbing?

Since Cubbing is informal the attire one wears while hunting is a little different than during our formal hunts. This attire is known as Ratcatcher. It should be noted that Shawnee Hounds permits riders to wear short sleeve polo shirts and conservative color breeches when the temperature is above 70 degrees. 

The following is the MFA guidelines for Ratcatcher Attire. 

Informal or Ratcatcher Attire Gentlemen and Ladies Coat: 

Tweed or wool in muted color, tailored and single or double-vented.

Here is an example of a Tweed coat

 Breeches: Earth tone colors – buff, tan, gray or rust. 

This is a great example of rust colored breeches as well as a plain helmet and an appropriate tie

Hat: Plain ASTM-approved black or brown velvet helmet with chin strap is strongly recommended, ribbon up.  (All riders at Shawnee hounds must wear an ASTM-approved helmet when mounted, there no expectations)

Shirt: Ratcatcher or other light-colored shirt. Stock tie (plain or colored) with horizontal pin or man’s necktie. A plain or patterned muted-color stock or necktie, with ends pinned down to remain tidy. White stock ties are not correct. Neckbands are also appropriate for ladies. Turtlenecks and polo shirts are usually reserved for children but are used in some hunts that experience extremely hot temperatures during autumn hunting season. 

Gloves: Black or brown leather or string gloves. White is not correct. 

Boots: Brown or black leather dress boots or brown field boots with laces. Formal boots with brown, patent or leather tops are not appropriate. Rubber boots are acceptable, as are canvas-topped (Newmarket) boots, and jodhpur boots with either canvas or leather leggings. Three-buckle brown field boots are also correct. 

Here is an example of black dress boots

Spurs: Regular hunting spurs with no rowels. 

Crop: Regulation hunting whip. Thong or lash may be removed. White whip or lash is not correct.

 Wire Cutters, Flask, Sandwich Case: Permitted

Credit: MFHA Foundation  Introduction to Foxhunting, https://mfha.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/introtofoxhunting2013.pdf