Horse Nation’s foxiest blogger Gretchen Pelham is back with a breathtaking photo-essay from Opening Hunt.
The Tennessee Valley Hunt’s Opening Meet and Blessing of the Hounds this past Saturday marked the 25th anniversary of the hunt. There were over 100 people who gathered in the hay field of the Berry Hill Fixture in Greeneville, TN owned by Dr. and Mrs. Tracy and Debbie Dobbs. Landowners, members, staff, guests and family enjoyed the hot coffee and pastries that Miss Debbie had set up for us in her field.
Carla Hawkinson, MFH said a few words on the 25th medals, one for every TVH Opening Meet that she had attended. The Hunt Medals for this year were made out of sterling silver. There were several people present that had also attended the very first Opening Meet, but there are very few members who can claim to have attended all 25!
Our new professional huntsman, Ryan Johnsey, brought out sixteen and a half couple of our Penn-Marydel hounds from the kennels. After the Blessing those of us riding hacked from the Berry Hill fixture to the Big Valley fixture just down the road. Several landowners followed in their four wheelers, and the rest rode in the Tally Ho Wagon with Joint Master Grosvenor Merle-Smith as their guide.
We put in the 100 Acres Woods next to the corn at the base of the ridges that give the “big” in the name Big Valley Farm. The hounds hit on a fox in those woods that was quickly put to ground just off the trail we were on. I was leading Second Flight, and we were in the perfect spot to listen to the hounds mark the ground and Ryan blow Gone to Ground.
After Ryan was able to pull the pack off the den, the pack hit quickly on a second fox for a run out of the woods and into the corn fields, but the line was lost. As Ryan cast the hounds towards the spot where the Tally Ho wagon was waiting for us for our Champagne Break, the pack hit on a coyote at the base of Llama Hill that was viewed first by First Flight. The coyote then ran right past the Tally Ho wagon to give all the guests and landowners a great view.
The hounds ran that coyote out of country so Ryan pulled the pack back to join the fields for the Champagne Break. All the riders gathered behind Ryan and hounds for a picture to help celebrate our 25th Anniversary. What a day!
After the calling it a day, 101 people sat down for a delicious meal in the Dobb’s Stud Barn. Somehow, Debbie managed to seat 101 people on one table!
Carla told everyone the unorthodox story of how TVH was started: two women, Carla and Maribel Kola, bored while watching a dressage lesson, came up with the brilliant idea of starting a foxhunt. Never mind that neither had ever been on a real foxhunt before nor much less ever seen a real fox. The ladies were “shot in the butt” with luck and managed to find a legendary huntsman, Todd “Doc “Addis, to teach them how to hunt those 25 years ago. He also brought his famous Penn-Marydel hounds and left the pack with TVH. The hounds were much to the ladies surprise – who knew you needed dogs to foxhunt!
It was a wonderful Opening Meet. We remembered old times and traditions, but we made some new ones as well. I’m so honored to be a part of this group of people. And despite the rumor that I got Second Flight completely lost in the 100 Acre Woods (I was teaching them the trails–honest!), this Opening Meet just might be my favorite one so far.
Gretchen Pelham, MFH
Tennessee Valley Hunt
Gretchen is one of the five Joint Masters of the Tennessee Valley Hunt. She is a photographer and always hunts with her large 20D Canon camera and zoom lens shoved down the front of the her hunt coat (including this day she fell). Sometimes she even remembers to put the digital card in the camera. She is known as the Naked Foxhunter from a series of articles she has written for The Chronicle of the Horse. Her other hunt pony Ziggy writes a blog for the foxhunting magazine Covertside. Occasionally Gretchen manages to finish a hunt without falling off, but that is not as often as she would like.
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