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January 2, 2009

Hunt Report: Misty River Hounds

Misty River Hounds
1369 Madison 1335,
Huntsville, Arkansas 72740.
Established 1989.
Registered 1991.
Recognized 1992.


Young Riders Enjoy A Banner Day

The next generation of Ozark foxhunters and coyote chasers mounted up Dec. 6 for the Misty River Hounds’ annual junior invitational foxhunt. Before their day ended, the 75 riders and guests enjoyed several wild runs, a viewing of a black coyote and an altercation with a mad momma cow.

MFH and Huntsman Dina Del Guercio selected only dog hounds for the day’s sport from her kennel of Crossbreds. With the blessing delivered, non-riding guests on the tally-ho wagon and hunters astride, Del Guercio blew to leave the meet. Three fields and the infamous tally-ho wagon followed.

Del Guercio made a wide circuit of the west hay field before hacking up Pasture Hill toward the first covert of the day. The hounds struck immediately below the Little Boy Pond. They ran screaming toward the Engineer Gate and down into Tracy’s Draw, scrambling hard in the rocks and brush. 

Misty River hounds Seabiscuit and Adam led the pack with their brass voices. First field, under Field Master Linda Brown, galloped furiously in the huntsman’s hip pocket across coops and down steep hills, staying with the hounds.
Second field, following Field Master Kendra Waldbusser, cut through a rocky pasture before dropping into Tracy’s Draw, often times at a heady canter.  Finally, riders had to slow to a fast trot due to thickly wooded undergrowth.  Since the older steady hounds Percival, Offer and Tripod continued to show interest, Del Guercio pushed toward Cal’s Pond until the line was lost. Sure they were on coyote, the huntsman moved onto the Green Bottle Road and worked the hounds hard to recapture the scent.

At the Blackberry Coop, Del Guercio’s confidence in her pack was rewarded with an unusual viewing.  A fine dark coyote was stretched out near the Blackberry Coop, sunning himself. Upon seeing the hounds, the fellow rose to his feet, watched the approaching hounds and hunters, then loped off.  The viewing delighted the first riders, and the raucous hound screams sent chills rippling among the rest.  The handsome coyote toyed with the hounds, pulling them down a draw and deep into the woods before disappearing.

In the flat Stony Creek Farm jumping pasture, the hounds were collected, the three fields merged and the tally-ho wagon rumbled up. It was time for the annual junior meet photograph. Del Guercio dismounted to talk with her riders and guests, encouraging the non-riders to bring a horse next year and praising the riders’ horsemanship. Second- and third-field riders were encouraged to school over the old tire coop while parents and friends snapped pictures.

Refreshed and encouraged, the field re-gathered. Del Guercio cast the hounds into the cane brake along the river pasture.  Hounds gave out a few squeaks but found nothing substantial.

Meanwhile, as the third field walked down the River Trail into the pasture, a black-and-white cow called anxiously for her calf. Apparently separated from her baby by the first riders into the pasture, the mother cow became upset with the final mass of horsemen and began to bawl. She dashed toward the riders, threatening a charge. A bull in a neighboring field likewise grew agitated and added his deep bellow to the din. Some horses were a little spooked, but the junior riders demonstrated their horsemanship and controlled their mounts with skill throughout the entire hullabaloo.

In addition to negotiating mad cows, junior riders had to execute a field reversal when the huntsman changed direction, in order to ride around a copse. The young riders were under pressure to traverse rocky terrain, steep hills and even cross a creek. They helped open and close gates for fellow riders. First-field riders jumped coops and often rode at a hand-gallop. 

For many, it was a first time to ride in the open with other horses. “Learning to ride cross-country on difficult terrain is an important part of young equestrians’ education,” said whipper-in and trainer Sandy Hamm Martini. “Foxhunting is an avenue for our young students to acquire the basic riding skills necessary for all riding disciplines and to learn about preserving and enjoying the many aspects of farm life.”

As the wind began to pick up, Del Guercio moved the hounds down a fence line toward the Dike Pasture, past the Red Barn Knoll and toward the double gates. Here a final coop and a mighty race uphill toward the Kennel Road brought the day to an end.

As is the Misty River custom during the junior meet, young riders were selected to ride with a staff mentor. First Field Master Linda Brown trotted out with junior Maddy Brown. A Northwest Arkansas Hunter-Jumper Association member, Maddy rides with Deer Creek Farm. Cordell Giles, 8, helped pilot second field with hilltop Field Master Kendra Waldbusser. Cordell’s farrier grandfather, Ray Giles, takes Cordell hunting in the winter and hound walking in the summer. Lissie Naber rode with junior hunt coordinator and third Field Master Diane Gooderl.

Twice a year, at opening hunt and junior meet, Misty River Hounds offers non-riding guests a chance to view the hound work and hunting action from the tally-ho wagon. These non-riders view the color, hear the sounds and feel the adrenaline of horses and hounds as they run wiley coyote. The breakfast, catered by the Crossbow Restaurant, featured southern fried chicken, mashed potatoes and green beans.

The final word for the day? Young adult rider Christy Zweig had it. 

“I love that foxhunting makes you ride with a purpose,” she said. “Although I love eventing, there’s something really special about galloping full-speed through fields chasing after something instead of riding the same pattern that other riders will use. Hunting has made me a much better rider, challenged me and made me do things that I wasn’t sure I could. I really hope I can continue to hunt as I get older.” 

Nancy Hartney

 
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