This year marked the 100th anniversary of the Masters of Foxhounds Association and of organized foxhunting in the United States. MFHA officials and volunteers, spearheaded by MFHA President and Midland Hunt (Ga.) MFH Mason Lampton and Centennial Chairman Rene Latiolais, planned and executed a birthday party of immense and inspiring proportions (see story p. 10).
For 18 months, foxhunters across the country—and in Canada—joined together to celebrate the tradition and evolution of their sport. They participated in regional joint meets and competed in regional field hunter championships, hound shows and hound performance trials. This year’s festivities were kick-started with the Centennial Hunt Ball, held in New York City in January in conjunction with the annual MFHA meeting.
Throughout the year, a traveling art exhibition highlighting the work of more than 100 foxhunting artists is bringing the beauty that is a day behind hounds to the country. A Centennial book and DVD will profile the unique character of each of the recognized hunts. And, of course, there is a variety of Centennial memorabilia available.
It all came together on Memorial Day weekend in Leesburg, Va., where the finals for the Centennial Field Hunter Championships were held, along with the Centennial Hound Show and the finals of the performance hound trials. Held alongside the Virginia Hound Show, these competitions—and the myriad social activities around them—brought foxhunters from far and wide together in an unprecedented show of support for their sport and expression of unity.
Remarkably, 62 of the 64 qualified contestants traveled to Virginia to compete in the field hunter finals, coming from California, Arizona, Florida, Colorado and all over the country. And many more foxhunters accompanied them, drawn to Virginia to help celebrate their sport.
It was a weekend of connecting with old friends, making new ones and watching the very essence of foxhunting at its best. The hard work of many volunteers brought a year’s worth of activities to a grand finale.
And while the Centennial celebrations were all in the name of good times and fun to be had by all, there was also a real purpose to the endeavor. Lampton envisioned the Centennial as not only a big party, but also a serious declaration of the united front of foxhunters, and a way of rallying support to help cement the sport’s future. The funds raised by all the Centennial activities will go toward education and encouraging land conservancy. Lampton wanted all foxhunters to celebrate their past and present, but also ensure their future.
It’s encouraging that the field hunter championships were won by a junior member, who conquered over foxhunters with many years behind hounds to their credit. That was another goal of the Centennial—to ensure that the torch will be passed to the next generation by inspiring young people to get involved and participate.
With foxhunting legally banned in England—though most are carrying on in line with the restrictions—such a strong show of unity behind the sport in the United States bodes well for its future. The enthusiasm and passion shown by American foxhunters for their sport has been burnished to a fine luster by the Centennial. Let’s hope that all foxhunters continue to polish it and keep it bright. Hopefully, their voices will be as strong in the coming years as those of a pack in full cry and hard on the line.