Misty River Hounds
1369 Madison 1335,
Huntsville, Arkansas 72740.
More than 45 riders hacked out behind MFH and Huntsman Dina Del Guercio on Dec. 11 for the fifth annual Misty River Hounds junior meet in the Ozark Mountains. Unaffiliated juniors and non-riding tally-ho wagon guests joined riders from the Cimarron Region’s Rackensack (Ark.) and Boston Mountain (Ark.) Pony Clubs.
Del Guercio’s pack for the day included proven strike hounds and faster young hounds who’d been hunted lightly the previous season. Cast in the woods near the Strawberry Patch, strike hound Neatley opened. The pack honored and immediately flew through a trappy ravine, up the steep, wooded side, and out into an open pasture with riders following at a hard gallop.
The line faded as hounds streamed into the Little Boy Pasture, finally losing on the east hillside. Del Guercio lifted hounds and moved out of the open, then into the low ravine road that connects Misty River and Stoney Creek farms.
Here, Wager opened, and the pack ran madly on a coyote line along the ravine path. They skipped across several open hills before dropping into the lower river plain. Palpable coyote presence hung in the air as seasoned hounds raked through the leaves and underbrush, finding the line again near the Beaver Pond.
With all hounds on and speaking to it, the field thundered the entire length of the river and into the canebrake, where hounds lost due to the marshy and thick growth. But hounds had certainly shown their hunting skills to the juniors.
At the mid-hunt check, Del Guercio rode among the juniors, complimenting their riding skills and encouraging the tally-ho wagon guests to mingle with the riders and hounds. Juniors were also allowed to school over a coop under the direction of the fieldmaster, while parents scrambled to capture the moment on film.
Junior meet organizer Diane Gooderl had carefully planned the riding teams by pairing juniors with specific hunt staff, including Del Guercio, the fieldmaster and several key whippers-in. Other junior hunters were paired with hunt veterans, with whom they negotiated trappy terrain, coops, and water crossings. Before the day was over, a foxhunting adrenaline rush had coursed through every rider, intermediate hilltopper, newcomer’s flight rider and tally-ho wagon guest.
There isn’t much of a tradition of mounted foxhunting in Arkansas–the Misty River Hounds is the only hunt in the state, registered in 1989. Area Pony Clubs are also young, yet there were some excellent riders out for the junior meet. Continuing to build an Arkansas foxhunting tradition while strengthening the links to and support of area Pony Clubs is a driving force for this hunt.