Mist curled around the distant hills like a gentle white stream and teased us with the promise of winter as we gathered at Mollywood for the first cast. Chip Anderson, the professional huntsman for Tryon Hounds, prepared to loose the pack in the near thicket while hounds’ noses lifted on the wind, scenting the air, and horses danced lightly on their feet, eager in the brisk autumn air.
This is my second season to ride with Tryon. I came from Kansas, drawn by the beauty of the mountains, the small towns, and the wonderful riding community. The trip was hard, the road long, but the mystique of this region teased my mind. So, I came, dragging my husband, horses and dogs in tow.
I knew of the Tryon Hounds before I knew of the area. Their reputation is one of the best in the foxhunting world, and today my heart beats with anticipation as I wait for the hunt to start.
Jt.-MFH Bonnie Lingerfelt ordered a wayward young hound back to the pack. The long, lanky first-year entry looked at the master, saw no avenue of escape, and rejoined the milling hounds clustered around the huntsman. Jt.-MFH Louise Hughston welcomed everyone, introduced guests, and complimented a hard-working member on the excellent turn-out of his horse. It was time to hunt.
We left Mollywood through a generous landowner’s property and hunted along Collinsville Rd. The fields spread out like a tapestry before us, woven with shades of umber and gold. Splashes of pine and glittering thickets made bright accents on the scenery.
For a short while, as the hounds searched in the thickets, I took in the view, and then a motorist stopped and told of a red fox viewed crossing the road.
Anderson picked up hounds, recast them, and then a hound opened. His voice was beautiful, and his mates joined in. In perfect harmony, and moving like a well-choreographed dance group, the hounds roared off on the line. Even Odin, my favorite puppy, in his first season of hunting, ran like a seasoned pro.
Around the thickets they went once again, and then the huntsman began to draw the adjacent covert. His voice carried from the trees to the surrounding hills, encouraging the pack. On this Saturday the hounds and huntsman seemed to be possessed with magical powers. One hound would open, then another. Soon the whole pack would join in, and we’d be off once more.
We flew across fields and through the woods as the fox cut to the west and then headed north, hounds hot on his heels. He weaved back and forth, using all his tricks to evade the hounds. After a 20-minute run, the fox left our territory, forcing the huntsman and whippers-in to stop hounds. Horses jogged in place as riders queued up behind the fieldmasters, Sarah and Kerry Holmberg and Louise Hughston. Riders were hot, horses were tired, but our huntsman was still feeling good.
He lifted the pack back across the road and into the woods, but the day had warmed and the scenting had turned poor. Soon he bid the fox a fond farewell, and we headed back to the trailers.
As I looked around, I saw a smile plastered on every face. We each realized how lucky we are to experience the same great sport as foxhunters did centuries ago.
A good horse, the Tryon Hounds, and a great community in which to live–I think the trip from Kansas was worth it.