Published on 15 December 2011
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Hetty Mackay-Smith Abeles greeted the first Cleveland Bays to arrive for November 19th’s Cleveland Bay Hunting Day at Farnley Farm with tears in her eyes. Ms. Abeles is the daughter of past Master of the Blue Ridge Hunt and Cleveland Bay breeder Alexander Mackay-Smith. She is also the owner of Farnley Farm, former home to more than 50 Cleveland Bay horses, and world-renowned for its Farnley ponies. Hetty’s brother Dr. Matthew Mackay-Smith, greeted the assembled riders, and reminisced about his family’s long association with Cleveland Bays. He recalled more than 17 years in the hunt field shared with his favorite Cleveland, Farnley Ensign. Other members of the family present included Winkie Mackay-Smith (wife of Dr. Matthew Mackay-Smith), Alexander Mackay-Smith’s widow, Marilyn Mackay-Smith, her daughter Caroline Treviranus Leake, and grand-daughter Denya Dee Leake, aboard her part bred gelding, Idlehour Fearnought.

This Cleveland Bay hunting day was hosted by Northern Virginia’s Blue Ridge Hunt. Credit for organizing the event goes largely to Cleveland Bay breeder and Blue Ridge Hunt member Peter Cook. Tremendous thanks are also owed to Joint Masters of the Blue Ridge, Doris Stimpson, Linda Armbrust, and Anne McIntosh. Gracious hospitality included a post-hunting breakfast in the manor house, provided by Hetty Abeles, Matthew and Winkie Mackay-Smith, and Peter and Beth Cook.

The hunting was tremendous. Hounds struck immediately after they were cast, with 3 separate foxes scattering from the first cover. Followers enjoyed several great views, and then hounds were off on the fox that headed north – blazing and fast over the richly paneled fields of Farnley and then circling through neighboring Federal Hill. It seemed the foxes were in on the plan to offer a grand day of sport. No sooner was the last of the first foxes marked to ground, and then three more were viewed, with one offering a great chase for the next 45 minutes and obligingly remaining within the country. With the temperature rising and a feast waiting, riders returned to the meet at Farnley.

Seventeen purebred and part bred Cleveland Bays participated in the field. At least ten of these horses descend from the bloodlines of Pennsylvania’s Idlehour stud – fitting because Idlehour’s founding Cleveland stallion was purchased on the recommendation of Alexander Mackay-Smith to Idlehour’s Thomas and Marilyn Webster.

Today, Cleveland Bays in the region and across the country descend from a number of different bloodlines, though the breed as a whole is critically endangered due to the small number of purebreds left in the world.  Cleveland Bays are best known for their suitability as field hunters and as carriage horses, although many also excel in dressage, jumping, eventing and in the hunter world.

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