Jennifer Hansen, huntsman at Woodbrook Hunt Club in Washington state, attended the opening weekend of education with this year's MFHA Professional Development Program participants. She provided the following report on her experience, including the opportunity to serve as an Apprentice Judge at the Virginia Foxhound Show in Leesburg, Virginia.

May 27, 2016:

I flew out with fellow attendee Sarah Glaser, and as our flight landed and we entered the terminal I saw her eyes widen and asked, “Have you ever been to the east coast?” She replied, “Indiana to pick up your horse trailer is the furthest east I’ve been before today.” We found our way to a rental car as quick as we could and headed to Middleburg.

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Huntsman Jennifer Hansen and her Crossbred pack at Woodbrook Hunt Club. Photo by J. Andrew Towell.

On my previous trip, I had learned that the National Sporting Library and Museum would be open late this Friday; I knew Sarah would love it and I couldn’t wait to visit again. Best was that the French Horse exhibit that had not opened yet on my April visit was open, and full of beautiful works. After we closed the Museum, we walked the streets of charming Middleburg. It was well past 10 p.m. when we finally arrived at our hotel in Ashburn, just about ten miles east of Leesburg.

May 28, 2016:

We found our way to Morven Park and the Carriage Museum before 9 a.m. for a seminar on Hound Judging. Marty Wood, MFH, Live Oak Hounds, and past MFHA President was the speaker. He gave a great presentation and shared what he looks for when judging hunting foxhounds.

Among the specific points he shared: He gives little attention to the length of the ears, and none to the color of the hound. Movement, agility, and durability are of the utmost importance. This means you need a hound of sound body and mind. The feet should be of proper shape and a size suitable to the size of the hound. The hound should not toe out or in. The hocks should be set low and have a nice angle. The hindquarters should be strong with the stern set high and straight. The elbows should be free and not tied in tight. You want a deep heart girth with a chest that’s open, but not too wide. The hound’s topline should be strong with special attention to the loin area, and a neck long and strong enough for the hound to have excellent balance while sorting out scent and running with its head down. And finally, you want a hound with a correct bite and I [Marty Wood] appreciate a bright expression. 

This all made good sense and I was feeling more prepared to attend the next day's Virginia Foxhound Show. On Saturday evening, we attended a dinner party at Morven Park. I followed instinct and sat at a table with a few friendly-looking folks. One was Alf Caldwell, MFH and Huntsman, Long Run Hounds in Kentucky. He was very friendly and as it turns out, he had graduated from the Professional Development Program (PDP) a few years prior.

Sunday May 29, 2016:

We met Andrew Barclay and Dennis Foster at 8:30 a.m., and they introduced us to the other PDP students, Sommers and Kaitlin, also Marion Thorne, MFH and Huntsman, Genesee Valley Hunt. Marion will also be mentoring this year's PDP class. We had a few minutes to wander around — it was like walking through the stabling area of a horse show. I was impressed by how comfortable the hounds were with all the goings-on, as this was far from their normal routine.

At 9 a.m. sharp, Andrew put each of us in a ring and introduced us to the judges — and there I was in the Crossbred ring, standing with Daphne Wood and Orrin Ingram. We started with a class of unentered dogs. The judges worked their way though all the hounds, evaluating their standing on the boards and moving across the grass. Some followed the biscuits with enthusiasm, and others had a hard time. I realized even the best hound could miss out on a prize because it doesn’t show well or show enough movement. Daphne does her best to help and educate by having handlers set their hounds up on one board so not to be standing on a crack that might make a foot look to toe out or a leg look crooked that’s not.

After two very informative classes with Daphne, I was moved to the American ring where Marion Thorne was judging. She had a really hard job, because it looked like a sea of red and white. The American hounds are more reserved, so you really notice when one confidently walks in the ring and owns it. The size was varied, and I quickly learned that Marion likes a hound that’s not too big or too small. In my opinion, the American hounds had the most uniform feet and body type of all the rings.

Next I was moved to the English ring, with an English judge: Mr. A.D. Osbourne MFH, Cottesmore Hunt. The English give no attention to the number given to each hound; they look at the program and call the hounds by their names. It’s fascinating to watch as he sizes up each hound and notices even the slightest fault. But still, the most important attribute is soundness and movement. Mr. Osbourne asked each hound to move free after a biscuit before he would look at them on the boards. He seemed to follow his instinct and hound sense more than a formula. I was impressed both by the judge’s expertise and also by how much I enjoyed the English hounds (I have had far less exposure to English hounds than American and Crossbred). I was only through one class when the lunch break was called. I was ready for the break but wanted more time in that ring. Thankfully, Andrew allowed me to start in that ring after lunch so I was able to see two classes of bitches. 

Then it was on to the Penn-Marydel ring with Larry Pitts and Dr. Dove. Two characters of very different background, as Mr. Pitts is a huntsman and Dr. Dove, a Master and breeder of Deerhounds, so he also had a background in American Kennel Club showing. Both were very knowledgeable but differed in opinion. And the Penn-Marydel varies in shape and size, so this left some need for agreement. In the end, they were very much in agreement that the attractive bitch on solid feet with a nicely shaped body should take the breed. They had some concern that she would be too shy to show well enough to win Best in Show (and that is your goal as a judge: to pick the dog or bitch of each breed that is the quality to take best in show). 

Midland Striker took the top honors and he really is quite something. The Penn-Marydel bitch surprisingly showed better out in the field than I thought she did in the ring. She didn’t let Dr. Dove or Mr. Pitts down.

We also watched the pack class held out on the lawn in front of the Morven Park mansion. Watching was impressive as was hearing Andrew's stories the next evening of how he and others used to show their competitiveness by using odor of bitch in heat… great stories!

Editor's note: Watch for the second portion of Jennifer Hansen's report, including visits to the MFHA offices and kennel tours at Warrenton, Old Dominion, Blue Ridge, Piedmont, in our next eCovertside newsletter. Subscribe here!

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