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Ruth McClure photoPhoto courtesy Shakerag Hounds

Shakerag Hounds lost a great member on January 11, 2012 when Ruth McClure passed away at the age of 92. Ruth McClure was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and graduated from Duke University with a Masters degree in Chemistry, where she met her husband, John McClure. They made their home in Suwannee, Georgia, and became members of Shakerag Hounds in the 1960s. As an avid equestrian and foxhunter, Ruth quickly became one of the club’s strongest and most important members.

In the 70s, Ruth became the first field master, fearlessly leading the field on her trusty horse Parson into the early 80s. After years of leading first flight, Parson retired, and Ruth went on to lead the hill toppers on various horses, although none would ever replace Parson. In addition to the position as field master, Ruth also served as Shakerag’s honorary secretary for over 20 years.

One day in the field, during a particularly tough run, the field had dwindled down to a small handful of die-hard foxhunters. As Ruth boldly led the field across the countryside, her husband, John, broke away from the field and decided to take his own line, as he was known to do. As he galloped along the trails snaking through the woods, John came around a turn and abruptly pulled to a halt when he saw Ruth and what was left of the field heading straight towards him. When John asked, “Why aren’t you all with the field?” Ruth responded in a very domineering voice, “We ARE the field!”

Ruth and her husband owned a farm in the old Shakerag hunt country, conveniently located within hacking distance of the clubhouse. Their farm had miles of winding trails and was dotted with jumps. The McClures would schedule trail rides twice a week so members could get their horses (and themselves) in shape for the long runs across the trappy North Georgia countryside.

Ruth also took great pride in educating novices on the traditions and etiquette of the hunt. Together, she and her husband were responsible for introducing countless numbers of people to foxhunting, and many of today’s members joined because of the McClures. Her husband would often tell people to just show up at the meet and get on a horse! Ruth, however, would take care to explain exactly what “just showing up” involved, and how to proceed once you arrived at the meet. With a guiding hand and open heart, Ruth helped numerous riders become contributing members of Shakerag.

Eventually, arthritis began to take its toll, and made it too uncomfortable to ride. However, Ruth would not allow this to slow her down; she regularly followed each hunt in her jeep. With her uncanny ability to be in the right place at the right time, it was not uncommon for her to view more game than the huntsman! About ten years ago, the trophy for the high point lady hunter at Shakerag’s Hunter Trials was honorably named the Ruth McClure Trophy. It is the only trophy so far to be named after a member who was still living! She also donated her hunting attire to the club; Connie Washburn, wife of MFH Richard Washburn, proudly wears Ruth’s Melton coat each Saturday, and her pink coat now belongs to Shakerag’s first whipper-in, Kelly Eaton.

However, Ruth’s legacy is more than hunt coats and a shimmering trophy. As I am only in my fourth season with Shakerag, I can see Ruth’s impact on the Shakerag community all around me. Every person who has taken me under their wing, answered the seemingly endless questions I have about hunting, or simply greeted me with a smile and a cheery, “Good morning!” carries on Ruth’s spirit. She was the epitome of everything Shakerag stands for, and although she will be greatly missed by everyone in the Shakerag community, every warm welcome and helping hand assures that Ruth McClure will always be a part of Shakerag Hounds

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