by Jennifer L Carcaci-Trumble
In 1928 Gordon Cox founded the Hunt Club, previously known as the Lebanon Valley Hunt Club. They acquired 10 dogs from Golden Bridge Hunt and in 1939 Lebanon Valley Hunt Club was registered with the Masters of Foxhounds Association. Captain Smith, former United States Army Calvary became the first Master of Foxhounds. His whippers were George Gilden, Allen F. Arnol and Gordon Cox.
In 1980 the Hunt Club purchased land in the town of Old Chatham, NY.
Fox hunting is known to have been one of President George Washington’s favorite past times. He really enjoyed the hunt.
Chatham Hunt Club is very unique. It is the only Hunt club in the country that has both Foxhound and Beagle packs. The club has 50 of each breed. The ages of the hounds range from puppy to 12 years of age. They do hunt separately for the Foxhounds track fox and coyote with huntsman with the field following on horseback. Reynard is one old and wiley fox. He eludes them all the time.
Beagles are trained to track rabbits. This is done on foot.
While hounds are walked daily year around, new hounds begin their training in the spring. Junior members are recruited to handle the puppies and teach them simple commands. In May the Club starts roading. (Exercising both hounds and horses twice a week on dirt roads around the kennels.)
In late July, twice a week, informal hunting begins. The hunts last between 1.5 to 3 hours. During this time they are teaching the young to track and the older ones improve their skills and endurance.
In October, formal season begins and hunts are longer. Hunting continues until the beginning of December. The fox hunting is done on horseback. Mostly everyone rides in English and English attire. If you ride Western you are more than welcome to join the Hunt in Western attire.
On Sept. 30, 2017, the non-denominational blessing of the Foxhounds in the town of Old Chatham in the village square was given by Roger Leithead, a former Master of the Foxhounds. This is the formal start of the hunt season.
I spoke to Elizabeth Marks, a member of the Old Chatham Hunt Club. Elizabeth has been part of the Hunt club for five years now. When her Dressage mount passed away she knew she wanted to try something different — no longer wanting to be confined to a ring. She communicated her desire to learn to hunt with the Hunt club, taking a clinic that is held every June called Intro to Fox Hunting. Elizabeth has found that everyone was so friendly and willing to help her along. This discipline is not for the elite only, everyone can do this. If you have a sure-footed horse that is comfortable on the trails and riding in groups with other horses, your horse just may make the cut. Most horses that I saw on Sept. 30 were draft and draft crosses. I did however see a few smaller horses.
Elizabeth’s mount’s name is Solomon. He is owned by Reggie Wenzek, another member of the hunt who lets her ride him. Elizabeth stated, “One of the best things about the hunting is how much horses love it. In the morning going to meets, I literally have to hold Solomon back from getting on the trailer. He literally loves the hunt. In all my time riding and showing Dressage horses, I have never had a horse drag me into a Dressage ring or onto a trailer to go to a show.”
Elizabeth says that a quarter of their horses are over 20 years old. This discipline keeps the horses healthy with all the hills.
She explained that members who hunt regularly and volunteer their time will be awarded “colors.” Colors are worn on the collar (Old Chatham Hunt Club’s colors are gold with hunter green piping). Men with color also wear a scarlet colored jacket called “pinks.” The only time a woman would be wearing a scarlet jacket is if she is a staff member, either whip, Master, or huntsman.
The whipsman is a person who assists the huntsmen by keeping all the hounds together.
If you would like to get involved in learning how to Fox hunt get a hold of the Master or a Huntsman. There is no age limit. There are three fields that you would use. First field is walk trot and canter. You must jump all the jumps. Second field is slower walk, trot and canter. Jumps are optional. The third field is walk and trot only.
If you are interested in adopting an older retired hunt hound or a puppy that doesn’t want to hunt, contact by email