Farmington travels to Belle Meade,
January 19-21 Foxhound Performance Trials
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The FHC riders Jan 20, 2017 l-r: Joy Crompton,Pippa Cook, Cece Williamson,Matthew Cook, Tom Bishop, Anita Vere-Nicoll, Robin Ellis, Stephanie Guerlain, Liz King, Kay Barquin, Andrea Guzinski, photo courtesy of Stephanie Guerlain

Event report, by Beth Sutton, Photos courtesy Stephanie Guerlain and Liz King

Farmington logged in another first to begin the New Year by entering the Hound Performance Trials hosted by Belle Meade in Thomson, GA on January 19, 20 and 21: the first time ever that our hounds had traveled to compete in a performance trial. At a joint hunt with Belle Meade Hounds, along with Bull Run (Culpeper), Bridlespur (St. Louis), Mill Creek (Illinois) and Fox River Valley (Illinois and Georgia). If you’re not familiar with what a performance trial is, just ask Belle Meade MFH and host Epp Wilson.
“It’s like a joint meet on steroids,” he explained with enthusiasm, “It’s the most fun you can have with your clothes on!” Before the event I had a chance to correspond with Epp Wilson, the organizer of the event. He recommended reading the chapter at the end of the MFHA book,A Centennial View, Foxhunting in North America Today,(Derrydale Press, 2009) to get an overall picture of the performance trial competition.  He elaborated "We are excited to have Farmington participating! The first time this year! Our Performance Trials are one of my favorite events of the year. They are a wonderful way for hunts to play together. They are like a joint meet on steroids.Lots of fine people all passionate about fox hunting – the greatest sport in the world.The competition is both fun and serious. Everyone is pulling for their own hounds, of course, and cheering on the best of every pack - that is, if they are not too busy holding on for dear life. The performance trial packs are the all-stars of fox hunting. The cream rises to the top. And the cream from all these fine packs – well – they are incredible to behold. If there is an ounce of scent, they will provide good sport. If scent is good they will put on one helluva show. And they change the dynamics of the hunting day.The coyotes are expecting my standard pack. This performance trial pack of champions puts lots more pressure on them – and changes the game – ramping the level of sport up by several notches.As a result, the critters tend to change their patterns and tactics. So, we all have to be on our toes big time. Anything can happen.

Riding in the field during the trials in Fitzpatrick, AL 20 years ago – I was on my good mare, Honor, who was used to me hunting the hounds – and being first. She did not understand being behind, so she was pulling like hell. As we galloped along mile after mile through mud – she got into the zone and did an incredible job. One particular gallop down a greasy slick hill, Honor was getting fatigued – over half the field had given up and pulled up. I remember thinking that the only thing between me and total disaster was a handful of leather and the grace of God. She got her third wind and was one of the few to finish the day. She gained a whole new level of respect from me that day.

Short version. It is almost always the finest sport we have all year."
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Epp Wilson and Charlie Lewis, MFH Belle Meade, January 19

 Farmington was well represented by seventeen hunting members who drove with horses the 8 ½ hours south to southwest Georgia to watch six of our finest hunt with the large combined pack led by guest Huntsman S.L. Clifton from Green Spring Valley in Maryland. Joy Crompton reported, “6 hunts participated and were allowed to enter 6 hounds. We took Diglet, Comet, Olive, Robber, Ripper, Briar and Cupcake. And were given nice kennel run with attached stall complete with bench for them to sleep. As Robin, CeCe, Anita and Joy came a day early, we helped walk out hounds with Matthew and Pippa on Thursday. The following members represented Farmington Hunt: Joy Crompton, MFH. Anita Vere-Nicoll, Liz King, MFH, Carolyn and Ken Chapman(honorary whippers in),Stephanie Guerlain, and her guest Andrea Guzinski, CeCe Williamson, FHC President Mark Thompson and Shelly, Robin Ellis,Kay Barquin, Evie Cowles, Kim and Chris Middleton, Matthew and Pippa Cook, and ex-MFH and honorary whipper-in Tom Bishop.
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from left: KenChapman,JoyCrompton(hidden),CeCe Williamson,Robin Ellis,KayBarquin,AnitaVere-Nicoll,Chris Middleton, KIm Gall,MatthewCook,LizKing,Shelly and Mark Thompson,EvieCowles,StephanieGuerlain,CarolynChapman,TomBishop

Here are a few comments from the FHC gang:
Thank You Stephanie Guerlain for all the photos and videos that call all be seen on our FHC Facebook page. She reports:

“It was a blast! Belle Meade was incredibly accommodating of all of us, and it was nice to have everything in one place, clubhouse, stabling, hounds, and the hunts! Great southern food was prepared each day and plentiful drink was available, starting with the Stirrup Cups at 7:30am each morning. The 3rd flight field master was excellent (can't comment on the others), always putting us in a good spot to see the action. It took a few hours to get a good chase going on the first day, but we hit on an incredible run (45 minutes?) almost immediately on the 2nd day, which was a good thing as we were able to then come in before the DOWNPOUR started (at least many of us got in in time, others were not so lucky). We hunted in two directions right from the Kennels. The first day was through Pine forests, relatively flat but many "down/up" water crossings which were preferable to the rickety-looking swaying wooden bridge that we crossed several times! The second day was across the street and had territory more similar to ours with lots of fields and wider paths through mature woods. We passed a waterfall/dam that was built in the late 1700s. Bull Run won the championship the first day, not sure about 2nd day, but I'm sure you can find out the results. I believe Comet was 3rd in one of the categories( Trailing division, 2nd day). Each hunt was allowed to have one judge, ours was Carolyn Chapman. There was an independent huntsman, Sam Clifton, from Green Springs I believe. Most other huntsmen tried to stay incognito so as to not distract their hounds. The hounds ran very well as a group and were very responsive to the huntsman. It was fun to hear all the English chaps chatting with each other in the barnyard. Almost felt like I was in England! Friendly, food, fun, and FAST sums it up. Their 3rd flight was as fast as our first flight (just no jumping).”

Anita Vere-Nicoll: “Great fun was had by all beasts and humans. "Ware hole," was a common theme however not even the rain and thunder could dampen the spirit. Should the occasion come around again I highly recommend the excursion!! Thank you masters and Mathew for allowing us all the opportunity!
Belle Meade certainly knows how to put on a performance trial.”
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Jean Derrick's Cottage next to Belle Meade Stables, Stirrup Cup, Friday January 21

Mark Thompson, Kim and Chris Middleton agreed that the Georgia hunting was “fast, and vast!” and Matthew Cook was happy with the fact that no one got lost, hurt or had any problems or issues. “ Our hounds did well, considering the speed of the other hounds they were up against.” Matthew was pleased with the overall performance and stamina not only of our hounds, but also the FHC riders who kept up in the large fields (huge number of riders-both days), and happy we had such a large entourage that attended. ”We definitely had the biggest entourage of any hunt there,” he said –“It was really great!”

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Matthew and Pippa Cook (l), CeCe Williamson, Tom Bishop (r) Friday Jan 21

In the final results, FHC Comet placed third in the “Trailing” division the second day, coming in behind good company with Bull Run’s hound winning the overall Championship.
The whole experience was a resounding success on all fronts, according to everyone who went. It was just a very long way to go-but definitely worth the effort. Look for more comments and accounts on Facebook with details and results to come soon in “Fox Tracks”. Look for the next issue of Foxhunting Life: Report from Norm Fine on the Performance Trials, plus a special interview with our huntsman Matthew Cook by Elizabeth h."Beth" Sutton

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Ken Chapman, "what a great organization Belle Meade has, great people,great to be there!"

Hunt Line: (434) 978-1107

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