A Sporting Day
The Chagrin Valley Hunt

A Typical Day

The day begins early, well before sun-up. Subscribers gulp a cup of hastily brewed coffee, load their horses into trailers and then off to the meet.

It’s dawn. There is always a bustle in the air and anticipation of the ride and sport to follow. The Huntsman arrives with the hound truck filled with excited foxhounds. The riders greet the Masters and each other, tightening girths and slipping on gloves.  Soon the Huntsman moves off to the first “covert,” woods or a hillside where the fox scent is likely to be found. The Field, headed by the Field Master, follows quietly behind. The Huntsman sends his Whippers-in to the covert to watch for "Charlie" as the fox is often called.  The Huntsman, with a language known only to himself and the hounds, urges them on.

With heads down and sterns (tails) up, the hounds eagerly search, trying systematically to pick up the scent of the fox. Suddenly, a seasoned hound gives tongue. The Huntsman harks the others to her and all at once there is huge cry as the hounds find the line of scent.  The Huntsman blows his horn, "Gone Away!"  The Field Master pushes his cap down and  moves off at a gallop with the Field following. The chase is on!  For ten minutes, twenty, an hour perhaps, the Field gallops up hill and down, through bogs, over fences, around steep corners, over brooks, over bushes, through streams, all the time striving to stay with the hounds.

Suddenly there is a deep stillness. “Charlie” has either run into his den or given them the slip. Hunting stops for the moment. Tired and excited, horses and riders catch deep breaths and the hounds are congratulated for a chase well done before they are off again.

This is foxhunting!

 

 

Origins of Foxhunting

Fox hunting, as practiced by the Chagrin Valley Hunt, has its origin in England where several centuries ago the landowners began hunting stag with hounds. As stags were depleted, and the cost of keeping large staghounds became exorbitant, the fox became the quarry. In England, foxes were, and are, very plentiful - so much so as to be considered vermin. Farmers, shepherds and keepers of large shooting estates find the fox a voracious eater of poultry, lamb and game.

The sport became formalized in the 18th century. Shortly after the American Colonies were settled, hounds and actually red foxes were imported into Virginia, Pennsylvania and Maryland for the landowners to hunt. These states still have the largest number of organized foxhunts in the United States. Our first president, George Washington, was an avid foxhunter and maintained his own pack of foxhounds.  Hunting in America, however, should really be called chasing, for despite hounds pursuing foxes; the terrain, the number of holes, water and scenting conditions make it unlikely that the fox will be caught.

A Brief History of the Chagrin Valley Hunt

The Chagrin Valley Hunt was organized by a group of Cleveland enthusiasts in 1908. Windsor T. White purchased several hounds from England and began hunting in the Chagrin Valley on many large properties and farms in the area. Soon the original organizers were prompted to purchase The Maple Leaf Inn in Gates Mills which was renamed the Chagrin Valley Hunt Club. Using the Club as a base of operations, the founders built a Kennel and Stable and hunted the land surrounding Gates Mills.

In order to go across country on horseback with enough speed to follow hounds, jump fences had to be in place. To jump the farmers' wire and barbed wire was difficult and dangerous. The solution was to place wooden jumps in the fence lines where horses could easily get across while still keeping livestock in place. The jumps, called chicken coops, are still used extensively today.

Hunting with the Chagrin Valley Hunt was very popular with not only residents from Cleveland, but also the local farmers and landowners in the Valley. The countryside provided excellent sport up through World War II. At the end of the War, however, with increased building in eastern Cuyahoga and western Geauga Counties, the area available for fox hunting steadily decreased. A decision had to be made as to whether to stop or move on.

In the 1950's, The Chagrin Valley Hunt moved much of its activities to the area east of Middlefield and permission was sought and granted by many of the Amish farmers in the area for the Hunt to ride over their lands. In return, the Hunt established the Middlefield Fund to which members contribute. The Fund makes contributions annually to the Amish Schools in the area of which we hunt. The Hunt has maintained excellent relationships with the landowners in the area and after some 30 years have become, we hope, a permanent fixture in the community.

In the 1950's, The Chagrin Valley Hunt moved much of its activities to the area east of Middlefield and permission was sought and granted by many of the Amish farmers in the area for the Hunt to ride over their lands. In return, the Hunt established the Middlefield Fund to which members contribute. The Fund makes contributions annually to the Amish Schools in the area of which we hunt. The Hunt is environmentally concerned and works to maintain the quality of the land over which we hunt. We have maintained excellent relationships with the landowners in the area and after some 30 years have become, we hope, a permanent fixture in the community.

The Hunt Season

Hound walking
In January, Huntsman Phillip Headdon walks the pack daily and begins to train new hounds and puppies.  The pack walks through the village streets of Gates Mills every morning for about an hour.  Everyone is welcome to join these walks.  Generally the pack leaves the kennel at 9:00 Monday through Saturday.  A specific schedule is posted at the kennel during walking out season.  Please check with Phillip during questionable weather.

Roading
In June and July, Huntsman Phillip Headdon gets the newer hounds accustomed to horses by walking them through village streets and on the country roads of Middlefield from horseback.

Precubbing and Cubbing
Pre-cubbing in July, and the cub hunting season in August and part of September, is an educational period for the newer hounds. 

Formal Hunt Season
Formal season begins with the Blessing in September, and extends through the end of November.  Northeastern Ohio weather usually prohibits hunting during the winter.

Hunt Organization

Formal fox hunting is fundamentally organized as it was in England centuries ago. today most Hunts are club or subscription packs where the hunters themselves supply the money to maintain hounds and pay staff. The Chagrin Valley Hunt is overseen on a daily basis by two Joint Masters of Foxhounds (Jt. MFH):  Judith McConnell and Laura Mock. A Master of the Hunt is ultimately responsible for the entire operation of the hunt including the breeding of foxhounds and their care, opening the country, maintaining good relationships with the landowners, and, of course, showing good sport.

The Masters also employ the Huntsman. Our Huntsman, Mr. Phillip Headdon, is the professional who feeds, breeds and cares for the hounds and the hunt horses. It is he who actually hunts the hounds and encourages them to chase the fox. The Huntsman is assisted in the field by his honorary Whippers-in who stay on the flanks of the pack to make sure all hounds are safe and on the scent.

The Huntsman is followed by the Field, subscribers, cappers and guests. They are led by the Field Master. The Field members are actually only observers. The sport is to watch the Huntsman and hounds get on the scent and to follow as quickly as possible over the countryside. Hard gallops and many jumps offer a thrilling experience and, of course, if a view of a fox occurs, it is an added reward.
The Huntsman is followed by the Field, subscribers, cappers and guests. They are led by the Field Master. The Field members are actually only observers. The sport is to watch the Huntsman and hounds get on the scent and to follow as quickly as possible over the countryside. Hard gallops and many jumps offer a thrilling experience and, of course, if a view of a fox occurs, it is an added reward.

Our Hunt Country

The land over which we hunt is the key to our sport. We may have the finest hounds, horses and staff available, but without the cooperation of our landowners, there is no Hunt. The country includes fixtures in the eastern sector of Middlefield, Parkman, Burton, Hartsgove and Zoar. There is a fixture map available at the Hunt Club office that shows particulars. We know you will be considerate of private property and courteous when driving the country roads. The Hunt is always working to honor the fine relationships we have with our many landowner over the years. Once again, as over the past 30-some seasons, we thank those landowners for their generosity.

Guest Information and Cap Fees

The Chagrin Valley Hunt Welcomes Guests . . . If you wish to hunt and are unfamiliar with The Chagrin Valley Hunt, please contact the Honorary Hunt Secretary Carol Horner Donaldson 440-338-8703 or hunterscreekfarm@msn.com or one of the Masters, at least a day prior to the fixture date of choice. The Masters must know in advance if visitors are expected in order to plan the morning. When Members of the Field bring guests, or professionals bring cappers, these riders are their host's responsibilities. When inviting company, please check the fixture card, as some meets may be more appropriate for your guests than others.

Capping Fees. . . Capping privileges are extended to guests who hunt with Chagrin four times or less a season. Fees are $75 per hunt for adults and $25 for children ($20 for active Pony Clubbers). Please have capper's name and address noted on the outside of an envelope with the exact cap amount in cash or check inside. Make checks payable to Chagrin Valley Hunt. During a busy hunt morning making change or giving credit is nearly impossible. When arriving at the meet and as soon as possible, hand the envelope to the Field Secretary Mrs. Larry (Carol) Smith.

Attire in the Hunt Field

The Chagrin Valley Hunt has always prided itself on a smart, well-turned-out field. A handsome, polished group is a joy to behold and adds immeasurably to the visual excitement for both hunters and spectators alike. If you have any specific questions, please contact a Master who will be happy to be of help.

Ratcatcher

Ratcatcher is worn during the Cub Hunting Season, from the first Saturday in August to the Blessing of the Hounds in September. Ratcatcher is also permissible during weekdays of the formal hunting season.

Gentlemen and Ladies:  Hacking Jacket, dress shirt and necktie, canary or tattersall vest (optional), buff, canary or rust breeches, black or brown dress boots or field boots.

Ladies:  Hacking Jacket, show shirt with choker collar or stock tie (white, colored or print), canary or tattersall vest (optional), buff, canary or rust breeches, black or brown dress boots or field boots.

Traditional horse show attire is considered ratcatcher.

Staff:  White cotton jacket, dress shirt, official Chagrin Valley Hunt tattersall necktie, buff, canary or rust breeches, black or brown dress boots or field boots.

Formal Hunt Attire

Formal Hunting attire is worn from the Blessing of the Hounds in September through the end of the season. Though Saturdays are always formal, Ratcatcher is permissible on weekdays.

Gentlemen and Ladies:  Black hunt coat, white stock tie with a horizontal plain gold stock pin, canary vest (vest is optional), buff or canary breeches, black dress boots.

Ladies and Gentlemen who have earned their colors:  Black hunt coat with green collar and black CVH buttons, white stock tie with a horizontal plain gold stock pin, official Chagrin Valley Hunt tattersall vest with brass CVH buttons (vest is optional), buff or canary breeches, black dress boots with patent leather tops.

Staff:  Scarlet hunt coat with brass CVH buttons and green collar, white stock tie with vertical plain gold stock pin, official Chagrin Valley Hunt tattersall vest with brass CVH buttons (vest is optional), white breeches, black dress boots with brown leather tops.

Juniors

Juniors under 16 are always welcome to wear ratcatcher any time.  Jodphurs in buff, canary or rust and paddock boots are perfectly acceptable.  On formal attire days, a white stock tie with horizontal plain gold stock pin is preferred.

Roading and Pre-cubbing

Roading the hounds and the first few pre-cubbing hunts in June and July are less formal.

Ladies and Gentlemen: collared polo shirt (yellow Chagrin Valley Hunt polo is welcome), buff, canary or rust breeches, black or brown dress boots or field boots.