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Future Foxhunters: Cedar Knob Hounds Meet Cedar Knob Pony Club
On a chilly, foggy October morning, a group of nearly forty people and horses gather in a dewy field near Lynnville, TN. Dressed in English breeches, vests, and formal riding coats, the riders chat as they saddle their horses. Then the quiet morning breaks over the bellowing of a pack of 6 ½ couple of Penn-Marydel Foxhounds. The riders swing into their saddles, drawn to the sound of the hunt.
Near the hounds, a tall man sits astride his horse, tossing nibbles of dog food to his pack as they snuffle in the grass. As Master of the Cedar Knob Hounds, Albert Menefee knows the intricacies fox hunting. He serves as the Master of Fox Hounds (MFH) and Huntsman, which today includes approximately 30 adult hunt club members and nine members of the Cedar Knob Pony Club (CKPC), ranging in age from 9 to 14.
As the riders gather around him, Menefee calls the riders and hounds to order. Within moments, the riders know their flight assignments –the order in which they will follow the hounds – and Menefee takes out a small silver horn to signal to the hounds the start of the hunt. As the hounds’ ears and noses perk up, Menefee and the whippers-in (riders who work with the Huntsman to control the hounds during the hunt) trot away into the fog. Four flights of riders jog after them: first flight, who will ride at a faster pace and jump the coops; second flight, who will go at a slightly slower pace; third flight, who will go last. For this particular hunt, there is an additional flight of Pony Clubbers, escorted by their District Commissioner, Joanna Caldwell.
This is not the first time any of these riders have been out on the hunt, and for Menefee, it is one of thousands that he’s ridden during his lifetime. Because the official hunting season hasn’t started yet, this hunt is known as a “cubbing hunt,” performed primarily to train and condition the hounds and the horses. When the formal fox hunting season begins, Menefee and his hounds will make the trek into the woods and fields around Lynnville twice a week from November until April. And many of the riders with him today, including the Pony Clubbers, will do the same.
“Foxhunting is a fantastic sport for children and adults,” says Joanna Caldwell, D.C. of the CKPC. Caldwell, from Taft, Tennessee, started the Pony Club in 2009 to develop its members – including her two sons – into stronger riders. “Foxhunting makes such a stronger-riding child. It’s more than just riding in a ring, because they ride in the open. To be comfortable, you have to be smart and think quickly. My husband and I both ride, and we welcome the children and take care of them.”
On this hunt, Caldwell and the Pony Clubbers ride in a separate flight, but on formal hunts, she asserts that many of her riders like to go “hard and fast” in the first flight.
“I like galloping and running,” says 13-year-old Charlie Caldwell, CKPC member and son of Joanna Caldwell. “I like the hounds, too. They’re sweet and it’s fun to watch how they work.”
Charlie rides a 6-year-old Quarter Horse named Apache Fox. Charlie and his family raised Apache Fox from a foal, so the boy and his horse have a special affinity for one another.
As one of the whippers-in, Charlie Caldwell enjoys having a job on the hunt. “You help control the hounds,” he says. “If the huntsman can’t control them fully, you go in and help him gather the hounds. And if the hounds go on the run, you have to follow them to keep them from going in the road. It’s very important to listen to the hounds. That’s how you know where you are and if you’re in the right spot.”
Malancy Bagwell, a 12-year-old Pony Clubber from Franklin, Tennessee, rides a 13-year-old bay appendix-bred mare named SeaSea. “My favorite is first flight, because my horse is really fast,” Malancy says. “First flight goes all out, and you jump and do everything. I did a lot of hunts last year, and all of them so far this year.”
The hounds found scent and chased several quarries during the hunt. Foxhunters are primarily out for the chase, not the catch. The 6 1/2 couple picked up a faint line early, pursued it to the “back bowl,” and continued the chase along the “rim of Bully's ridge” in the direction of the cedars, where the quarry went to ground. We hunted back towards the newly reconstructed fishing cabin, where more scent was found, but pack was not able to maintain the line. So Albert called the hounds in and we hacked back to the meet where there was great food, fellowship and cozy fire.
Menefee continued, “We started out with a really good scent under all the fog. Fog isn’t your best scenting weather, because it dissipates the smell. Had it been cloudy and the fog burned off, it would have been great. But the sun was so bright that it warmed up the ground and caused the air to start moving up. When it starts to warm, it causes the smell to head straight up in the air, and as soon as it gets higher than a dog’s head, they can’t smell it.”
For Menefee, the thrill of a foxhunt is about developing his relationship with his pack. After the hunt, Menefee and the Pony Clubbers haul the hounds back to the Cedar Knob Kennels for a rest. The hounds, with names like Amber, Runabout, and Showdog, flop over in the grass, climb into the laps of kids and adults, and dig in the dirt. Occasionally, they meander close to Menefee and stick their snouts in his face, checking on “the boss” before returning to playing with the kids.
“I’m sitting here, watching our future,” Menefee says as he gestures to the kids and hounds around him. All hunts understand that you’ve got to have your young entries, your kids, to be your future. I work with the U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance, and I’m a board member of the Tennessee Wildlife Federation. Both of these groups have a primary mission of bringing young people into the fold, and this is my way of doing it.”
“Albert is exceptional as a master at encouraging, inviting, and promoting the youth,” Joanna Caldwell says. “He explains to the kids what’s going on during the hunt, and he encourages them to get off their horses and come see what the hounds may have put to ground. He takes his time to teach them and tell them what’s going on. It’s amazing what foxhunting does for these kids,” Caldwell says. “They have to learn to react and be bold. It builds confidence. And it’s where they truly learn to ride.”
Read more about Cedar Knob hounds on their facebook page https://www.facebook.com/pages/Cedar-Knob-Hounds/147067145358858More information about Cedar Knob Pony Club is available at the U.S. P.C. Mid-South Region website: http://www.midsouthponyclub.org/Click on “Our Region” and link to the Directory.
(photos by Bagwell Macy PR)
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