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Tennessee Valley Hunt Opening Meet


by Tommy Brannon

At Opening Meet October 15, Tennessee Valley Hunt officially began its 2011-2012 foxhunting season at a new fixture, with a new huntsman, and on a new date. Nearly fifty riders and neighboring landowners gathered for the long-established traditional Blessing of the Hounds. Tennessee Valley Hunt has usually held the Blessing of the Hounds on Thanksgiving Day at their hunt country near Strawberry Plains, TN. But this year they opened a new territory at Dr. Tracy and Debbie Dobbs’ Blackberry Ridge Farm near Greenville, TN. This country is so new to the club that most of the members had never ridden there, and the staff were hunting without prior knowledge of the terrain, like creek crossings, and roads. One surprise to the field of riders was a small heard of llamas pastured an area known as Big Valley. One rider exclaimed, “It was hard to tell who was more surprised - the llamas or the field!”

Rev. Greg Cartwright of First Presbyterian Church in Morristown, TN administered the traditional Blessing of the Hounds, as he has done for several years. Riders and mounts were at their best turn out, with the horses thoroughly groomed and braided. A sumptuous feast was provided after the hunt in the Dobbs’ spotless stables of Blackberry Ridge Farm. More than 90 people gathered at one long table that stretched the entire length of the stud barn.

 The new huntsman Andy Bozdon is new to The Tennessee Valley Hunt, and new to the U. S. Andy was fresh off the plane from England! Originally denied a work Visa from the Immigration Service, it took months to get one approved. So, he was not able to start the job until September, less than a week before the first cub hunt. He literally got off the plane at Washington, D.C., drove to Tennessee, met with the staff and hounds, walked out the hounds and hunted the pack the next day - on an unfamiliar horse in unfamiliar territory! Andy had never seen a live coyote before his first hunt with Tennessee Valley! But that first hunt proved to be a good one, as were subsequent ones.

Andy has experience hunting hounds in England and Australia. He hunted  for 17 years with the  Surrey and North Sussex Beagles; he fox hunted with the East Sussex Hunt, The Marsh Hunt, Tedworth Hunt, and with the Northhamptonshire Bloodhounds.  Andy said he usually likes to take things slow with a new pack of hounds, using daily summer walk outs to get them biddable; but he was not able to do that this year.  He had never worked with Penn-Marydel hounds before, the breed of the Tennessee Valley Hunt hounds, and he believes this breed is not as obedient as the fox hounds he worked with in England. Future plans are to build a new kennel in this territory.
New territory, huntsman, and kennel: this may be the beginning of a beautiful friendship! 

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