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Thrill of the Chase

Jennifer Pfaff
Huntsman Noel Ryan and the Palm Beach Hounds return after a day of hunting. Photograph by Charles Hicks

   Just as polo kicks off in early January, another equestrian sport also charges into its formal season.

   January 4 marks the opening hunting event for Palm Beach Hounds, a group of riders who participate in no-kill foxhunts. The club has access to more than 100,000 public and private acres to use as fixtures—hunting grounds—from Jupiter to Kissimmee.

   The fun is all in the chase. On hunt days, riders meet early in the morning with a pack of hounds, who detect a scent such as a fox or coyote. Then it’s follow the leader: Participants—led by a huntsman, who blows a horn for commands—follow the hounds on horseback until the trail ends, usually in a three-hour chase when the animal runs out of the boundaries. Sometimes the hounds don’t pick up a scent, but the best hunting days are when the ground is moist from a high tide and a low breeze sweeps through the air, says Elizabeth Howard, secretary of Palm Beach Hounds.

 

Howard and her mare, Adorable Miss Amy, on a run after viewing a closing meet in March. Photograph by Lori Hemming

 

Riders with master of foxhounds Robert Pelio (center). Photograph by Charles Hicks

   There is a certain etiquette involved, too. Foxhunting is a British tradition with military origins, which is why riders wear a bright red military coat and a stock tie (which can be used as a sling in an emergency). Behavioral riding expectations, similar to driving, are based on common sense and manners: Don’t tailgate, don’t cut off another rider and be polite. Most importantly, be quiet. The goal is to never interfere with the hound work.

            “Fox hunting is for anyone who has a passion for animals and nature,” Howard says. “It’s for people who want to experience something different in riding and who have a love for the foxhound.” (772-933-4868)

 

The Palm Beach Hounds enjoy a day of hunting. Photograph by Charles Hicks

 

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