Barrington Hills continues to enthusiastically pay homage to one its longest standing practices—the legendary fox hunt.
Today, interest in the sport has never been higher, due to a legion of community-area supporters who work to preserve the tradition. Fox hunting is a rarified sport of horses, huntsmen, and hounds doing the work they love together: communing with nature in the fresh air during exciting gallops across our spacious and beautiful open lands.
The sound of the horn and the baying of hounds has been a part of the local countryside since 1937, when Hail Weston Hounds started chasing Monsieur Reynard. A hundred years previous, the Potawatomi, Miami, and Fox—all part of the Winnebago tribe—called this area home. But as settlers arrived, they moved west of the Mississippi River. Later, the hunt became Fox River Valley Hunt (FRVH). “The reenactment of the fox hunt is a wonderful reminder of the great tradtions in Barrington Hills,” says Hunt Secretary Susan Schatt.
Many variables need to come together to keep mounted foxhunting flourishing. One key element is the goodwill of landowners that provide the open land, allowing the sport to continue. Riders in the field are taught by the masters to respect this privilege—riding an obedient horse that listens to his or her rider is very crucial and only adds pleasure to the entire experience. Safety for all is of utmost importance; all riders wear protective helmets should an unintentional dismount occur.
Fortunately, FRVH is blessed with the best hunt staff one could hope for, with Patrick Anthony “Tony” Leahy at the helm as huntsman and master for more than 20 years and Ashley Hubbard acting as kennel huntsman and whipper-in professional. To observe with all senses the relationship the staff has with the well-trained foxhounds is in itself a beauty to behold. Leahy’s melodic, almost sacred chant is fully understood by his obedient and keen four-leggeds as encouragement that they are indeed on the right track. Huntsmen often refer to the willing relationship they have with their foxhounds as the invisible golden thread.
For many, the blessing of the hounds and hunt has become a family affair that spans decades—ensuring that it will continue for many more years to come.
Before the hunt begins, a priest blesses all involved with these words.
“In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, bless these horses, riders, and hounds. Bless all the animals and creatures in these woods and forests. And may God bless all of us gathered here today as we care for the hounds and meet all the other animals and all that grows and lives in our journeys through these woods and over these rolling hills. May we always remember your hand in creation, O Lord. May we all live lives marked by joy and grace which abounds throughout this wonderful world in whch we share our lives with all your creation, now and forever. Amen.”