Tennessee Valley Hunt’s 25th Anniversary

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By Gretchen Pelham, MFH
Tennessee Valley Hunt

The Tennessee Valley Hunt’s Opening Meet and Blessing of the Hounds on Saturday October 26, 2013 marked the 25th anniversary of the hunt.  There were over 100 people who gathered in the hay field of the Berry Hill Fixture in Greeneville, TN owned by Dr. and Mrs. Tracy and Debbie Dobbs.  Landowners, members, staff, guests and family enjoyed the hot coffee and pastries that Miss Debbie offered to us in her field. 

Carla Hawkinson, MFH greeted the crowd with remarks on the 25th anniversary.  On her stock pin she wore 25 hunt medals, one for every TVH Opening Meet that she had attended.  The Hunt Medals for this year were made of sterling silver.  There were several people present that had also attended the very first Opening Meet, but there are very few members who could claim to have attended all 25!

Our new professional huntsman, Ryan Johnsey, brought out sixteen and a half couple of our Penn-Marydel hounds from the kennels.  After the Blessing those of us riding hacked from the Berry Hill fixture to the Big Valley fixture just down the road.  Several landowners followed in their four wheelers, and the rest rode in the Tally Ho Wagon with Joint Master Grosvenor Merle-Smith as their guide.

We put in the 100 Acres Woods next to the corn at the base of the ridges that give the “big” in the name Big Valley Farm.  The hounds hit on a fox in those woods that was quickly put to ground just off the trail we were on.  I was leading Second Flight, and we were in the perfect spot to hear the hounds mark the ground and Ryan blow Gone to Ground. 

After Ryan pulled the pack off the den and re-cast, the pack hit quickly on a second fox for a run out of the woods and into the corn fields, but that line was lost.  As Ryan cast the hounds again, towards the spot where the Tally Ho wagon was waiting for us for our Champagne Break, the pack hit on a coyote at the base of Llama Hill, and was viewed first by First Flight.  The coyote then ran right past the Tally Ho wagon to give all the guests and landowners a great view! 

The hounds ran that coyote out of country, so Ryan pulled the pack back to join the fields for the Champagne Break.  All the riders gathered behind Ryan and hounds for a picture to help celebrate our 25th Anniversary.  What a day!

After the hunt, 101 people sat down for a delicious meal in the Dobb’s Stud Barn.  Somehow, Debbie managed to seat 101 people on one table! 

Carla told everyone the unorthodox story of how TVH was started: two women, Carla and Maribel Kola, bored while watching a dressage lesson, came up with the brilliant idea of starting a foxhunt.  Never mind that neither had ever been on a real foxhunt before nor much less ever seen a real fox.  The ladies were “shot in the butt” with luck and managed to find a legendary huntsman, Todd “Doc “Addis, to teach them how to hunt those 25 years ago.  He also brought his famous Penn-Marydel hounds and left the pack with TVH.  The hounds were much to the ladies surprise – who knew you needed dogs to foxhunt! 

It was a wonderful Opening Meet.  We remembered old times and traditions, and made some new ones as well.  I’m so honored to be a part of this group of people.  And despite the rumor that I got Second Flight completely lost in the 100 Acre Woods (I was teaching them the trails - honest!), this Opening Meet just might be my favorite one so far. 
(photos by Gretchen Pelham, MFH)

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