Longreen Opening Meet

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By Tommy Brannon, MFH

Harriet and Jake McFadden once again welcomed the Longreen Foxhounds to their Birdlands Plantation in Como, Mississippi for Longreen’s 59th annual Opening Meet and Blessing of the Hounds on November 5, 2016. This fixture is a hunting preserve that was purchased and restored by Harriet’s grandfather in 1936. Historically, the 5,111-acre property is also the site of Bobwhite quail hunting and bird dog field trials. The white columned plantation house circa 1910 was the residence of Harry D. Taylor and Patty Floyd Taylor and has all of the charm of the old south. The preserve consists of mature hardwood and planted pine forests, interspersed with pastures, open fields, and lakes. The jumps are coops over the barbed wire fences and wildlife is abundant! 

Participating in the hunt were the Longreen pack of Penn-Marydel hounds (7 couple, with 3 “senior” hounds) and 67 riders, including two mounted on mules. Several members of the Neshoba Carriage Association brought their pony carts and carriages to follow the hunt. Spectators could also observe the hunt from five modern hay trailers pulled by trucks, or an antique cotton wagon pulled by a pair of Percherons.  Reviving 19th century traditions of fox hunting, six ladies were elegantly mounted side saddle with full accoutrements. For safety reasons, however, they wore their top hats and vales for the blessing and safety helmets for the hunt.

It felt like old home week as many of the guest hunters and spectators were former Longreen members now scattered across the country or no longer hunting. There is no one more enthusiastic in their speech than an old foxhunter recounting a past hunt!

Susan Walker, MFH and Huntsman, rode her new 16.1hh gray horse Winston in his first opening meet. He looked and acted the part of a Huntsman’s mount, immaculately braided and groomed. Winston seems to like his new job. Having the hounds packed around him didn’t seem to bother him at all. He trots coops surrounded by hounds and, in spite of his size, he moves through deep woods with ease.

The weather was warm and dry, but fortunately for scenting, there had been some rain earlier in the week. Hounds were cast behind the plantation house. With warm dry weather and so many riders, carriages, trucks and trailers, it would be difficult for hounds to find scent, but the Longreen hounds were up to the challenge! Susan drew north to the creek where a red sided gray fox was viewed in a white oak stand near a pond. Susan rode into the woods, hounds following her, and kept hunting. This little fox was elusive, however. Harriet McFaddan observed that as the last person went out of sight, the fox was viewed running south east. Susan moved off to the west and the “flash” of a fox was sighted behind her, north west of where Harriet viewed. The fox was running south to north. But the hounds could only pick up the scent for a short while.

After the hunt, everyone assembled on the lawn of the house for a traditional hunt breakfast of food and libations. Children were generously offered rides on the two Percherons, Alma and Bett, owned by Como resident Mark Gross.

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