Tribute To Dunraven

By Susan Walker, MFH Longreen Foxhounds
Photo by Brenda Black

He was born March, 1989, first born of a fabulous AngloArab hunt mare of mine, Emerald Nicole. She was 14, and sired by AB, Thoroughbred polo stallion at Wildwood Farms. Although his mother, “Nickie” and sire AB were both 15.1h., the strapping colt I helped pull that morning grew to be 16.1h. Before he hit the ground, I knew his name would be Dunraven. It was embedded in my mind, having spent a week foxhunting with several friends from Longreen Foxhounds in Ireland in the mid-1980s. We had stayed at the Dunraven Arms - an amazing place with awesome staff! The name fit.

With all the handling and ground training, Dunraven was like an overgrown puppy dog. He loved water of all sorts. Turn on the hose and he was in the middle of it spinning like a top so he would get wet all over. Leave a sprinkler on, he stood over it! He loved having his ears pulled and scratched inside. Pull out a curry comb or brush and he would stand for hours in ecstasy.

Under saddle, he had impulsion and power and outwalked any competitor. His ground eating trot floated effortlessly. He would carry me anywhere – across deep ditches, massive Delta farmland, rolling grassland, launching over briars and brambles and jumps of all sorts, and traversing dense woodland safely without allowing my knees to brush a tree. We communicated well in all things – except the discussion of horses that were ahead of him in the hunt field. Not allowed! He wanted to be in front with nothing between him and the pack of hounds. This discussion did not get resolved until he was in his late 20s and Confidence EQ was created.

In 1999 his life should have ended. While staying at a friend’s barn while I was in Scotland with my father, Dunraven tried to jump a high tensile wire fence, yanking four strands off a dozen posts, peeling all the hide from the front of his right cannon bone from his hock to his pastern. He had severed one tendon and shredded two others and the bone was fully exposed. The vet advised to put him down, but my friend offered to care for him with hydrotherapy until I got back home. Thank you Rose Marie Lawson and Kakki Wright, DVM! After six months of intensive wound care, he was under saddle and ready to gallop. He never took a lame step.

In 2013 while hunting in middle Tennessee with Cedar Knob Hounds, Dunraven rammed a stob through his frog to his coffin bone. I trailered him home and straight to Equine Veterinary Associates. Antibiotic infusions were required. But in three months, he was under saddle and galloping again.

Together we galloped the rolling pastusres of Twin Hill Ranch in Fayette County, Tennessee; the wide open Delta gumbo of Glendora and Clarksdale, Mississippi; expansive sandy Delta land along the Mississippi River in Arkansas, and through coal mine country in southern Illinois and Kansas. He helped parade the hounds at the Iroquois Steeplechase in Nashville, Tennessee.

In Longreen Foxhounds’ 2016-17 season, at age 27, Dunraven stepped down a notch. He was fit and in terrific flesh. Rather than galloping for 10-15 miles with the hounds, he led the field of riders under Jessica Haste or Claudia Mangum. This was his role at the Penn-Marydel Joint meet at Clear Lake Farm –with Longreen Foxhounds, Shawnee Hunt, and Cedar Knob Hunt, January 21-22, 2017. He led second field under Jessica on Saturday when the pack covered 16 miles. Sunday, he was ready to go again and carried Claudia leading the second field when the pack went 18 miles.

Sunday, January 22 was an “Irish day” – a misty and cool morning with a steady drizzle by noon. 

The hunt was complete, and hounds were being gathered to head home. Walking on the levee road heading to the trailers, Dunraven stopped, took one step back, and then lifted both front feet slightly off the ground. Claudia, who is a veterinarian, knew the signs of something wrong and quickly dismounted. Dunraven dropped. He was dead before he hit the ground. I was a half mile ahead when I heard the radio transmission that he was down. I passed the Longreen hounds onto the other two huntsmen, Mark Smith and Clare Pinney; whirled my mount and Dunrave’s pasture buddy, Valor, around and galloped to him. He was gone. I consoled Claudia, who loved this special horse so much. I hugged and stroked his neck; then I pulled my horn from Valor's saddle and blew “gone away” for Dunraven one last time.

God blessed me to have this horse, love him, care for him, and enjoy him. He lived his life free in a pasture to graze good grasses and roll and play with pasture mates. As his teeth wore out, I soaked beet pulp and alfalfa pellets so his gut would have the fiber it needed to provide warmth and energy, keeping his coat shiny and his muscles rippling and his topline intact.

Praise be to God for this special gift in His perfect time. Life has come full circle. The Irish mist will drift over his grave in the Arkansas hunt country of Clear Lake Farm.

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