In Cheshire Country education of the young hounds has progressed to the point that they are now leaving the kennels under the direction of the Huntsman, Ivan Dowling. The hounds bound out of the kennel yard precisely at 7 A.M. and head for the kennel lawn. Beyond stretches the open meadows of Plantation Field, the site of one of the newer three star Eventing venues on the East Coast.
Mr. Stewart’s Cheshire Foxhounds has for many years invited the community to participate in this educational foray. Riders and their horses provide the backdrop for this expanded classroom. It is the first time some of these hounds have seen such a large group of horses and they have to learn to pay close attention to the Huntsman with this newly added distraction. Riders follow behind at a respectful distance set by the Fieldmaster. Other players in this production are the three Whips, one of whom is an 11 year old on a pony. Their job is to keep the hounds in a cohesive group, a little like getting mercury back into the thermometer.
The pace is deliberately slow and quiet. After passing through the gate from the lawn, the Huntsman will pause with the hounds at the top of the hill, gather them around for a moment, then renew his leisurely walk. The hounds are led around through a break in the hedgerow, up a hill, down along a road, and finally pause at a pond for a break where they are freed for a moment to play in the water. Blowing his horn to gather the hounds, the Huntsman regroups and heads the short mile home.
It is the same pace, the same route three days a week as the working relationship between hound and huntsman grows and matures. In the next week or two, the route will track further afield and the pace will quicken to a trot. By the beginning of August, the hounds are ready to move even further and the choice of route and destination will change from day to day, expanding their repertoire. At the end of August, the graduating class of hounds will be ready to begin ”hunting” in the true sense: Cubbing officially begins after Labor Day.
An arrival at the kennel lawn at 6:45 necessitates work in the barn before sunlight. This month, Venus, the Morning Star, and Jupiter are visible on the Eastern Horizon but disappear with the first blush of the sun.