Photos thanks to Eric Schneider.
Blessing of the Green Mountain Hounds
Quiet Valley Farm
Sunday, September 25, 2016
Retired Field Master Marten van Heuven
Good morning and welcome to the blessing of the Green Mountain Hounds. The blessing is a ceremonial act of thanksgiving. It gives us the opportunity to think about what fox hunting means to us.
On past occasions we have given our attention to various elements of fox hunting: the seminal role of St.Hubert, patron saint of hunters; the music written for the hunt; the hunting horns with their mournful sound; the meaning of the blessing; and the character of our hounds. Today, I want to highlight another element, namely the sounds of the hunt.
Mother nature is a potent and persistent sound maker; the wind pulls at our ears; raindrops make an audible pattern, the rush of water tells us there is a creek ahead. Our mounts also create sound: The clip clop of the hooves at a trot, the pounding of a gallop, the sucking sound of riding through mud, the whinny of a horse who is letting its rider know it prefers to be with its stable mate.
Once underway the hounds let us know with their voices that they are on the line of the scent. We can hear the huntsman’s horn. Maybe we can pick up the cry “Gone away.” There will be the occasional voice command to hold hard, to reverse field, or to warn of an obstacle or stray hound. This audible element is an integral part of the experience of fox hunting.
So there is actually a lot of sound during a hunt. I like to think of this as a symphonic performance, played by many musicians with different talents, and a wide array of instruments, all together creating musical harmony. As we do in the concert hall, we in the hunt field can listen attentively, with appreciation, reverence and wonder, to the sounds that make up the harmony of the hunt.
This ceremony is about our hounds. But it is also the opportunity for us to express our appreciation of our huntsman, Kate Selby, and of her many helpers. Their hard work throughout the year has created an award winning pack of hounds. Last year, I told you that lining up the hounds for a group picture remains a challenge. Today, I can report progress, though we aren’t quite there yet.
Now let us proceed to the blessing.
We thank Thee for the beautiful fields and forests through which we hunt.
We ask Thy blessing of those who allow us to hunt on their land.
Bless those who ride the hunt, the staff, and those who follow the hounds in the field; keep them from harm to life and limb.
Bless our horses who dutifully carry their riders.
Finally, bless these, the Green Mountain hounds, whose restless energy and joyful voices delight us all.
And may all who participate in this hunt today return refreshed and renewed, in body and in spirit.
This concludes the ceremony.