Written by Mary Finney
March 11, 2023 dawned chilly and breezy, but the sun was shining and excitement was high as dozens of horses and riders, as well as spectators gathered at Sherwood Forest for the Closing Meet of Princess Anne Hunt’s 96th season. This date was also the 90th birthday of the late Mrs. Paynie Tyler, a life-long patroness of our Hunt, to whom we will be forever grateful for her generosity and enduring, passionate support. The Tyler family continues to be a vital and treasured part of Princess Anne Hunt and we are so appreciative of their hosting us for Closing Meet. A prayer of remembrance and thanksgiving was offered and a wreath placed in Paynie’s honor.
The morning started with a wonderful Stirrup Cup at the Overseers’ Cottage, featuring delicious savory and sweet canapés, mimosas and port wine. Bonnie Smallwood, Brad Smallwood, Jaime Reid, Dennis and Liz Elwell, Kris Goekeritz, Nijole Bailey, and Brian Gealey passed refreshments to riders and guests, which were much enjoyed.
Two awards for exemplary service to the Hunt were given that morning. The Whitehurst Award, which is given annually to the member who has shown dedication and service to the Hunt over a period of many years, was presented to Katherine Mitchell, our brilliant and hard working President.
The newly christened Mausteller Award commemorates our own retiring MFH, Dee Dee Mausteller, who was an invaluable leader for our hunt for over two decades. This award will be given annually to a staff member who has shown consistent dedication and excellent service to the Huntsman, hounds, and the sport. This year it was presented to Mrs. Allison Harcourt, who has been a member of PAH since the 1970’s and is an irreplaceable asset with her vast experience and knowledge of all things hunting and hounds.
Two riding members were awarded their colors that morning: Mrs. Kris Goeckeritz and Mr. Steve Musso. Well done, and well deserved! Last, but not least, three junior members were presented the MFHA’s Fairly Hunted Award, which is recognizes achievement of youth 16 years old and under, in participating in mounted hunting with hounds at least 5 times during the season. Congratulations to Aly Corbett, Keira Courtney, and John Savage!
For the hounds, scenting on this windy day was difficult, and for the staff, hearing the hounds and the huntsman’s horn, was a challenge. As has become customary, when leaving the meet from Sherwood Forest, respects were paid to Paynie Tyler in the family cemetery. Martyn worked the hounds towards Lyon’s Den, and after about 45 minutes, was drawing through the recently cutover timber at Lyon’s Den working the lower ground that was more sheltered from the wind. The hounds found just south of the cutover and were quickly in full cry. But within seconds, the music had been drowned out by the wind – all we could hear was the sound of the tree tops thrashing in the winds. After a false start towards the river, we realized that the quarry – a coyote - had crossed Tyler’s Creek and was headed east towards Fort Pocahontas with the hounds in pursuit. It would be a 3 mile gallop for the field to double back to the crossing and try catch up. By noon, Martyn and staff had checked at Fort P. to collect hounds up together. A couple of hounds were able to stay on the coyote’s trail and were eventually picked up seven miles east at Sandy Point!
Second Flight and Mounted Hilltoppers made their way to the large and sumptuous Tailgate at the entrance to Lions Den where our hunt supporters greeted the field with smiles and refreshments. There were close to 50 spectators braving the wind and enjoying the pageantry. Kudos and many thanks to the organizers and volunteers for that: Sean and Therese O’Grady, Kris Goeckeritz, Vanessa Roselli, Mark Wenger, and so many others.
Meanwhile, back at Fort P., by 12:30, hounds had been gathered, and Martyn hunted back towards home. The hounds found between Sturgeon Point Road and Tyler’s Creek in heavy cover. But again, the wind made it impossible to hear the hounds, and with the thick cover, the quarry soon slipped away. With the wind still blowing hard and conditions difficult, the Masters called it a day and hounds were taken back to the kennels and First flight hacked back to the trailers. A busy day with many miles covered and at least two coyotes viewed.
After returning to the trailers at Sherwood Forest and making the horses warm and comfortable, Jen Martin and Master Travis kept an eye on our horses, so riders could head down the road to Breakfast at Indian Fields Tavern for a lovely catered breakfast. Kris Goeckeritz greeted us at the door; Debbie and Doug Hackman provided a fabulous musical duo, Featherstone and Tiller, that we enjoyed while chatting around the fire pit; drinking libations from the Indian Fields Bar Wagon; and enjoying the delicious buffet provided by owners Debbie and Pat Weller. All in all, it was a wonderful day of good sport and good friends! Here’s to another season!
Please enjoy the photos of Closing Meet and others taken all year long by Joe Svetina and Julia Bowman found at commonwealthartists.net under “Events”.
Thank you Joe and Julia!