(first appeared in the December 2014 issue of The Equiery)
We all have them. That special item that connects you with foxhunters of yore. The stock pin from a great aunt. The whip from the person that first mentored you. The flask that once belonged to that colorful character in the field.
Perhaps your entire hunt wardrobe consists of hand-me-down coats and breeches, which are the best kind of course! That vintage pair of true canary breeches with the high waist, slight flare along the thighs and laces or zippers at the calves.
Maybe it is the perfect frock coat, the kind you can’t get anymore unless you have it custom-made.
The Equiery asked its readers to dig through their closets and tack trucks and share their best hand-me-down stories, giving us just a small taste of the rich Maryland foxhunting tradition. Here are a few of those treasures.
Lady of Harwood
From Anne Moe, Howard County-Iron Bridge Hounds
After the Lady of Harwood, Betty Harlow, passed away, her daughter Lynda offered me her hunt coat complete with canary collar and HCH buttons. I was entitled to wear colors, and not just anyone would fit in that petite little coat, but it fit me perfectly. When I was awarded my den, it was behind Harwood, and one of Betty’s buttons was the marker. I wore the coat for many years, and when I hung up my spurs, I passed it on to Gina Perilla. May it have a long life following the hounds.
From Leslie Happ, whipper-in, Goshen Hounds
No amount of elbow grease or polish will shine them: dull metal, rather common hammerhead spurs whose provenance is lost to time. Yet, every day that I wear them, I smile at the memory of dear old Jack Taylor, who first strapped them on in 1925.
He was only a lad of 10 when he received the spurs from his father, the legendary huntsman Tommy Taylor. Generations of Taylors have made their living as hunt servants across the UK and Ireland, and over the past 20 years, here in the mid-Atlantic, through Robert Taylor, huntsman and Master of the Goshen Hounds. Over a career that spanned more than 50 years in the saddle, Robert’s father Jack hunted the hounds of such storied packs as the Killutagh, Old Rock, Chichester, Craven and Pendle Forest, the Hursley, Kildare, East Antrim (pictured above) and the Cumberland Farmers.
Jack was long retired by the time I met him in 1995 when he arrived in the U.S. Over the many years that followed—and the many more pints of beer—Jack delighted everyone with his tall tales and his gentle tutelage, often as not prefaced with “Let me tell you something for nothing.”
When Jack passed away 10 years ago, Robert bequeathed Jack’s spurs to me. As I considered the best way to display them, Robert dashed the idea—these spurs were to be worn in the hunt field! They’re a gift that I cherish, but be sure of this, when I eventually “hang up my spurs,” they won’t be on a wall—they’ll be passed on to the next generation of hunting Taylors.
Stock Pin & Whip
From Christy Clagett, MFH, Marlborough Hunt
I treasurer my stock pin and whip from my uncle, Hal C. B. Clagett, who started me hunting when I was 12 and who I credit with getting me “hooked.”
A Mother’s Legacy
From Kori Pickett, Howard County-Iron Bridge Hounds
Besides my breeches and my six-year-old horse, everything I had at this year’s opening hunt were hand-me-downs. The top hat and shadbelly belonged to my mom Laura. I believe she received both as a gift from several members of Iron Bridge when she married my dad. The hunt whip and sandwich case were also hers. The flat saddle and bridle belonged to my grandfather. Pictured above is Laura Pickett and her daughter Kori wearing the same shadbelly and top hat.
A Huntsman’s Horn
From Kevin Curran, ex-MFH, New Market-Middletown Valley Hounds
The horn and case I have was used by my great-grandfather when he was the huntsman for The Chevy Chase Hounds. The Master at that time was Clarence Moore, who did in fact go down on the Titanic, reportedly while bringing back foxhounds from across the pond.
This photo (below, right), taken November 1, 1907, shows the Chevy Chase pack on Saul Road after leaving the kennels at Clarence Moore’s Rock Creek Farm. Pictured are Robert Curran, huntsman, and Shirley Suddeth and George Curran, whippers-in. Following are Dr. Mace in the buggy and Dr. Jones in the automobile, said to be the first in Montgomery County.
The Family Connection
From Rebecca Wolfe, Potomac Hunt
I have had the honor of being given some amazing hunt appointments that are very old and meant a lot to the previous owner. When I was growing up, one of my neighbors was Kathy Lyter, whose maiden name was Clagett. She was right there when I started riding, giving me her wisdom and hand-me-down riding gear. Several years later after I married my husband John, I found out that Kathy was actually his dad’s cousin.
Sadly, Kathy passed away last year due to cancer but before she did, she gave me her hunt whip and sandwich case. Kathy had kept them in a display case at her home but wanted me to use them out hunting, which I do. To carry on her memory, I even used the hunt whip in photos with my newborn daughter Willow, who was born October 11, 2014.
A Father’s Coat
From Frank Becker, ex-MFH New Market Middletown Valley Hounds, now with Potomac Hunt
The hunt coat that I wear was handed down to me by my father, Arthur Becker. I am not sure where he purchased it but inside the coat it reads, “Horace Saunders English Custom Tailors Washington, DC.” It is made of a thick and excellent material that you can’t find anymore and keeps me warm during winter hunts. Over the years, it has carried Potomac Hunt and New Market Middletown Valley colors, while I was MFH there, and now carried Potomac Hunt colors again.
My best memories of my dad are the many times we spent together riding and foxhunting. Every time I put on my coat, I think about my father. He is the man who instilled in me a love for horses and a passion for foxhunting. Now, over fifty years later, when I ride to hounds wearing his coat, I feel like my dad is with me and that we are hunting together again, just like we did so many years ago.
Pam’s Hacking Jacket
From Robin Conrad, Howard County-Iron Bridge Hounds
Everything I know about foxhunting I learned from the Scullins. It is fitting that my favorite foxhunting apparel has connections to them as well. As an inveterate clotheshorse, I have a fairly extensive collection of formal and informal hunt coats, new and vintage.
My favorite frock coat is a navy Heythorpe with a real doeskin canary collar I obtained through Carter (Scullin) Amigh, who was helping Pam Bussard find good homes for her prized collection of hunting habits. I am always sad when someone hangs up her spurs but Pam’s collection was to die for. Carol Goodman got Pam’s shadbelly (and wears it well!) but Marion Scullin insisted that I take the teal blue, hunter green and rust wide-checked silk hacking jacket (pictured) that came with a matching, custom-made, four-fold stock tie. I thought it was too bold for the hunt field but Marion said to buy it and wear it proudly, and only with rust breeches.
Long Island Melton
From Tammie Monaco
When I was in high school, my BFF’s mother gave me her old, custom-made melton. It fit me like it was made for me. I grew up on Long Island and although they did (and I think they still do) have a handful of active hunts, I was only a show rider at that time. Regardless, I loved that jacket and wore it out all the time. Well, over the years, I lost touch with my friend, but started hunting a little here and there. Every time I put that jacket on, I wish her mother knew the mileage I’ve gotten out of that hand-me-down, and that it is actually still worn in the hunt field on occasion, too! She also gave me the stock tie I wear and a lovely crop that I sometimes carry. They’ve been in my possession for over 20 years now and have more years left!
Great Field Hunters
From Carter Amigh, Howard County-Iron Bridge Hounds
While getting the coolers out of my grandfather Crosson’s tack trunk on this year’s opening hunt morning, his initials were staring right at me as if to say, “One more under your belt, girl!” I saw the sewn-in double bridle that now hangs as a reminder of decades gone by, too well worn to continue to be used today, I think I was the last one to use it as a junior. It might have been Mrs. Peak’s or maybe my grandfather’s.
Who can forget the many great field hunters passed down the pike, too many to name. From my grandfather to my parents. My parents to myself. Friends who were bringing on a young mount or those who made a career change.
In addition, my first black coat, and navy one, too, were handed down to me from my mother and her godmother, Mrs. Peak. They would have been from the 1920s and 1930s and fit as if they were custom made–sadly now outgrown.
Showing at Upperville & Washington
From Vicki Crawford, MFH, Potomac Hunt
I still have my very first hacking jacket that I got when I was 13, a lightweight tan coat with a very subtle plaid of blue and white. I wore it in the Invitational at Upperville 13 years ago because they asked us to wear vintage clothing. I also wore my “elephant ears” breeches that I have had since the ‘60s with a drop front button closure and buttons on the legs, thousands of tiny buttons!
I also wear hunting a very special pin that I got the first time the Washington International Horse Show was held at the old Capitol Center across the beltway from where the Redskins stadium is now. I bought it from a jeweler vendor and then took it to the engraver at the show who put my initials on it right away. It is very special and I always wear it hunting for mental protection–superstition for sure!
Mrs. Carroll’s Whip
From Crystal Brumme Kimball, Howard County-Iron Bridge Hounds
The Swaine & Adeney whip with staghorn handle (new kangaroo thong and cracker) was a gift to me from retired foxchaser Dotty Grimes. Before her, it was owned by Alyne Carroll, owner and founder of The Surrey.
Like any horse girl who came of age in or near Potomac Village, I worked at The Surrey and Mrs. Carroll, who was in her mid-to-late 70s then, quickly became a business mentor for me. I respected her indefatigable work ethic along with her enduring connection to her clients. Mrs. Carroll was a fixture of her community, as well as a die-hard foxhunter.
Arthritis had gnarled her hands. But she would punch the adding machine with vigor. When Mrs. Carroll hunted, she would lace the reins through her permanently twisted and clenched fingers. She had to have the thinnest of reins, and the most delicate of hunt whips with a junior length, very thin thong.
When I first began hunting, I obediently rode in the back of the field, petrified that I would make a grievous error of protocol. Also riding in the back was a charming and elegant senior field member, always wonderfully mounted. She was kind and gracious enough to talk to me, and make me feel included. She helped me learn how to watch and listen for the hounds, but mostly, she just made me feel a part of everything. That was Dotty Grimes. A petite lady, she carried a delicate whip that had once belonged to Mrs. Carroll.
Shirts & Coats
From Sheila Jackson Brown, MFH, Green Spring Valley Hounds
My green cubbing shirts are from past MFHs H. Robertson Fenwick (1954-1965) and my mother Sheila McC. Jackson (1965-1977) as well as my mother’s old blue Melton coats. A bit worn but good for Tuesdays!
Uncle John’s Stock Pin
From Kitsi Christmas
My stockpin belonged to my Uncle John (John D. Bowling, MFH, Marlborough Hunt Club 1939-1969).
The Thanksgiving Top Hat
From Jay Young, Elkridge-Harford Hunt Club
Joseph Flanagan was a well-known racing official who served as a steward at the Maryland racetracks. Known as “Judge Flanagan” (a term of respect for racing stewards) and “Spotless Joe,” he was an impeccable dresser with starched shirts, silk ties and impeccably tailored suits. He died in 1977
Judge Flanagan was married to Poppit Pitts’ mother, Alva, and together they owned Hitchcock Plains and hunted with Elkridge-Harford Hunt Club. A few years after Mrs. Flanagan died (in 2000 at the age of 104), my wife Orsia and I got a call from Poppet, who invited us over for a drink “to open the Judge’s closet”. I’ll confess that I didn’t grasp the part about the closet, but the drink part caught my interest.
When we arrived, she explained that following the Joe Flanagan’s death, the doors of his rather ample closet were closed and had not been opened since – 25 years! Sufficiently libated and with significant reverence, we opened the doors. There were dozens of suits, over a dozen hats, stacks of socks, undergarments which I swear had been starched and ironed, a beautiful collection of shoes and boots which appeared to have been polished that morning. Inside almost every article of clothing, including the socks, was a label inscribed “Made by Johnston Brothers – Saville Row, London – Imported by Brooks Brothers, New York for Joseph Flanagan”. I kid you not. All those words were on every label – even the socks.
I didn’t dare ask, but I couldn’t help but wonder what Poppet was going to do with this treasure trove. Fortunately, it didn’t take her long to say, “I want to give all this stuff away to people who will appreciate it and hopefully get some use out of it.” We then began to try things on. Unfortunately, for me, Joe Flanagan was about 6’4” and weighed 130 pounds. It looked like I would have to be content with some really beautiful wool handmade socks with a very long label in them. And then it happened…Joe Flanagan and I had the same hat size! It was tough not to act too excited. Poppet generously gave me a green and a brown felt hat and a couple handfuls of socks. Then we noticed another box.
When we pulled it down and opened it, we found a beaver skin top hat which appeared never to have been worn. It was amazing. Once again, Poppet didn’t miss a beat. She said, “You have your colors, you would look great in that top hat, it doesn’t fit anyone in the family, I would love you to have it.” What a wonderful gesture from a wonderful lady. It meant the world to me–and it still does.
Every Thanksgiving when I pull that top hat out of the closet, I think of Joe Flanagan. I never knew him, but I am honored to have his hat, even temporarily, as I do intend to return it to the Pitts family, with whom it rightfully belongs.
From Vests to Buttons
From Jennifer Sponseller Webster, ex-MFH, New Market-Middletown Valley Hounds
For years I wore a canary vest that had belonged to my stepmother, Elizabeth Brinkley Sponseller, dutifully repairing the dry-rotted fault lines which tore a little more with every coop I jumped. By 2005, the 52 year old vest could stand no more repairs, but I could not stand to just throw it away. And so one evening after hunting I snipped off the buttons and reverently burned it in the fireplace–toasting it with, what else? A glass of port, of course!
Liz received the vest as a gift from her parents when she was 16 years old and wore it to many a hunting meet and horse show, in the more recent years, including the win in the Hunt Teams class as a member of the Howard County Hounds in 1982 on Count To Ten, bred by the Streaker family, and Adult Hunter Classics in the 90s on her amazing Currytuck, bred by Bucky Spicer.
My most exquisite “loaner,” which I keep trying to return and its owner keeps saying, “Nah, I don’t use it, just keep it for now,” is a tweed hacking jacket made by J. Dege & Sons, London, belonging to Lou Bowling Steinfort. The jacket originally belonged to her mother, also a renowned horsewoman, Helen V. Bowling who died in a racing accident in July 1979.
Finally, the most sentimental items in my collection are the New Market Hounds vest buttons bequeathed to me by my aunt, Susan Brinkley. I don’t know how many of us still own a set of these…probably not many, but as New Market prepares to celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2015, I suspect that these enamel-finished gems in the New Market colors of forest green and old gold are of the same era.
New Year’s Eve
From Mary Beth Gall, Marlborough Hunt
My dear friend, Sharon Myers, introduced me to hunting. She arranged for me to ride a horse belonging to her mother in law, Snowie Myers.
That first foray was on a New Years Eve many years ago, at John and Snowie Myers’ Bowling Heights. It was freezing. I had no idea I’d be out that long and get that tired. The horse was blind in one eye and ran down any incline, no matter what I did. It was the best New Years Eve I’d ever had!!
Sharon lent me a heavy melton wool coat that her mother had made for her, lined in a beautiful hunter green satin and it fit me perfectly. When she nominated me to join Marlborough Hunt Club, she gave it to me. My daughters have worn it, and I still have it today. Perhaps my granddaughter will be the next to wear it.
I was given a pair of black, formal hunting boots that had once belonged to Marcie Myers (John Myers’ first wife and mother of David, Billy and Grace). Marcie Myers had been one of my mother’s good friends in high school, and together they rode with the Iron Bridge Hunt. I learned to ride with Whitney Aitcheson at the then Iron Bridge Kennels on Riding Stable Road in Burtonsville.
A Spy’s Flask
From Marcia Brody, New Market-Middletown Valley Hounds
My great-grandfather’s flask had a dashing history, accompanying him from Hungary throughout Europe in the early 20th century when he spied for the Austro-Hungarian Empire. After he intercepted a message indicating he was targeted for elimination, he fled to America and joined the San Francisco Opera, where he learned to speak English. Family lore said he hoped his family would not follow, but indeed they did and he settled back into his original calling in the religious clergy in one of New York’s largest synagogues. The flask came to me about 15 years ago, and it has been my treasured companion in the hunt field ever since.
The Christmas Shadbelly
From Lou Bowling Steinfort, Potomac Hunt
The shadbelly that I hunted and showed in for many years belonged to my mother Helen V. Bowling (pictured right in 1967) and was given to her by Anne Christmas. We think it was made in the 1930s and Anne gave it to my mother in the early 1970s. When my mother passed away, I showed in it at various Hunt Nights including Middleburg, Warrington, Harrisburg (pictured left in 1993) and Washington International. Now I only bring it out for special occasions, as it is well worn and delicate.
I was given this hacking jacket in the 1980s by Gordon Kirwan, who told me that if I ever gained weight, I had to give it back! Thirty-some years later, still fits like a glove!
“Yer Man” The Silver Horn
From Robert Taylor, Goshen Hounds Ht-MFH and Huntsman
My Kohler silver hunting horn, Yer Man, has been in the Taylor family since its making in 1851.
The earliest photos of the horn being carried to hounds is 1889 when Jack Painter, uncle to Tommy Taylor, hunted the Clashmore Harriers in Ireland. The “famous” Tommy Taylor, as he became known in Ireland, went on to carry the horn with the County Down Stag Hounds and the Killultagh Old Rock and Chichester Harriers. Tommy was quite the character, renowned for his horsemanship in racing, polo and the hunt field.
Stories are legendary of the unrideable horses he actually did ride. Also of the unjumpable hunt fences and ditches that he boldly took, not always successfully. In particular he had a gift for seeing what was “a good horse.” He would spend a few minutes alone in a stable with a horse to be purchased and at the end of that time would declare whether or not the horse should be purchased.
He was never known to have made a poor decision. His ability to identify and treat horse ailments at a time when vets were few and far between was also legendary. Using his own potions, it was a rare thing to see a vet around the stables. Unfortunately he did not share his recipes and remedies with his sons, and the magic died with him in 1961. However, he did pass on his passion for hunting to his six sons, all of whom carried their horns to the hounds. He even came out of retirement at 76 to hunt the County Down Stag Hounds when his son, George, contracted anthrax. Miraculously George survived. At 80 he took the silver horn again to the East Antrim Harriers when huntsman son Bobby was tragically killed.
Yer Man then was passed to son Tommy, who proudly carried it with the North Down Harriers, now Foxhounds. Tommy was a perfectionist in every way: in the hunt field, in his dress, and particularly in his relationship with Masters and field members.
When brother Jack moved to England, to the Cumberland Farmers in 1966, Tommy, recently retired, moved also to help Jack get established. He did not pass Yer Man to Jack, but instead to me, an amateur whipper-in, still in school. Yer Man took a trip to Australia where I worked as a schoolteacher until I arrived in the USA and joined Goshen in 1994.
The horn indeed has lived up to its distinctive note and reputation. It was broken in two when a horse somersaulted over a fallen tree and whilst in my hand the horn tried to impale me in the chest, but broke!
The horn has been lost at Lowe’s gate with NM-MVH in the deep woods in the fall, during one of my seasons hunting their hounds. Master Kate Byron and I searched almost endlessly before part of its bell gleamed through the myriad of leaves. It has been proudly carried by my daughter Mackenzie Taylor at Junior Meets when it is truly junior day as she indeed hunts the hounds.
From Katherine O. Rizzo, guest with several clubs
All of my hunting coats are either hand-me-downs or coats I bought on consignment. My first two cubhunting coats were given to me by Crystal Kimball, a lovely lightweight solid brown with green silk trim made by DeLuxe Saddlery Co. and imported to Baltimore and a heavier light brown tweed from Brittany Riding Apparel in New York. My “newest” cubbing coat is a brown and red tweed with dark red suede collar made in England by Harry Hall. And after years of searching for the right weight black coat, I found a beautifully tailored Brittany down at Middleburg Tack Exchange that fits so well it could have been made for me. A little faded in some places but not a coat I see myself replacing anytime soon!