Myopia Hunt Club: Horses, Hounds and Heritage
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And before there were polo matches and horse shows, there was foxhunting. “Myopia was one of the first hunt clubs, and what started it was foxhunting,” says Little. “There is a lot of tradition, and the whole ambience is social. There’s no competition in foxhunting—you just gather with friends and gallop across the countryside. We end with what we call a ‘stirrup cup,’ which essentially means going to someone’s house for a drink.”
Foxhunts take place at Myopia three days per week from August through November. As in all equestrian sports, women compete equally with men, and in fact, more women ride in horse shows and hunts than do men. The huntsman signals the start with the blow of his horn, which gets the hounds and riders excited. Another blow sounds when the hounds first pick up the scent of the drag, which is laid down along an eight- to 10-mile loop (the drag has replaced the use of live foxes, as killing foxes is, for the most part, illegal in Massachusetts). When the end of the line is reached, the huntsman plays a sad melody called “Blowing Home.” “Historically, the people who started the club lived in Boston,” explains Little. “They wanted to come out to the country and ride fast and furiously for an hour and a half, and then return to work. You can do a drag hunt in one and a half hours, but a live fox hunt can take as long as six.”
|The hounds used in Myopia's foxhunts|
“To the uninitiated, foxhunting, or drag hunting, is—as Oscar Wilde put it—‘the unspeakable chasing the uneatable,’” says huntsman and Myopia member Nicholas White. “Or more simply put, a bunch of stuffed shirts dressed up in red coats chasing foxes. In reality, the hunt field [riders out on any given day] is made up of a very diverse cross-section of society. The common thread that gets us up early to groom our horses, polish our boots and risk life and limb is a love of the outdoors, a passion for riding horses, the spirit of camaraderie and the honoring of tradition.”
White’s pleasure in the sport mirrors Jacobs’ for jumping: “From the time I get on my horse to the sound of the huntsman’s horn signaling the end of a hunt, I am in a different world, watching the hounds work, talking with friends and listening to my horse,” he says. “Foxhunting takes me away to a special place.” Other prominent Myopia members include Franz Colloredo- Mansfeld, managing partner of Cabot Properties; Mrs. Haskell S. Crocker; and Mrs. Kim Cutler, daughter of Nicholas Brady, who was US treasury secretary under Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.