Exmoor Foxhounds Hounds Magazine Vol. 35.No.5 April/May 2019
At the end of March and the closing meet of the Exmoor Foxhounds, it is more than the hounds that are “The Stars of the West”. Huntsman Tony Wright has been at the Exmoor with his wife Jill for thirty six years – now that is “long service”.
A quiet gentle man who loves his hounds and has a very special bond with them. Of course synonymous with Capt. Ronnie Wallace who seems to have been the guiding light throughout Tony’s career.
If you were to ask him – he would say “he has been lucky in life”
I actually think his hounds “are lucky” to have a Huntsman of his quality, his knowledge and without doubt ‘old school’.
In kennels there is a very relaxed atmosphere – Senior Master Miss Felicita Busby is the back bone of this pack of hounds. She works tirelessly behind the scenes and looks after the Thoroughbred hunters.
The hounds are happy and fairly chilled about life as well as up to the task in hand on the moor – as sharp as razors – a joy to watch.
Tony on breeding is second to none and the various American lines that run through this pack have long been established for generations. You would have to ask him about the many breeding lines he keeps, I would be out of my depth. But they all bring a quality to the pack. I particularly like their athleticism, persistence to work, fitness – they never stop and would go until they dropped. Tony has drafted hounds to several kennels and takes an interest in how they are getting on.
The Masters are most welcoming Felicita Busby and Angela Ingram. Visitors come from far and wide, however, stamina is of the essence on Exmoor. Tony knows the moor like the back of his hand and hunting stalwarts Roderick Moore and his young son are always up with hounds. I have had some wonderful days on the back of a quad bike with one of the Countryman Mick Vincent. Of course you can follow from the road but once they disappear into the abyss you are left guessing on direction, until hounds speak. (Tony is not one for blowing his horn). Of course being on the moor by horse is best; or as I was privileged to do – as a passenger with said camera, to experience the wildness of the moor close hand is a truly magnificent experience and reminds one of the Fells or indeed remote parts of Northumberland.
If you have never watched the Exmoor Foxhounds – you have it to do. It is all about “the hounds” And if you don’t like hound work or have the patience to understand it “stay home” because you won’t “get it”. For those that do – the art of venery is what you will experience as they follow their trail on the depths of the moor enabling one to watch hounds work on their own merits. Clearly a wonderful pack – the likes of which you might never see again. It is a quality to behold.
This quiet Huntsman works single handed (trails having been laid) – no whipper-in, no terrier man, (a countryman or two on their quad bikes), purely to provide emergency assistance if so required. Carry a flare, first aid kit, which (Adrian Clarke Countryman/Chairman of the Supporters Club does). They keep an eye on the odd stray hound, which is never straying for long as they also know this moor well, but useful to have eyes and ears when you have young puppies out etc. The moor is unforgiving and not for the faint hearted.
Stamina is required for the horseman or woman and many from lowland packs cannot do the whole hunting day. Observing as I did those that take hirelings or indeed bring their own horses I wonder how many learn from the experience of the Huntsman and Masters at times and let their horses have a nibble of grass or drink from a nearby stream because exhaustion can soon set in on the moor. You need a little fuel in the tank for the horses and you will often see Tony let his hounds drink from the many streams that criss cross this formidable land. Hounds certainly travel some miles in a day (they are joyous to watch) and fitness is of the essence.
They certainly are the “Stars of the West” and I know one thing for sure, Mr Wright will be counting the days from Close of Season to the start of the very next one at the end of July once the Puppy Show is over.