Like a living portrait of regal English aristocracy, riders in scarlet coats and black hats atop horses with braided mane elegantly jump an obstacle and disappear into the wooded fall acreage of Gulf Haven Farms with their hounds.
Moments prior to their departure, they are blessed by the Rev. Bill Martin. “As horse and hounds are friends of man, may they be treated with kindness and love,” he said. “As they have learned to obey the call of the huntsman, so may we learn to obey the call of our Divine Master.” Then the 23rd annual Chula Homa Fox Hunt began.
More than 50 riders participated in the event Saturday on the property of Lee Clemons, who shares the land with his father-in-law John C. Craft.
Chula Homa is Choctaw for red fox, but Chula Homa board member and Joint Master of Foxhounds Sue Skipper said the fox is never killed, just traditionally chased.
“A fox is really sly,” she said. “There are a lot of holes and dens. We don’t catch them.”
The purpose of the hunt is more about the pageantry of the ride and the history of the sport.
“It originated in England and came over with George Washington and Thomas Jefferson,” said Skipper, who has been fox hunting since 1973 and hunting with hounds the past 19.
Skipper has participated in the Chula Homa Fox Hunt since it was founded, and she wears the blue and green colors of the hunt on the collar of her scarlet coat, also known as a pinque collar. The distinction is awarded to few and usually limited to fox hunt staff members. Only the leaders wear red coats. The other riders wear traditional black coats and riding pants.
Clemons said this is the third year the Chula Homa Hunt has been held on his property. A silent auction and breakfast was also held Saturday.
“All of this is to raise money to take care of the hounds,” he said.
Clemons said riders from Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee and Georgia participated this year.
John Lenoir, a horse trainer and riding instructor, was one.
“It’s great fun,” he said. “You show up for one of these, and you have to know how to ride.”
The Chula Homa Hunt began in 1980. It’s first formal opening hunt was in 1984. It became a subscription hunt in 1991 and was recognized by the Master of Foxhounds Association in 1994.
Chula Homa currently has 47 members, 12 of whom are juniors.
Fox Hunter terminology
Away – a fox has “gone away” when he has left the covert. Hounds are “away” when they have left the covert on the line of the fox. Covert – A patch of woods where a fox might be found.Blank – To draw a blank is to fail to find a fox.Brush – A foxtail is called a brush.Double – A series of short, sharp notes blown on the horn to alert all that the fox is afoot. The “gone away” series of notes are a form of doubling the horn.Draw – To search for a fox in a certain area.Line – The trail of the fox
Tally ho – The cry given when the hunted fox is viewed and the hounds are on line.