Grey Fox viewed at Westover Plan­ta­tion

The Progress-Index Weekend - - LIFESTYLES -

The Princess Anne Hunt (PAH) held Box­ing Day at the his­toric Westover Plan­ta­tion lo­cated on the north bank of the James River in Charles City County. The an­nual event which at­tracted nine re­splen­dent red coats and over thirty rid­ers is one of three High Holy Days of fox hunt­ing. The other two are the open­ing and clos­ing meets, ac­cord­ing to PAH 2nd Field Mas­ter, Jim Daniels of Ch­ester.

It was a brisk morn­ing, but since this was not my first rodeo ... er … hunt, I dressed ap­pro­pri­ately wear­ing boots and long johns. That is … ap­pro­pri­ate for a re­porter.

Hunters dress prop­erly to honor the landown­ers and the sport, ac­cord­ing to PAH Pres­i­dent, Chris­tine Sweet. Jim added, “We turn-out at our best while watch­ing our ‘P’s and ‘Q’s. The horses are no ex­cep­tion; manes and tails are braided for Box­ing Day.”

Box­ing Day, which is cel­e­brated on De­cem­ber 26, is steeped in his­tory and tra­di­tion. It orig­i­nated in Eng­land in the mid­dle of the nine­teenth cen­tury un­der the reign of Queen Vic­to­ria. Chris­tine shared, “Ser­vants at large plan­ta­tions had to serve the lords and ladies on Christ­mas, so the next day they were granted the day off. Masters would box up left­overs from their hol­i­day feast and de­liver the “Christ­mas Boxes” to them along with bonuses. Our Hunts­man, Mar­tyn Black­more, will be pre­sented with his bonus, to­day.”

Prior to the hunters’ ar­rival, I scored a mini in­ter­view with the Westover owner, Rob Erda. Gra­ciously, he stepped out­side hold­ing his bowl filled with “The Break­fast of Cham­pi­ons”. Rob stated, “We are thrilled be­ing hosts. It is a won­der­ful tra­di­tion and great sport, es­pe­cially, on Box­ing Day. This plan­ta­tion has been in our fam­ily since 1920.” Rob’s wife, An­drea, added,

“Box­ing Day has been cel­e­brated at Westover for over fifty years.”

The PAH pres­i­dent showed up bright and early to present the Stir­rup Cup. Her el­e­gant ta­blescape was adorned with home­made flower ar­range­ments made with day lilies and green­ery de­signed in sil­ver teapots. She served ham and sausage bis­cuits, deviled eggs, bagel fruit pizza, ba­con wrapped smok­ies, crème puffs, strudels, etc. A va­ri­ety of li­ba­tions were pro­vided: bloody marys, mi­mosas, cham­pagne, port and Mar­tyn’s eggnog.

Chris­tine shared, “The Stir­rup Cup has a long his­tory in fox hunt­ing. It started back in Eng­land when rid­ers rode through the vil­lages and the bar­keeps would have a bar­rel out for their pro­vi­sions. Hunters would re­move their cup from their stir­rup, dip it in, ride off and con­tinue to hunt.”

Chris­tine added, “I am feel­ing dis­traught. I’ve been hunt­ing for twelve years, and I’ve never missed a Box­ing Day, how­ever, my horse has an in­jury at this time.”

Chris­tine’s hus­band, Pete, was nearby. I asked him if he was go­ing to ride. He re­sponded, “No, I only ride golf carts.”

The next PAH mem­ber I met was Eric Strom from Hopewell. He stated, “My horse is lame, so I’m not rid­ing, but my wife, Robin is tack­ing up. I will be a road whip­per-in, to­day, to keep the hounds from go­ing out onto Route 5.

I asked Eric, “If you’re in a car, how do you con­trol the hounds?” His re­sponse, “Three ways: talk in a harsher voice, crack a whip or some whip­per-ins will shoot an au­di­ble shot from a pis­tol.”

When, Hon­orary Whip­per-In, Robin Somers-Strom ar­rived, she in­tro­duced me to her thor­ough­bred race­horse, Doust, who raced and won at Colo­nial Downs. Robin shared, “He has fox hunt­ing as a sec­ond ca­reer and a herd of mares that love him, so he’s very happy.”

Robin shared while point­ing at her piece of cloth­ing around her neck, “Stock ties are not just for show. They are used as a ban­dage, if one en­coun­ters a hunter, hound or horse that has an in­jury.”

Af­ter the hunters en­joyed pro­vi­sions served to them on sil­ver plat­ters while mounted, Hunts­man Black­more ar­rived with the hounds, re­quested a cup of eggnog, re­ceived his bonus from PAH Mas­ter Ed­ward Mitchell and blew the horn to of­fi­cially start the hunt which had three flights.

Since I was horse­less, I used good horse sense and whipped my lens off and took ad­van­tage of the beauty around me. Af­ter cap­tur­ing ar­chi­tec­tural gems, I headed to Cul’s Court­house Grille in Charles City where the Hunt Break­fast was held.

PAH mem­bers were al­ready present and Box­ing Day hunters kept ar­riv­ing steadily. When my in­vi­tee, Jim Daniels, ar­rived, I thanked him and asked him what he loves about Box­ing Day. He an­swered, “Per­son­ally, af­ter break­ing my neck, I en­joyed my first day back rid­ing af­ter six months. The com­bi­na­tion of rid­ing at Westover and good weather made for a great day! We only had one rider fall dur­ing the hunt, but there were no in­juries … not even to the fox.”

Kristi K. Hig­gins, also known as “The So­cial But­ter­fly”, re­cently joined the Progress-In­dex news­room staff. Kristi, who writes about her ex­pe­ri­ences at var­i­ous com­mu­nity events, will be con­tribut­ing her in­sights and per­spec­tive, as well as shar­ing sto­ries of hu­man in­ter­est, for ProgressIndex cus­tomers. She can be reached at khig­[email protected] progress-in­dex.com or 804-722-5162.

[KRISTI K. HIG­GINS/PROGRESS-IN­DEX.COM]

Princess Anne Hunt’s Hunts­man, Mar­tyn Black­more, is seen with his pack of hounds on Box­ing Day held at the his­toric Westover Plan­ta­tion.

[KRISTI K. HIG­GINS/PROGRESS-IN­DEX.COM]

From left to right, Princess Anne Hunt (PAH) mem­bers, Todd Gra­ham, Cameron Foun­da­tion pres­i­dent, Christie Bar­ranger and Tina Gra­ham en­joy the Hunt break­fast at Cul’s Court­house Grille.

[KRISTI K. HIG­GINS/PROGRESSINDEX.COM]

Princess Anne Hunt (PAH) mem­ber, Todd Gra­ham, Cameron Foun­da­tion pres­i­dent, is seen mounted and ready to ride in the Box­ing Day hunt held at the his­toric Westover Plan­ta­tion in Charles City County.

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