Grallagh Harriers in Moyvilla

Foxhunting in Ireland

Grallagh Harriers
Moyvilla January 2015
Galway

 It was a promising start to the morning as the heavy showers abated. Two  of Coopers Hill horses and riders were to hunt at the Moyvilla meet. It is  popular meet every season, as it brings out the best in the Huntsman and  Master David Burke. I guess everyone has their favourite meet for their own  reasons. I am still forming opinions on which hunt on our card is best but,  Moyvilla would be among my favourites.

Grallagh Harriers
The field

As we drove up to the meet, the skies were clearing nicely with the air  temperature considerably cooler than previous days. Coopers Hill had a  first time hunt participant from North America, a Canadian to be more  precise. Andrea Ypma, was exceptionally excited to be part of the foot  followers. She had just arrived in Ireland two days previously for three  long weeks of immersing herself in the Irish Hunting culture with us at  Coopers Hill Livery. The wall builder was tasked with the very  important job of escorting Andrea to all the finest places to watch the  fox bolt and view some of the horses jump walls.

When all the pleasantries and New Years greetings were bid to each and every member, followers and staff, the Master then made for the first cover. It was no more than 200 yards from the parking area. The hounds were putting in a good effort at Tommy Ford’s covert.
The master pushed the hounds to find, encouraging them to do their level best. There was no result even with all the extra persuasion. Nothing to bolt in this covert. The next option was to move on and head to a new covert about a mile away heading north east to the Moyvilla castle, negotiating an upward jump out on to the road landing in the grass margin before gingerly moving onto the asphalt. All riders and horses got out onto the road and a nice hack ensued to the turn into Ray Bohan’s and onto the Moyvilla castle covert.

The hounds were screaming inside the covert there was a considerable amount of tongue. We suspected there was more than one fox in the covert. The foxes set inside, out of view, but now moving by the sound of the direction of the hounds tongue. It’s a brace hollered one of the riders. The hounds were about to split. The shout of “leave it” was promptly verbalised in order to prevent what seemed like an inevitability, a split pack, and this shout kept the pack together on the most favourable scent. The fox then bolted. Pandemonium ensued and the hounds were off, quick on his tail. “Come along“was the call of the moment, uttered by more than one of the field and by the master. I suspected the field was seeing the action unfold from the bluff on the north side of the castle as the fox first headed west to the railway lines of the Dublin Galway train. The master played a blinder in turning the fox east and preventing him from crossing tracks and ending our chase. The fox doubled back heading east and later west again. Fearing the wrath of the master and his hounds in pursuit, the fox promptly made a swift swing north east to avoid the pack. This very healthy, quick Charlie with the hounds in toe was making good sport of the chase with stone walls coming into view in rapid succession. Wall after wall at a full gallop the field was getting strung out. I was in the field giving chase when there was a stopper at one of the walls.

Seamus ISH foxhunting
Seamus, 17.2 ISH, foxhunting

  Heels down, I burst through on my ISH, Seamus, and helped the field     continue; only taking a check at a sharp bend and steading at walls in     order to hit the sweet spot when traversing the obstacles of Moyvilla       country. The fox by now had turned north east and ran from Paddy         Fords farm yard back to the covert in Tommy Ford’s field where the         Master marked the den that Charlie entered. I was astonished with the   speed of the hounds and fox. I was in awe of the masters skills in           preventing the fox from putting the field and hounds in danger by           turning Charlie back from the train tracks, bravo Master Burke.
Once marked, Master Burke gathered all his hounds, took a headcount and congratulated some of his hounds by name. Preacher and Prancer were praised. Not even an hour in and we had some fantastic sport. The day was panning out to be one for the record books.

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Darcy foxhunting with the Grallagh Harriers

We again jumped out onto the road and headed back to the castle. Within ten minutes the hounds had bolted the second fox which had returned to the covert after the brace earlier. This time we chased hard but this fox did not turn back from the railway tracks. Charlie headed for a covert the far side of the railway tracks in Hughie Higgen’s covert. It seemed only like minutes before the hounds found again. Another brace, calls from both sides of the covert. One of the calls would allow for more sport. The master was on to the better call, but our progress was hampered by young cattle getting involved in the proceedings so care had to be foremost in our minds. We had to walk until we were clear of the herd. The hounds were swiftly on the way and out of sight by now on to the next covert about three hundred yards away with six walls to be negotiated, each one stronger than the next. I had hardly time to catch my breath. The record books will tout this day, a day full of sport for huntsman hound and field. This was a glorious and exciting day for one and all, with hardly a moment to catch up and socialise with friends in the field as we were constantly on the move. We were off again, drops, hedges, ploughed fields, mud and rock, it didn’t matter. Some shoes were lost but still hunting- bulls in fields, wire fences- there was nothing to stop these hounds this day.
The hounds found again near Sean Keane’s and quickly chased for the Derrydonnell forest. There was a national road between both points and there was no way to cut the hounds off. Master Burke was on Charlie’s tail and he did his best to prevent any harm coming to the hounds and road users alike. The pace of this hunt was frantic, everyone was all a bustle to give chase. We had jumped five or six strong double and triple wide stone walls. Horses were failing under the strain as they had to negotiate a nice four foot drop from the main road into the forestry property in order to give chase. Master Burke explained; “I am not about to spend the afternoon in the woods I have called the pack off Charlie. There is more sport to be had elsewhere. “

Foxhunting in Ireland
The Grallagh Harriers

Coopers Hill was having the day of their lives. I couldn’t imagine that it could get any better. We traversed the national route and we went back to Jim Dwyers, the last property on the way to the wood and the first back to the covert on the other side of the road. We found again and the field gave chase, jumping wall after wall until a loud cry “hold hard.” The cry was reinforced by other members in the field. Something must be wrong! The secretary jumped from her horse and hurried back to a fallen rider. I stopped to gather up the horses of the riders that had dismounted. There were three responders which hinted that this was a serious incident. A rider had crashed to the ground and was not moving. What we all fear. A seasoned rider, we all respected, just go it a little wrong at a wall with a hedge covering the high stone structure. Minutes stretched out, and seemed to go on forever. I couldn’t see any movement from the fallen rider. Your mind can not help but worry and be thankful all at the same time that it wasn’t yourself lying there. Finally, I saw the rider’s lower arm rise up a little from the ground. Thank the lord. The responders seemed less concerned as the minutes passed from that point on, the rider stood up after a few more moments with some support from members of the field. At this point the Master thought it prudent to call it a day, a very good decision.

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Andrea, our guest for the next three weeks, who was taking the National Geographic quality shots, rode the fallen rider’s horse home. Not the usual way to introduce a guest to hunting, but it was a reminder for Andrea that hunting in Ireland is very different to hunting in New York and for the most part, North America. A great day, a tough day and but for the grace of god, a day we can all remember, bar one member. Later on that day even the fallen rider began to recollect this marvellous day. It would have been a shame for the fallen rider if that hunt was a lost memory. What a fantastic master we the Grallagh harriers have. Sincere thanks to master David Burke and his staff who gave the field and followers a great days’ sport.

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