The Moore County Hounds Juniors
30 Sep 2019
Their rich history emboldens the future riders of Sandhills foxhunting
By Crissy Neville
If you think all youth today are talking on cell phones, playing video games or Instagramming, look no further than the youngest members of the Moore County Hounds (MCH), and think again. The juniors, as designated, shun such stereotypes for their age, choosing instead to enjoy time in the out-of-doors with the pastime they most enjoy, removed, if but temporarily, from adolescent angst.
Here, the voice of one such supporter, 15-year-old junior Makyla Alexander of Vass, chimes, “It is much more than a hobby or pastime; it is more a way of life.”
Enter the mantra of the MCH junior class, currently a dozen strong riders, and for that matter, foxhunters in general. Love of horse and hound keeps these adventure-seeking equestrians of all ages in the saddle almost as much as afoot.
Foxhunting was established in Moore County in 1911 when Jackson and James Boyd, the grandsons of Pennsylvania steel and railroad magnate James Boyd, found the Sandhills land passed down to them from their grandfather to be the perfect setting for the English sport. The senior Boyd named the 1,200-acre estate “Weymouth” for its resemblance to Weymouth, England. The Boyd brothers, like their grandfather, believed in land and wildlife conservation and had an affinity for adventure and sport as well. Their influence led to the founding of MCH in 1914 and its registration with the Masters of Foxhounds Association (MFHA) in 1921. Now, some 100 years later, MCH is celebrated as the oldest pack of foxhounds in the state, and one of only a few remaining private packs.
Hunters of all ages can participate with MCH, starting with the youngest riders at age five or to the oldest hunter to date being 91-year-old Virginia “Ginnie” Walthour Moss, the great aunt of current MCH Joint Master of Foxhounds (MFH) Cameron Sadler.
The hunt transitioned to Ginnie and her husband William O. “Pappy” Moss during World War II, with the couple taking possession of the hounds in 1942. They soon purchased land one mile out of town and built Mile Away Farm, the location of MCH’s modern-day kennels. The Moss era, in which both husband and wife served as leaders was characterized by great sport and sportsmen coming to Southern Pines from near and far by both train and car to hunt and socialize. Junior riders were part of these early beginnings, an integral part of the growth the group has seen over the years.
The Moss legacy is the Walthour-Moss Foundation, created in 1976 upon the death of Pappy Moss. Bequeathing family land to create the Foundation, the Mosses established a trust into which they and the community would place over 4,000 acres in the next 30 years. Used as the primary hunting grounds of MCH, the Foundation is loved and enjoyed by outdoor enthusiasts. In the years to follow, Ginnie Moss continued to lead and participate with MCH in the positions of master, huntsman, whipper-in and member until her death in 2006.
A nurturing soul, she also took many of the juniors under her wing including LP “Junebug” Tate, the late father of current day Master “Jock” Tate, a junior himself years later, Gene Cunningham, and her five-and six-year-old grandnieces Tayloe and Cameron Compton, respectively. Moss’ penchant for bringing youth out for hunting and training them in proper hunting etiquette and skills took root in her young protégée. The reverberation is heard as the youth of yesteryear lead the pack today.
Sadler was the elder niece of Moss’ who now helps oversee the youth component of the MCH, along with the huntsman, Lincoln, to whom Sadler is married, and any number of other willing hunt members. According to Sadler, everyone is happy to have the juniors involved.
“It is fun for the adults to see juniors experiencing all that goes along with hunting and learning about horses, hounds, wildlife and the outdoors,” she said, adding that the youth element is critical to ensuring the future of the foxhunting.
The future looks bright with members like Alexander, who upon learning to foxhunt at age nine, was hooked. Apart from the September through March foxhunting season, the juniors help the hunt in everything from bushwhacking and jump repair to showing and exercising hounds. Their summers are spent not in air conditioning, but in conditioning horses and preparing young hounds for the upcoming season. No sleeping in during summer break for these devoted youth. While these offseason services are needed and enjoyable, Alexander says she prefers to be on horseback.
“I have been riding for as long as I can remember,” she reflected. “I don’t even have hobbies that do not relate to horses; they are my life.”
And if you are going to spend much of your life in a certain pursuit, how better than with people whom you like and admire, almost as if family?
“MCH is like a family,” the junior rider said. “I consider many adults in the hunt my mentors but specifically Lincoln and Cameron Sadler. They both have taught me so much. Now, as I have gotten a little older, I enjoy getting to mentor our newest and youngest MCH members myself.”
So, the efforts come full circle. This teaching, according to Sadler, “is invaluable guidance from more experienced members of the hunt.”
MCH welcomes all interested juniors, aged 18 and under, and active military as guests to hunt. There is no charge for these persons, though donations are appreciated. More information is available at moorecountyhounds.com. Note that MCH is a private entity, meaning hunting is by invitation only. Any current member can bring a guest with the permission of the masters, of whom, in addition to Sadler, are Michael B. Russell, David W. Carter and Lloyd P. “Jock” Tate.
To learn about foxhunting, juniors can foxhunt, attend the Pony Club Horse and Hound Camp in June, or join in the Fall Foxhunter Clinic Sessions hosted each year in August and September. Online sign-up for the clinics is available. According to Sadler, graduates of both the Pony Club Camp and the clinic series are typically invited to come hunt. Anyone who decides to join is required to wear safety gear and appropriate foxhunting attire, submit a signed liability release form and possess a North Carolina hunting license. Horse or pony ownership, while useful, is not required, but Sadler noted that some lesson and lease options are available for interested youth. The hunt asks that either a parent or other adult who is familiar with foxhunting accompany an invited junior.
MCH juniors can also attend or help with special occasions such as the Opening Meet on Thanksgiving Day, the annual winter Hunt Ball, bi-annual junior hunts where they can serve in selected roles, joint meets to other hunts outside Moore County and a plethora of social-events year-round. Opportunities also exist to enter events like the Hunter Trials, Hunter Pace and Junior North America Field Hunter Championship or represent the hunt at the Carolinas and Virginia Hound Shows.
This all sits well with Alexander; whose heart is in the hunt. However, her favorite part of membership, she said, “is getting to hunt with other juniors that share my passion,” noting that “lifelong friendships have formed” that all began one day, not at school or scouts or on a sports team, but in the hunt field.