We are going to take a break from the subjects our last few blogs focused on, and visit one of the most unique and interesting traditions celebrated by horse lovers and traditional English hunters alike here in the Southeast!
Traditions are a beautiful thing and something we are all very proud of here in the Southeast. We have some of the oldest and most special traditions to be found. Being horse people, we, of course, love to celebrate traditions that include our favorite beautiful animals. In this blog, we will be celebrating and discussing The Blessing Of the Hounds, the opening meeting of the Moore County Hounds, which is the oldest Fox Hunting Clubs in North Carolina.
Every year on Thanksgiving Morning, excited riders, onlookers, horses, and hounds gather in Buchanan Field in Southern Pines, North Carolina. For many families, it has become a tradition that starts their Thanksgiving holiday. The tradition has been going on for more than 100 years and has continued to grow in numbers as the years have passed. Members of the Moore County Hounds appear and come dressed in formal hunters attire, atop their beautiful horses. Formal hunters attire is the classic and signature red hunting jackets called "Pinks", white riding pants, black leather riding boots, and hunt caps. The riders gather early in the morning, and before the hounds are released to follow the fox scent placed along the hunting trail (it is a mock fox hunt, no animals are hurt!), they all receive a blessing from the local Episcopal Priest while the hundreds of onlookers watch from the sidelines. The tradition and its blessing go way back to very early medieval times when hunters believed that Saint Hubert of Liege, the patron saint of hunters, would protect them and their hounds and keep them safe during the hunt.
As we mentioned above, this tradition is no longer just for the riders and the horses. It has expanded and has become a huge traditional gathering and tailgating event for hundreds of spectators that attend the event every year. Many families have been apart of it for generations. Every year, 150 riders and horses are a part of the hunt. The spectators start arriving before 8 AM to claim their perfect tailgating spot, to start cooking, and to pop the bubbly for their morning mimosas. To get the best tailgating spots today, you will have to pay a pretty penny to reserve it. The official blessing begins at 10 AM and right after the ceremony, about 60 hounds are released on the trail. The whole event takes about an hour or so and is full of excitement.
The equestrian community has always been strong in Moore County and Southern Pines, but it continues to be nurtured and flourishes and thrives with traditions like The Blessing of the Hounds. This celebration is proof of the immense support of the community and how loved it is by all. The club continues to care for the tradition, the riders, and animals alike. A tradition like this keeps the community close-knit and brings it together, even if it is just once a year.
The tradition of The Blessing of the Hounds made its way to Moore County thanks to author James Boyd. He started the Moore County Hounds after he fell in love with fox hunting while he was a student at Cambridge. The club was recognized and made official in 1920, and the blessing is the oldest hunt in North Carolina and one of the oldest in the country. The hounds that have been used in the hunt have been living at the foundation's farm since 1942. Their care and breeding have been one of their primary focuses. The blessing was held on its original land until 2015 and was then moved to Buchanan Field.
What a beautiful way to celebrate horses and bring a community together! We love sharing traditions like this and love learning about them too. Do you have a favorite tradition celebrating these majestic creatures and their incredible histories? Share them with us! Until next time, come ride horses with us on our beautiful trails. We can't wait to see you!
What are the Corolla Wild Horses and where did they come from?
All of us here at Middleton have always known that there was something very special about the beautiful and majestic horse - and the beautiful beaches that line the coast of the Lowcountry and her sister states. So, what happens you combine the two? Something truly spectacular. If you have ever traveled a little north of the Lowcountry and into the Outerbanks, you might have heard about the Corolla Wild Horses, a herd of very special horses that come from a mysterious and long line of majestic ancestors.
The Corolla Wild Horses are such a special attraction and are so beautiful because they are such a mystery. How did they get to this side of the world and who introduced them into the wild? Today around 400 wild horses making up several different herds that live on the North Carolina stretches of the Outerbanks. They can be spotted between Cape Lookout and Corolla. These incredible animals have survived hurricanes, human settlers, and everything else in between. Even though these horses are wild now, they are descendants of domesticated horses. Many historians believe they are direct ancestors of the Spanish Mustang. But really, how did they arrive here?
During the days of early exploration and settlement from Europe to the America Colonies, many Spanish ships were caught in the dangerous shallows along the Outerbanks called the Graveyard of the Atlantic. Many Spanish ships that were attempting to come to the early colonies and sunk in this graveyard have been found, many dating back to the early 1500s. The Corolla's ancestors could have come from any of these ships because don't forget - horses can swim. They could have been on these ships and have swum to shore after they sunk and took refuge in their new surroundings. But more likely, the Corolla are descended from Spanish Mustangs that were left behind by Spanish Settlers who had to abandon them and head back to their ships after being threatened by Native Americans, sickness, or failure to settle successfully. But let's dig a little deeper into their mystery shall we?
As I stated above, the history of these horses dates back almost 500 years, making them the oldest settlers in the Outerbanks. The Native Americans are the only other group that is older to American soil than these majestic creatures that first called this land home. Spanish settlers probably brought these horses to our shores, but when? What explorations? One of the first possibilities is that they could have arrived in 1521 with some of the very first explorers to the coastline with Lucas Vasquez de Allyon, a Spanish Explorer. Some speculate that this exploration party landed near Cape Fear and made it as far down in their journey as the Outerbanks. The Native Americans were not thrilled about these new visitors and were not welcoming to them at all. They killed them or forced these explorers to leave quickly and retreat to their ships and leave behind their livestock and crude settlements. There is some thought that the Corolla horses started their lineage here, as their ancestors would have been the livestock left behind.
A second, more plausible option, happened 60 years later as Richard Greenville was making his expeditions along the North Carolina Coast. His commander, Sir Walter Raleigh, made regular trips along with the West Indies to the early colonies of North Carolina and Virginia to deliver goods to its settlers and had Greenville many of these trips himself. In 1587, Greenville was leaving the West Indies set to deliver goods for his commander to the colonies. Greenville, as historical records go, hit trouble along Cape Fear and then again when the ship hit the shallow waters in the Graveyard of the Atlantic in an area called Diamond Shoals. At least one of the ships that was lost during these troubles contained live wild stock. The animals that survived the sinking could have swum and made it to shore. Some of these animals were also believed to have been the Spanish Mustangs.
Even though these two historical options are the most documented options, these are plenty of other speculations. But no matter their origin, the mystery of their appearance has been one of their biggest assets. After having been undisturbed for almost 400 years, the herd was almost pushed to extinction in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The herd hit a record low of 40 horses due to inbreeding, eating bad food, and being hit by vehicles. The herd was moved to a more stable beach that could support their needs and promote their growth. But now, thanks to being protected by the National Park Service, the state of North Carolina, and by private funds and sanctuaries, they are ensured to remain for many more generations to come. They are an amazing gem, and truly something special to behold.
Now, with a rich history and healthy numbers - the Corolla Wild Horses will remain a beautiful staple of the Outerbanks. If you have the opportunity to encounter them, take the chance. You won't want to miss out on seeing these myster
Middleton Place Team