The Blessing of The Hounds
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!
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Middleton Place Team