Army Fox Hunting

100_1808On a gorgeous spring day there isn’t much better than moving across country at a gallop following the fast moving voices of fox hounds.  As Churchill once said “No hour of life is wasted that is spent in the saddle.”  For our family, like many army horse families in Kansas for over a hundred years, weekends revolve around fox hunting.  The Fort Leavenworth Hunt (FLH) is the only remaining active military fox hunt in the world.  Soldiers began hunting withhounds in eastern Kansas soon after Fort Leavenworthwas established in 1827.  The organized hunt at Leavenworth was formally established 1926 and continued to 1941.  It shut down during World War II and was restarted in 1964 and today is a certified hunt of the Masters of Fox Hounds Association (MFHA).   Before World War II almost every major post in the army operated its own hunt.  Some of the major hunts were the Infantry Hunt (Fort Benning, GA), the Cavalry Hunt (Fort Riley, KS), the Artillery Hunt (Fort Sill, OK), and the 1st Cavalry Divisiion Hunt (Fort Bliss, TX).

Jonathan Wainwright as MFH.

Jonathan Wainwright as MFH.

Many of the famous officers of World War II were members of the Fort Leavenworth Hunt during their time at the fort as students in the Command and General Staff College in the 1920s and 1930s.  General Jonathan Wainright was one of the first Masters of Fox Hounds.  General Lucian Truscott was a particularly active member of the staff in the 1930s, and was joined in the hunt by his entire family.  Just before World War II, one of the Masters was Colonel Charles Reed who later led the famous raid to save the Lipizzan mares in Czechoslovakia at the end of the war.  The hunt staff before World War II was provided by the troopers of the famed 10thCavalry Regiment, “Buffalo Soldiers,” a squadron of whom garrisoned at Fort Leavenworth.

Current Joint MFH at FLH, COL Joyce DiMarco

Current Joint MFH at FLH, COL Joyce DiMarco

Today, over 80 years since it began, the hunt it continues to combine the strong traditions of military horsemanship and fox hunting on Fort Leavenworthand the surrounding countryside.  The hunt includes over 100 active duty, retired military, and civilian families and individual members.  The membership includes veterans of Afghanistan, Iraq, Desert Storm and Vietnam.  Numerous hunt members are currently deployed, have family deployed, or are preparing to deploy.  The hunt is a welcome interaction with nature, animals, and friends, and a great diversion from the pressure of the Army’s operational tempo.

The Hunt meets least twice a week in season from early October until early April using a pack of American Fox Hounds maintained on Fort Leavenworth with the assistance of the Army Morale Welfare and Recreation (MWR) division.  The game in the Fort Leavenworth area includes coyote and red fox and the hunt rarely returns without a viewing and run (seeing the game and giving chase).  The purpose of the hunt is not to kill the game, but rather the sport of hunting and the chase.  The hunting area is huge and rugged and the game rarely have any trouble eluding the hounds and hunt field.  However, if the game is cornered the huntsman calls off the hounds.  During the off-season the Hunt sponsors trail rides and horse shows.

The Fort Leavenworth Hunt is a small vestigeof the brown shoe horse powered army of the first half of the twentieth century that is surviving and thriving into the twenty-first century.  It is a strong and functioning, not just ceremonial, link between today’s soldiers and their history.  Interestingly, as an active MWR activity, it operates completely in the black and consistently returns a small profit to the Army to use to support other MWRactivities.  The hunt is a great example of how with a little nurturing, military history and tradition can thrive in the army despite all the pressures on our forces today.

FLH Hunting in Kansas

FLH Hunting in Kansas

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  1. As many know, hunting to hounds is now illegal in Great Britain (thouhg drag hunts –where no game is chased –are permitted). The below link, dated from 1986 gives some insights into the functioning of the British Army equestrian units and their participation in fox hunting. Also indicates the ramp-up of the effort to outlaw fox hunting.

    http://hansard.millbanksystems.com/written_answers/1986/jan/13/fox-hunting

  2. It was great to read the history of Ft. Leavenworth Hunt. My husband and I lived in Kansas City in the late 60s. We used to show at Ft. Leavenworth over the most wonderful outside course, with drop fences and the works. It was easily our most favorite of all the shows in the area.

    In those days Col. Noonan was MFH and later the Pony Club was Fiddler’s Green. I taught some lessons at Ft. Riley to children who’s families stabled their horses there. What a terrific place to be with so much history.

    I have a deep interest in the military and balanced seat history and have followed your website. Thank you for the articles about Harry Chamberlin and the Army Olympic Team. I would be pleased if you would look my website http://www.ushorsemanship.net and my US Horsemanship blog at http://ushorsemanship.blogspot.com/

    I would like to find out more about an old friend of mine. Capt. William C. Meyer operated the Meyer Remount Farm in Leavenworth. He was buried at Ft. Leavenworth. I remember that the hunt lined the road and that Capt. Meyer’s horse was led with the boots in the stirrups backwards.

    I think Capt. Meyer had to do with the pack trains in the Gobi Desert and he had something to do with Emperor Hirohito’s white horse but I don’t know if those are only rumors. I do know that he wrote a manuscript of horsemanship. An old acquaintance had it after Capt. Meyer died. Do you know any way that I could research the life of my old friend?

    Thanks so much for the history of the Ft. Leavenworth Hunt!

    Barbara Fox

  3. Barbara–
    what wonderful memories. were you barbara fox then? or is that your married name? my dad was DC of Fiddler’s Green, but I don’t think he was ever the MFH. But we did hunt a lot!! I remember coming over to Fort Riley to give lessons…did I know you? And I have such memories of Capt. Meyer, too. His Meyer Remount Farm is where I first learned to ride, on a horse called Tivoli, who a young lady named Rosemary Lee later bought and brought to the hunt. I’ve often thought of him, as well, and would love to know what happened to him. His instructor was Verna Malcuit, who from what i can gather, is still active in the equestrian scene in Leavenworth. There are several of us former FLH and Fiddlers’ Green folks on FAcebook. Colleen Daves sent me to this site!

  4. I’m glad this short comment on the FLH has revived some old memories of past FLHers. If anyone wants to further connect I suggest looking up the FLH group on facebook.

  5. Hello! I’m doing a blog post on Full Cry: A Hound Blog this evening about military links to hunting with hounds and wondered if it would be possible for me to use one of your photos? I love the one of Col. Joyce Di Marco. I’d be very happy to credit the photogrpaher.

    Also, thanks so much for covering the great subject of the connection between horses and soldiers. It’s too often overlooked. I’d like very much to link your blog to mine, as I am deeply interested in the history of horses and hounds in the military. I’m delighted to have discovered your blog.

    Glenye Cain Oakford
    http://www.houndwelfare.wordpress.com
    Full Cry: A Hound Blog

  6. [...] For more fascinating history of military foxhunts, especially in the United States, try the blog at A Horse Soldier’s Thoughts. [...]

  7. I saw the previous post about Capt. Meyer awhile back, and it led me to try to research more about him, to no avail. I did find an interesting book at Powells’ Books in Portland, OR — “US Army Olympic Equestrian Competitions” by Robert Thompson. It had a lot of pictures of the old riding hall at Ft. Riley, and Ft. Leavenworth was mentioned briefly.

    I took lessons from Capt. Meyer when I was 10 years old in 1971 when my family kept our horses there for a few months. He died the next year. I have a few wonderful pictures of him on the horse he sat rode while teaching.

    I watched him one day as he came out of the house dressed in boots and breeches and climbed up on the mounting block while Verna (his stable manager) brought his horse out. He was about ready to swing his leg over the horse when it walked off (for some reason, Verna didn’t stay there holding him). Capt. Meyer stomped his foot on the mounting block and yelled at the horse “Come back here! Whoa!! WHOA!!” as the horse, nonplussed, walked on. Verna came running out of the barn at the commotion and caught the horse and brought him back to the mounting block. It was funny, but nobody who saw it dared laugh and face Capt. Meyer’s wrath. He always conducted himself with dignity and discipline. That was the only time I ever saw him out of control of a situation. He sat on a horse for every Sunday afternoon lesson I ever took from him, and he was 80 years old then.

    I remember well the Sunday afternoon lessons in which about 20 of us rode, of all levels. Once I had learned the movement, I thrilled to hear him shout the command “Change hands — ho!!” in his military style. All 20 of us would cut across the middle of the arena at the same time, and turn the opposite direction upon reaching the track on the other side. You were to try to match your horse’s pace to the rider on your left. It was a moment of chaos followed by sharp precision (when it turned out right).

    Capt. Meyer would have us do “jump-offs” at the end of every Sunday lesson. I was only 10, and my horse could jump but wasn’t the bravest. On one Sunday, we were the last of 2 in the jump off. I had the handicap, so I had to jump through a grid of 6 one-strides, increasing in height, then swing around the corner and jump a big in-and-out that was a tall set of cross rails. By the end, the cross rails were at the top of the standards, making the X about 3’3″ and narrow. My horse ducked out on the second element, and dropped me over his shoulder. I landed on the foot of the standard on my butt, knocking the heavy pole down onto my head. Luckily, I had my helmet on. I heard gasps from the parents watching, but Capt. Meyer had me get up and remount immediately once my horse was caught. Lowering the X, I was to jump it again. No sentiment, no fussing, just do it again, and I did without question. I was more afraid of displeasing him than anything. I fell off a few more times there, and always he had me get right back on and do it again.

    I learned a lot about courage and confidence from him, and the value of excellent horsemanship, despite my young age. Although he intimidated me, I felt a connection with him, and remember that he did smile at me sometimes.

    I remember his funeral procession; his old horse with the empty saddle and boots turned backwards, the long line of riders from the Hunt in formal attire who lined the road to honor him. I had not known much about him, but I missed him, and I wished I had known him longer.

    It would be wonderful to know more about Capt. Meyer, and how amazing would it be to see the old manuscript! He was a classic.

  8. I too rode with Capt Meyer. I was there from 1959 to 1967. That was my childhood and the best memories any kid could have. I would love to find other people that I knew then. Janet Buckholtz lived with them at first and then Verna Doltz came. I lived in CA when he died so was not able to be there. I like everyone else loved them all. I was lucky to have called him when my horse that I rode with him was put down in 1971. I got to lean on him. Please if anyone knew him please let me know more info. Thanks

  9. I basically grew up at MRF. My Mon started riding there in 1959, then my brother and sister. I begged to go riding but they didn’t allow it until I was 8. I remember my first lesson was on Cricket and I was led around the pen jump in the arena for the entire hour. At age 10 I began working out there on the weekends and after school and stayed there until I was 14 or so. I saw a lot of horses and people come and go. I, too remember the Sunday afternoon jump offs. I learned a lot from the Meyers, specifically how to be a horseman first and that has carried forward throughout my life.

    I kept in touch with Mrs Meyer later in life until she died and am still good friends with Verna.

    It was grand way to spend a childhood.

  10. I too rode at MRF, between 1961-1965. I remember Cricket! Yes we called Janet Bucholtz “big Janet” and Janet Buchanan “little Janet”. Workers with me were Ben & Jackie Hanson, Patty Cozad, my sister Pat Dolan. Others came and went. I visited May 23, 1972 a week before Capt. Meyer died. Sadly he was too sick to come out and visit and Mrs Meyer was out of town. I did visit with Verna and some of the old horses or their offspring. Yes a grand way to spend a childhood Kerry and tons of love for the Meyers. Mrs M. called me in 1969 when she was in CA and I was living there. I fortunately got to tell her what a dramatic influence they had on my life, still do. I’d love to find the rest of the workers. What a wonderful find, this site, you people who remember MRF! I still have the hand-stitched “MRF” patch Mrs. M. made for her show workers.

  11. What a total delight to find this web site and the stories about Meyer Remount Farm. I went to one of Capt. Meyer’s summer camps in the mid 60s and started from there. Kerry Lee was one of the best young riders I have ever known and have lots of memories about her and Christine Voorhees, also a superb rider. There were many others and I would enjoy connecting again. My email is ebideau@aol.com and anyone from MRF is encouraged to send me a note.

  12. Awsome info and right to the point. I don’t know if this is actually the best place to ask but do you people have any thoughts on where to get some professional writers? Thank you :)

  13. I rode at MRF in 1970-71. The best times of my life. I have admired Capt Meyer everyday since. He knew more about horses than any one I have ever met. He could be a hard man but he could get you to do your best. Which is what he expected. I can remember him sitting on “Native Son” during lessons or on very cold days him driving his blue station wagon into the ring.

  14. what great memories of about Capt. Meyer. Nancy Jenkins just wrote me today that Verna Malcuit passed away this month. Such memories…the two are forever linked in my memory. They were my first riding instructors…I remember Verna’s bark was big and brassy…but underneath, she had that little giggle and sparkle in her eye, like she couldn’t REALLY get mad at you! Also, I see that someone referenced Christine Voorhees– a name I haven’t heard in years. I have wonderful memories of her…so smart, elegant, educated….I really looked up to her! I remember hauling horses with from Kansas to Nebraska (probably to Lowell Boomer’s) and seeing “Pax” written on so many of the grain elevators and her talking about how it meant “peace.” Everytime I see the word “pax,” I think of her and those darn Kansas grain elevators. And I’ve lived in LA for 21 years!!
    Stephanie Noonan Drachkovitch

  15. So sad to hear that Verna had passed away. I really enjoyed my time with her at MRF

  16. many good memorys, of Capt. Meyers, Verna, my best friend, Jane Watkins,and our many horse friends……including Fugitsu the horse Capt. Meyer brought back from Japan who died about the same time as Captain Meyers. Hello to my fellow stableworkers…69 thru72

  17. I was a working student in 68-69 while my father was stationed at Leavenworth – Sue Count. I remember Christine and always loved her horse Timepiece. Beautiful, elegant animal just like his owner. Capt Meyer rode that big horse of his in the Military Olympics in Japan. Remember Rocky? I loved that boy. TopHand. Camelot. Melody. A big palamino that the girls would vault on in the round pen – still have some pictures somewhere. Those trees – all whitewached. That stinky outhouse and I always HAD to go before a jumping class because Capt Meyer scared me to death.
    So sorry about losing Verna. She never had an easy life but she had a resilient spirit and was a courageous, bold rider. I was awed to watch her do 6 bar and she loved it!

  18. I was so surpised to find this site upon remembering Verna and Capt. Meyer 44 years later. This brings back so many wonderful childhood memories.

    I too was about 10 years old. I remember Verna would pick us all up with our lunch in hand in the blue station wagon at 5:30 AM.

    I met Capt. Meyer after my very first riding lesson at MRF. I had an hour after class of free riding when I attempted a 4 ft jump on a horse named College Kid. I landed on his neck. Capt. Meyer stood there on his 17 hand horse asking “what the %$#*& I was doing”. He intimidated me for years.

    I remember a fox hunt at Ft. Leavenworth where my father broke the news that he was not going to buy College Kid for me. It was for the best as soon after College Kid foundered or had some hoof problems. But I wanted that horse so badley that at the age of 52 I bought a College Kid clone and named him Rio.

    I remember Mrs. Vorhees. I remember riding a draft type horse that belonged to her in a show.

    I remember Debbie McDermot and Jan (not sure if big or small, she had glasses). A blonde haired girl named Kim. And a girl named Cathy Meyer (mother Eileen).

    I remember Rocky and Cricket.

    We always fed omolene and oats. I remember the Sunday jump offs.

    Verna took me to the American Royal.

    I had a paint quarter horse named Snap that was green and I did not ride him much. He broke my arm at the farm.

    I am sad to hear of Verna’s death as I really wanted to tell her the difference she made in my life. Her and Capt. Meyer impacted many childrens lives with that farm and the horses kept there.

  19. there is a Meyers Remount farm facebook page now

  20. Does anyone know where to find Christine Voorhees?


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