A Thanksgiving Tradition: Opening Meet of the Moore County Hounds
Residents of New York City kick off the holiday season by attending the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade, and countless other folks watch the parade on television. If you think that is the only way to kick off the holidays, forgetaboutit. In the Sandhills, residents kick off the holiday season by attending the annual Blessing of the Hounds.
Hobby Field on Youngs Road is the place to be and be seen on Thanksgiving morning at 10 a.m. sharp when members of the Moore County Hounds gather for Opening Meet and the Blessing of the Hounds, which marks the beginning of the formal foxhunting season.
The tradition of foxhunting in the Sandhills dates back to 1914 when the Moore County Hounds was first established. Over the years, the public has turned out in increasingly larger numbers to view the Blessing of the Hounds. The ceremony traces its roots to St. Hubert, the patron saint of hunters, who lived in eighth-century France. The ceremony involves formally attired foxhunters, their horses and hounds, and combines prayers for blessing and protection with thanksgiving for the harvest.
Spectators have grown from a handful in the 1950s to over 200 in recent years, according to Joint Master of the Moore County Hounds Richard Webb. "Back in the 1950s, a handful of cars would come, led by the Chief of Police to watch the hunt," said Webb. "Today we have hundreds of spectators and a field of almost a hundred riders."
The pack of Penn-Marydel American hounds, led by huntsman Jody Murtagh, will be cast from Hobby Field along a drag line (a pre-laid line of artificial scent), followed by staff and field at a full gallop for approximately an hour's chase through the Walthour-Moss Foundation. Riders will end up back at Hobby Field with the traditional last jump into the field.
Hotel shuttles, tour buses and tailgate breakfast parties block traffic in all directions, so early arrival is mandatory.
Bring cameras and folding chairs, but pets should be left at home. Smoking is banned and consideration is appreciated when parking on private property.
The public is invited to attend Opening Meet. However, the Moore County Hounds is a private pack. Riding to hounds is by invitation only.
Opening meet is an all-weather event, but if any late updates are necessary call 692-6889 for a recorded message.
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