The Cloudline Hounds Hunt is located in Celeste, Texas. Celeste is in the northeast part of the state. For purposes of general direction, it is located south of Sherman, and between McKinney and Greenville. It is approximately 70 miles northeast of Dallas and is serviced by highways 75 to the west, FM 121 to the north, and 30 to the east. The Hunt and Kennels are located off of highway 69 between the towns of Leonard and Celeste. The Hunt was established by Col. Rex and Marjorie Denny, MFH's in 1974. Col. Denny, who is a Celeste native, started the Hunt soon after he retired from the United States Marine Corp where he served with distinction as a fighter pilot. Marjorie was a very successful Hunter/ Jumper competitor living in Virginia at the time. They met when Rex was stationed there. It was Marjorie who introduced Rex to English riding and the sport of foxhunting. Col. and Mrs. Denny, continue on with daughter Susan as “Joint Masters”.
Cloudline Hounds (CH), maintains “Recognized Hunt” status in the Masters of Foxhounds Association (MFHA). There are 167 Recognized Hunts with 5,700 total members, in the U.S. and Canada. This designation is reserved for Hunts that meet the rigorous criteria set forth by the MFHA. These include maintaining a certain number of hounds, hunting regularly throughout a given hunting season, and demonstrating a commitment to meeting and maintaining the high standards of the MFHA in a variety of ways. Col. Denny and daughter Susan have both served as Western District Representatives to the MFHA. They are the only father-daughter “team” to have done so. Susan, as Joint Master, follows in her father’s footsteps serving as Huntsman, which means she is responsible for all aspects of providing “sport” for the Hunt’s members, and visitors. These include hunting the hounds, supervising the kennels, and maintaining the all important good relations with the landowners over whose property the hunt rides. The CH is a “private” Hunt, which means that the hounds, kennels, and for all intense and purposes, the Hunt itself is owned by the Denny family. Members make a donation annually which varies depending on the type of Membership one holds. There are Individual, Family, and Social Memberships offered. The “Formal Season” begins in early November and continues on through the middle to end of March. Interested individuals, who would like to try the sport, are visiting from out of town, or hunt on an occasional basis may do so by paying a “Capping Fee”. There is a limit to the number of times one can cap in a given season.
The type of hounds most suited to the demands of hunting coyote and the Cloudline country are both American and Crossbred hounds. Coyotes run in a relatively straight line or very large circle and are capable of clever maneuverings to throw off the hounds which are following scent rather than line of sight. The CH Hunt maintains approximately 30 to 40 “couple”, meaning 60 to 80 hounds. Not all hounds will go out on a given day. A normal hunting pack will consist of 20 to 30 hounds. They are controlled by the huntsman by the use of “voice” and “horn”.
CH’s “country” is comprised of abundant acreage characterized by rolling grasslands and wooded areas that border the South Sulphur and Sabine Rivers. There are a number of water crossings that must be negotiated and are usually approached down banks, which at times can be somewhat steep. Obedience in one’s mount is a most desirable trait. This is also a characteristic that is called upon at “checks” when the huntsman gathers the hounds. Once the hounds are “cast” by the huntsman the day’s sport begins. Hounds pursue the quarry, which us usually coyote with the occasional grey fox and bobcat. They are always under the huntsman’s direction but are free to cover as much ground as necessary in pursuit. While the huntsman has a plan for each hunt it is the quarry that ultimately determines the direction and challenges of the day. The hunt fields (first and second flights described in the Introduction to Foxhunting), typically traverse a number of properties which are accessed by jumps and/or gates. Depending on the time of year, scenting conditions, and the rigors of the day hunts usually last anywhere from 2 to 4 hours. Hunting when the temperature is above 70 degrees puts a good deal of strain on hounds, horses and of course, riders. The best scenting conditions are during cooler times of the day, and when there is some moisture on the ground. The coyote emits “scent” from the pads of his feet and it is this which the hounds pursue. It is difficult to “hold scent” when the ground is very warm, dry, and in windy conditions.
During the Formal Season which typically commences on the first weekend in November, the day’s activities normally begin at 10 AM. The Master has the prerogative to alter this start time often depending on weather conditions and expected temperatures. When ready the riders are mounted, invited to share in a “Stirrup Cup” with a toast to the hounds and to the day. Greetings are exchanged. Visitors and new members are introduced. Field Masters for the day are announced. Riders are asked to gather in relationship to the field in which they will ride. Hounds are released from the staging paddock where they had gathered after being called from their kennels. The hunt moves off to wherever the day’s hunt will begin. Once arriving at that location the hounds are cast and off we all go.
The Master/Huntsman determines when it is time to call in the hounds and to end the day’s sport. Once back at the Kennels the hounds are checked for any possible injuries then put up in the comfort of their kennels. The horses are tied to their trailers, in some cases turned out in paddocks, or perhaps put in their stalls if they reside at Cloudline Farm. The riders then gather for a “Hunt Breakfast” which is provided by volunteer members, or is sometimes a “Potluck”. It is always a welcomed opportunity to recount and share the joys and challenges of the day.
Maintaining a pack of hounds and a Hunt is a 24/7, 365 days a year task. Hounds must be cared for, conditioned and trained. Hunt horses must be developed for the specific challenges of the sport. During the spring, summer and early fall hounds are “walked out” through which young hounds learn the basics at the side of seasoned veterans. In the early stages of training they are physically attached to the more experienced hounds by means of a neck collar with a link between two hounds. This is the source of the term “couple of hounds” previously mentioned. The period for walking hounds is followed by that of “Roading” in which hounds go out along with mounted riders. This adds to their training and conditioning. Hunt members are encouraged to assist during these sessions which also provide an excellent opportunity to train and condition their horses. It is a perfect setting in which to introduce new and potential members to the sport of foxhunting. Next comes the Cubbing season, also known as “informal” hunting. This takes place a bit later but still in the early fall when the temperatures are becoming conducive to more rigorous outings. At this point the hounds are actually hunting, but it is still a training period for hounds, horses, and riders. The hunts are usually of short duration.
Susan Gentry provides riding lessons for people of all ages and experience levels at the Hunt’s kennels. She offers sessions on the flat, over show style jumps, as well as opportunities to learn and “school” over natural hunt country. Her life long experience and enthusiastic approach to equestrian sport, most specifically foxhunting, is the basis of her widely recognized skills as a Huntsman, trainer, instructor, and provider of horses suitable for the hunt field. She can furnish horses (on a limited basis) for lessons and/or for lease for hunting. She has a wonderful reputation for matching riders and horses. If you are “in the market” for a suitable field hunter, or even have one or more that you wish to sell, Susan will be your number one resource.
To learn more about how you can join with the friendly folks that ride to hounds with the Cloudline Hounds contact:
Susan Denny Gentry, MFH