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The Ideal Master
By Barclay Rives
In & Around Horse Country

The Master keeps the stars in the heaven of his hunt aligned in harmony. All the elements including hounds, horses, nature, and humans profit from his guidance. His work begins long before the day of the meet and continues long after hounds are back in the kennel. His responsibilities never cease. Friendly, tactful, industrious, generous, of wise judgement and keen foresight, the Master is respected and liked by the entire community.

The Master owns a splendid old house in the middle of his hunting territory. His coverts always hold foxes. His is the best hunt fixture, and meets can be held there when wet ground or other conditions preclude meeting anywhere else. His hunt breakfasts and other social entertainments are the best in the neighborhood. He donates horses, machinery, much of his time, and the largest hunt subscription.

A strong supporter of community civic and charitable organizations, he is a leader in farm land conservation. He has placed his own property under easement, inspiring his neighbors to do likewise. He makes sure that foxhunters purchase any real estate for sale in the area and continue to farm as he does in a foxhunting-friendly manner.

Members of the staff or field may find themselves riding on the land and near the homes of people they do not know. This is excusable only because the Master's diplomacy has preceded them. He has spoken to every landowner and farmer, ensuring that hounds and foxhunters are welcome. He bestows Christmas gifts to all landowners in appreciation for their kindness.

He learns the whereabouts of every spooky herd of cows and skittish band of broodmares to be avoided. He has amassed an encyclopedic knowledge of landowners' wishes. Here the field must ride on the driveway and not on the grass; there they must ride on the shoulder and keep off the driveway. The Master reiterates these orders to his staff and field before and during the hunt. The rider who strays onto the seeded field, or breaks some other rule, wishes he hadn't. However, if the Master must report livestock or property damage to the landowner, even though caused by someone else, he takes responsibility for the error. The buck stops with him. Hat in hand, he humbles himself in apology and remedies the problem at his own expense and trouble.

The Master is not motivated by ambition, ego or jealousy, but by love for his hounds and the sport they provide. He delights in sharing this pleasure with his field. He particularly encourages juniors. He restrains thrusters. He graciously welcomes guests. At the meet he seems delighted to see all present. Though he has innumerable details to include in his ingenious plan for the day, his manner is cordial and relaxed.

When hounds are running, he is a valiant cavalry commander rallying his troops. A matchless horseman, superbly mounted, the sight of him inspires and emboldens his followers. He concentrates not on himself but on his followers, and how to provide them the best vantage points without interfering with hounds. Though hounds might be in full cry, he will stop to talk to a landowner or farmer, sending the rest of the hunting field ahead if necessary.

No pace is too fast and no obstacle too tall for him. The bravest fences his friends have ever jumped are ones they followed him over. Yet his better judgement never leaves him. He may make a lengthy detour or decide to pick up hounds. To avoid offending a landowner or damaging property, he overrules the overenthusiastic who would push on to a brilliant conclusion for the day with adverse consequences. He would not risk the loss of an entire fixture to account for a single fox.

For all his good works, a grateful field and staff thank the Master at the end of a good day and the end of the season.

The ideal Master would perform these duties and embody these virtues. Probably no single man or woman could ever combine all of these qualities. The number who mourned the passing of this Master indicates how close he came to the ideal.