Blessing of the Hounds: Lowcountry's fox season begins

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On the morning of Sunday November 30th supporters of the Middleton Place Hounds joined riders for the 35th annual Blessing of the Hounds. Held on the grounds of the plantation, the event marks the beginning of the fox-hunting season here in the Lowcounty.

More specifically, the ceremony was held at the Greensward, right in front of the main house. And mind you, on Sunday it was raining and cold, so what was more impressive than spectators sticking out the rain were the horses and traditionally-clad riders themselves. Towering over guests, the riders kept the almost 50 foxhounds in formation with a simple "pack in" or a crack of the whip. Once the blessing ceremony came to a close, riders partook in the traditional passing of the stirrup cup, enjoying a little wine. It was time to start the hunt.

As part of the festivities, there was to be a hayride, unfortunately the driver did not show, so those without a readily available car made new friends and hopped in the back of SUVs, vans, and trucks.

Both TheDigitel's videographer, Geoff Marshall, and I scrambled to flag down a ride -- to our surprise we landed a ride in the fine company of Stephen Webb and his family, owners of the local Web radio WeAreRadio. We were in for a treat. Not only did they have wine and full picnic layout in the back of their van, but we also met the acquaintance of their friend, Molly Hartzog A South Carolina native, Mrs. Hartzog helped get the organization off the ground over 35 years ago.

For the actual drag hunt, a string of well coordinated vehicles trekked through the muddy paths surrounding the plantation, following the riders and foxhounds. On location, families celebrated age-old traditions by sharing stories, drinks, and picnic edibles. Festive guests enjoyed two hunt runs before returning to the grounds of the Middle Place Plantation. To celebrate the blessing ceremony, all enjoyed the Joint Masters’ Hunt Tea fine brunch spread.

If you would like to become a member or serve as a spectator on a hunt, contact Beverly Ballinger at (843) 720.3712. Hunt days are Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday. Check out the proposed schedule to plan your visit.

Coming this Spring: tune into the Travel Channel to catch more footage of the Middleton Place Hounds. Samantha Brown showcases the traditions of the hunt and the grounds of Middleton Place Plantation as part of the channel’s “Passport to Great Weekends” show.