Living in the midst of Virginia’s hunt country has it’s perks. One of the nicest, aside from the scenic backdrop of rolling hills, miles of painted four board fences and Gone With the Wind sunsets, is the pageantry of the horses and hounds. Just a short distance down the road from the popular Keswick Vineyards in Cismont, Virginia is a must do for Thanksgiving.
At 10 a.m. on Thanksgiving morning the church bells toll and the annual Blessing of the Hounds is celebrated as an outdoor service at Grace Episcopal Church established in 1742. This prayer service was first held on November 28th, 1929 and is a well loved tradition that “dates back to the eighth century when St. Hubert ( the son of the Duke of Aquitaine) was hunting on Good Friday and saw a stag with a luminous crucifix between it’s antlers. He allowed the stag to get away and ultimately founded a monastery where he bred the black and tan hounds. He later was canonized by the church as the patron saint of hunters”.
Formal fox hunting attire is elegant and functional. The uniform consists of scarlet colored coats worn with white breeches or black blazers with buff breeches and both always worn with a black hat and black riding boots. Stock ties accentuate white shirts and are protective and functional. In case of an injury, the tie can be removed and used as a tourniquet, sling or bandage and pinned using the simple stock pin.
This has become a family tradition on Thanksgiving, all bundled up with warm clothes, a cup of hot coffee and standing huddled with others awaiting the entrance of the horses and hounds. The horses and hounds arrive promptly clip clopping with their riders in fox hunt regalia under the shadow of the Grace bell tower. The hounds rustle around, responding to their masters direction and sniffing for some of the treats tossed from the riders on horseback. Horse tails swish, snorting sounds and frosty breath in the cold morning air while the voices softly sing anthems of patriotism. It almost seems as though the animals are hushed by the quiet notes of America the Beautiful and My Country Tis of Thee.
The sun rises above the tower of Grace Episcopal Church and the crystal clear blue skies provide a brilliant contrast to the vivid scarlet coats, while we reflect with thanksgiving on the blessings we take for granted the rest of the year. If you haven’t been before, I highly recommend It. The children will love it and it’s great family time.