By Keswick Life, Photography by George Payne
Hundreds gathered for the 90th Annual Blessing of the Hounds in Keswick early Thanksgiving morning.
The tradition at Grace Episcopal Church dates back to 1929. Many people say they can’t imagine their holiday without the riders attired in their formal hunting attire, the hounds, and the horses. The hunt began with a church service, then a collection for an animal service organization or local group. This year funds benefit the Wildlife Center of Virginia and the African American Teaching Fellows. The riders then follow the hounds and huntsman leaving the churchyard and crossing rt. 231.
After the pageantry each year — the blessing, the horn call, the huntsmen and hounds set off across the countryside. The hounds follow the fox. The riders follow the hounds. It’s a sport of horsemanship, requiring riders to cross streams and jump fences. But the fox usually outruns them all to the safety of its den.
“Keep, oh Lord, this day bright, the horses sure of foot, the hounds swift, the fox elusive, the hunters safe. And may all come safely to their homes. Presented the story of Saint Hubert, the patron of hunters, who lived 1,300 years ago.