Carl “Doc” Simmons fell in love with hunting from the first day he tried it. He rode with Suffolk County’s Smithtown Hunt on Long Island, but took inspiration from the old, very social (and defunct) Meadow Brook Hounds in Nassau County, a hunt that counted Theodore Roosevelt as a member before he became president of the U.S.
Doc learned that a secretary would sit at a table every time Meadow Brook went out, taking notes on who was riding, the name of their horse, the grooms and guests, the weather conditions.
After looking at those write-ups, he started his own hunting diary. He kept notes of his first 500 hunts over a 10-year period, and then was able to figure out how the numbers mounted after he moved to Virginia and hunted several times a week. All told, he has hunted with 33 clubs in six states and seven countries.
On Boxing Day, the day after Christmas, the 70-year-old Bernardsville resident marked his 1,000th day of hunting. Before the field at the Monmouth County Hunt (mchconservancy.org) started off, he raised his flask and members lifted their stirrup cups, as he offered a toast, his “ode to the hunt:”
May the fox be sporting, and the scent be strong.
May your mount be willing all hunt long.
May the hounds be active, true to the line,
And upon our return, all’s safe and fine.
May the sun be shining, yet the weather cool.
And, above all else . . .
May your flask be ever full.
Doc noted his achievement isn’t unique. As he pointed out, anyone able to put in 50 hunts a year for 20 years can enjoy the same achievement, though that’s easier said than done.
“There’s probably a lot of people who have had 1,000 hunts, but they just never thought of it,” he commented.
With the pressures of work and other demands, difficult weather and the challenge of keeping horses sound, however, 50 hunts a year is not within everyone’s reach.
“He should be proud of it,” said Dennis Foster, executive director of the Masters of Foxhounds Association, who has ridden with 408 different hunts in 11 countries, and logged thousands of times out with the hounds.
Of course, Dennis is in a singular position, but referring to Doc’s milestone, he noted, “It isn’t something most people can say they did. It’s an accomplishment, and if he took the effort to document it, (it’s) something very special to him.”
Doc, who has a doctorate in management, is president and CEO of Global Network Solutions, a consulting firm. Although he rode while growing up on a farm in Western Pennsylvania, he stopped when his time was devoted to college, a stint as a small-college All American football player and playing with a New York Giants farm team. He then devoted himself to his career, and didn’t get back into horses until he was in his 40s.
He started hunting in 1992, after taking riding lessons at the C.W. Post Equestrian Center in Old Westbury on Long Island, territory that was used by Smithtown for a drag hunt. After looking at hunting pictures in the lobby of the Post facility he decided, “I want to do that. And that was it.
“I fell in love with it. I love to dress up, frankly,” he said with a chuckle, but then cited hunting’s physical, emotional, intellectual, social and spiritual benefits.
“It gathers all of our senses that are alive,” he stated.
Monmouth Joint Master Meg Valnoski said Doc had just started hunting with Monmouth this season, and told her he would be reaching his milestone this winter.
“He brings great enthusiasm and really enjoys the traditions of foxhunting, which includes both the hunting and social aspects. He’s been a great addition to our hunt,” said Meg.
The other joint master, MJ Carey, agreed, adding, “He understands and respects the sport, and the tradition of the sport. That’s what’s kept our sport alive, the people who hold deep in their hearts the traditions of the sport.”
I just learned that Doc achieved his milestone on Alex, a horse he leases from Kit and Shane Alley, the owners of Harmony Hill Stables in Allentown.
Here is Alex’s story, courtesy of Kit:
We are an approved partner farm for Turning for Home Retired Racehorses, Parx Racing, Bensalem Pa. We partner with Turning for Home to take off-the-track thoroughbreds to rehab, retrain and rehome them. In the program for just over a year, we have rehabilitated, retrained and rehomed 11 OTTBs.
Alex was one of the very first OTTBs that we took in from Turning for Home in October 2015. Alex had one of the worst bowed tendons I had ever seen, and in fact, the vet had recommended putting her down until TFH and our farm got involved. It took us almost one year to rehab Alex.
After her long rehabilitation, we started retraining her and because she had been “on the farm” so long she was stubborn to retrain. We got her out on some hunter paces. Finally, with a lot of patience and love, we built a solid training foundation so that Alex was ready for a second career and her forever home.
We advertised Alex for adoption and many people loved her conformation and her pedigree (Cat Thief) but absolutely no one would give her a chance because of her previous injury. Many people want a “perfect horse” with no injuries and so many excellent OTTBs, like Alex, get overlooked. We kept riding and training her because we knew how good she was and believed in her. Then Doc Simmons contacted us and was interested in leasing an OTTB for the hunt season and adopting an additional OTTB gelding as well.
He was unsure at first because of her size, 15.3 hands, which is another reason OTTBs are overlooked. I encouraged him to just give our girl a chance and he did and he loves her. In fact he refers to her as his “new girlfriend.”
When Doc achieved his 1,000th hunt milestone upon her trusty back and was giving his toast, tears were streaming from my eyes; tears of happiness, because I knew that we had brought Alex back and she had finally found her forever home and second career with Doc.