A life with the hounds: Huntsman Tot Goodwin

Published 3:29 pm Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Jefferson Tot Goodwin, a third generation huntsman, grew up in Columbus, Ga. He was born at home in Waverly Hall, Ga., and his family lived off the land on their farm. They planted cotton and plowed the fields with mules for income from crops of cotton, corn, and other vegetables. His family&squo;s farm had mules, not horses, and his father and grandfather hunted rabbits, not foxes.

&dquo;My grandad was a horseman. The genes skipped a generation,&uot; said Goodwin. &uot;Once he let me ride his horse when I was 10.&uot;

Goodwin hunted a pack of beagles when he was 8 years old. A neighbor invited him on a hunt and from then on in his life he was hooked on hunting.He became a whip ‐ a person who helps the huntsman riding around the hounds to keep them together in a pack.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

More experience with working with hounds and horses started at age 19 with Anne Ticehurst and the Midland Foxhounds. Goodwin started breaking young horses for Ticehurst and as soon as he learned to post, he started fox hunting.

Five years later, Goodwin bought his first horse and put together a pack of ten hounds. His fondness for animals and gentle nature has helped him become an expert horseman.

&dquo;People would often bring me a horse that was hard to ride or one that no one wanted,&dquo; Goodwin said.

Goodwin cared for and exercised horses daily and became an expert whip. He trained and exercised the hounds, teaching them to follow commands and keep up with the hunt and horses.

&dquo;A good whip makes the huntsman look good,&dquo; says Goodwin.

Goodwin was employed with Ben Hardaway and this job enabled him to travel and hunt with Elsie Morgan of Ireland.

&dquo;She was one of the best I ever saw working with hounds,&dquo; said Goodwin. &dquo;I also have a great deal of respect for Melvin Poe of Virginia. Buster Chadwell of the Essex Foxhounds was also instrumental in my experience with hounds and fox hunting.&bsp; Marty Woods was another person I highly respect and I hunted with him in Florida two weeks ago.&uot;

Horse enthusiast Pat Secor said she heard good things about Tot Goodwin in the fox hunting circles some 13 or 14 years ago. She wrote him a letter about starting a new fox hunt in the Green Creek area outside Columbus, near her Fox Berry Farm.

&dquo;I wanted to get back to the old way of fox hunting as when I was growing up,&uot; says Secor.&bsp; &uot;I wanted to see the hounds working. Tot has a real inborn gift for fox hunting and working with the hounds and the horses.&dquo;

Goodwin moved to the area in 1989. He rented a barn and seven acres in the countryside.He was soon named huntsman of Green Creek and the job was full time. During hunting season from November to March, the huntsman rides the hunts and manages the hounds and keeps the land and hunting territory in good footing. Year around the huntsman cares for and trains and works the hounds.

Goodwin spends every day with his hounds, forming a bond so they work together and obey him as a team. Older hounds train the younger ones.

&dquo;They don&squo;t learn anything sitting around in the kennel!&dquo; says Goodwin. &dquo;I can&squo;t enjoy going on a vacation for worrying about the hounds at home. A good huntsman needs to listen to the hounds and only speak to them when necessary. I don&squo;t like a lot of hollering, whip cracking, and loud commands.&dquo;

Goodwin says he respects a whip who is a bold rider and can work with the huntsman. He needs to stay with the hounds on a hunt and keep the huntsman informed. A huntsman needs two good whips to help him, according to Goodwin based on his experience with the hunt. The master needs to be good with people and know the land, the rules, and the regulations of the sport.

As huntsman, Goodwin&squo;s goal is to provide a good time for the members and to be safe. He says he was always taught to be nice and courteous to everyone whether you may like them or not.

&dquo;If you know they don&squo;t like you, just be absent when they come around,&dquo; says Goodwin.

Goodwin says the Green Creek Hunt and Hounds is a great bunch of friendly people who get along and have fun together. And they have a lovely pack of working hounds for the hunt.

Goodwin also says he feels fortunate to have the team of masters he has right now: Pat Hale, Tom Jackson and Roger Smith. They are great and have made the hunts enjoyable and excellent in every way, he says.

Most of all, Goodwin says, he values his wonderful wife and lovely hounds.