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By Lauren R. Giannini
Equine veterinarian Scott Traphagen starts the 2011-12
season as the new joint-master of the Palm Beach Hounds
in Martin County, Florida, where he and his wife Pat will
also serve as honorary whippers-in. Scott’s background
includes many years of hunting and whipping-in with packs
up and down the east coast. He has hunted with various
packs in England, including the Exmoor when Capt. Ronnie
Wallace was MFH/huntsman.
How did you get involved with foxhunting?
My wife Pat started hunting frst with Palm Beach,
probably in 1980 or ’81. I team-roped and I said I wasn’t
going to dress up in those funny-type pants and go riding
around. I had ridden English, but at the time I wasn’t
interested in foxhunting. About a year later, I was at a
rodeo and my wife was sitting in the stands with Carol and
C.R. Stanley who hunted with Palm Beach at that time,
prior to starting Four Winds Foxhounds and they invited us
to hunt with them. I went out with Pat at Palm Beach and
had a great time and was “hooked.” I think it was opening
day and our daughters were mounted on our better hunt
horses. I had borrowed a horse from a friend that turned
out to be a bit of a bronc. It reared and lunged and jumped
into the middle of big hole with me. After that we decided
not to kill ourselves and started getting better horses.
What advice do you have for people who’d like
to whip-in?
I was lucky enough to whip-in to some pretty good
huntsmen and I learned by on the job training. Once in a
while you get a little praise. If they don’t say anything, you
fgure you did a pretty good job. If they let you have it, you
know you’ve screwed up. Whipping-in is a job and it’s a
big responsibility. It isn’t quite so glamorous when you’re
out there for two or three hours looking for lost hounds and
everyone else is back at the hunt breakfast, partying and
having mimosas. It’s not all glory days. I enjoy whipping-in,
but it’s a responsible job and one has to look at it in that
Are you a people-managing master or a hound-
I hope to complement my joint-master Robert Pelio.
He has done such a wonderful job on land acquisition
and, as a result, we have a lot of country to hunt. We’re
very blessed that way. I think that maybe my area will be
dealing with the hunting end of it – that’s where I’d like to
see myself, but I don’t know for sure yet. I have to go on
into the mastership – it’s a responsible job, like whipping-in,
and I’ll learn by doing.
Do you and your wife ever get into an interesting
situation while you’re whipping-in?
Basically, our horses go much better if they’re not side by
side in the hunt feld. Usually she’s on one side of the covert and
I’m on the other. That takes care of any differences of opinion
we might have about what we should do in the course of a day’s
hunting. Pat and I both have a passion for hunting. It’s a way of
life we both enjoy.
How important is it to have the right horse for hunting?
Absolutely important. I see so many people who don’t enjoy
their hunting, quit hunting or get hurt. A lot of that goes back to
the fact that they are improperly mounted. One of the biggest
mistakes is to be over-mounted. People who begin hunting and
those who haven’t really ridden much before tend to think they’re
too good too soon and if they’re over-mounted with too much
horsepower, they’re going to run into trouble.
I’ve hunted some straight Thoroughbreds and I like them, but I
kind of like 3/4-breds or 7/8. One-quarter Percheron, three-
quarter Thoroughbred would be what I’d go looking for and what
we usually end up riding. Half-breds tend to be too heavy and
can’t cope with the heat – you’ve got to have some blood. That 1/4
Percheron-3/4 Thoroughbred cross will give you some stamina,
they usually jump well and they have some speed, but you don’t
need racehorse speed. I’ve hunted a racehorse that won half a
million dollars on the track, but I guess I’m getting too old for that.
If you’re going to hunt, you need a horse that knows its job and
that suits you. It’s a great sport, but you have to be riding the right
horse so you can enjoy yourself out there.
Scott Traphagen, VMD and newly minted MFH of Palm Beach
Hounds, whips-in off Murphy, a six-year-old 3/4 bred
Photo by Lori Hemings
Five Questions
for D. Scott
Traphagen, MFH