Sunday, August 22, 2010

Good Bye Aiken Hounds

Dear Aiken Hounds Friends,

It is with much regret that I write this letter to all of you. On August 9th, at 9:00am, Linda Mclean came into my house unannounced and told me I was no longer Joint Master of the Aiken Hounds. There was no discussion or communication. The decision had been made and I was out. I wish to make it perfectly clear that I have not and will not resign upon Linda’s orders without due reason and/ or cause. To this day, I am unclear of the reason for this decision.

I have hunted with the Aiken Hounds under several masters and have a long standing family history with the hunt. This is not only unfair and unwarranted to me but a direct insult to my family history in this town and also to the Aiken Hounds itself. It is also insulting to all of you that the hunt is being run in this manner.

It was a huge honor to be asked by Linda in 1997 to become a Joint Master. This has always been a job I have taken seriously and carried out with tremendous pride. .I have filled almost every position in the hunt and hunted hounds myself for several years. I have fulfilled all kennel duties and have organized multiple activities to support the hunt.

Apparently, the Aiken Hounds have no formal By-Laws. The way this has happened is all rather mysterious. After receiving the news from Linda, I approached the past Masters of The Aiken Hounds to learn if I had any recourse. I was assured by the three past Masters that this was not the way to do things and they offered to hold a meeting where Linda and I could discuss this in a calm, controlled manner. They assured me when the Mastership was passed onto Linda, The Aiken Hounds was never meant to be owned by one person.

They also assured me of their complete support. Just before the meeting, I received a call saying the meeting was cancelled and there was nothing anyone could do. Again, there was no reason, no explanation. I was told I just had to accept Linda’s decision.

I feel this is an unrealistic and unprofessional way to handle a situation. Just two weeks prior to this debacle, Linda and I were planning the calendar for the next season and all seemed right with the world. There was no indication that I was to be “removed “from the hunt.

Apparently, I have somehow fallen out of Linda’s favor. She has made the decision that I am not interested in hunting or the welfare of the Aiken Hounds. It is my intent that all of you know why I may not be hunting with the Aiken Hounds again. I have been told I am not “allowed to”.

It is my intent that I tell you my interest as Joint Master was to maintain the integrity and tradition of the Aiken Hounds, full stop. There was no duty I would not do to support the hunt.

My exodus from the Aiken Horse Show was well known, as are my feelings towards the modern practices of drugging horses. Linda does not share these feelings.

The Fox Hunter safety clinics have been highly successful and improved the quality of our hunting. I shall continue to hold them as I hope they will help maintain the old traditions of good riding and horsemanship rather than promoting better riding through chemistry. It is my opinion that one must learn how to ride a horse first before one can ride with hounds.

I enjoy my time with the Aiken Hounds immensely. I have hunted in many places and the Aiken Hounds are very special to me. Linda is very wrong to have come up with whatever opinion she now holds. Sadly, she has created some scenario in her mind that lacks the dignity and honesty a senior Master of Hounds should portray. Her mother would be mortified by this behavior as is mine. No hunt can run without complications and issues but communication is a far greater tool than annihilation and/or sabotage. I am willing to own up to any offense I may have committed but feel I am due the respect and courtesy of a full explanation.

I am sure there may be people out there who are not interested in the knowing the “what’s or why’s” of these goings on. In Linda’s most recent hunt invitation of 2011, she made public that I am no longer hunting with the Aiken Hounds... I am terribly grateful for the outpouring of support I have received from many of you and I hope this will not make things awkward for any of you when next we meet.

I am and have been an active supporter of this town and care very much about Aiken. I hope you will continue to join the Fox Hunter safety clinics and support the Horse Trials at Paradise Farm. I also want you to know that I was “advised” not to write this letter telling me this would be bad for my business and future in Aiken. I have chosen to write this as I believe in who I am and what I do. I believe in principle and proper etiquette.

The Aiken Hounds and the Hitchcock woods and Aiken itself are for no one person. The tradition of sport and sportsmanship founded by the Hitchcock’s are something we all need to remember and emulate. This is what Aiken is about.

In closing. I strongly suggest that a committee be formed and formal by-laws be written to govern the Aiken Hounds, to protect all involved from issues like this. The Aiken Hounds are unique and very very special. I do not believe the entire future of one of Aiken’s finest traditions should lie completely in the hands of one person. I was told there was a committee, by the committee to do just this. But that committee changed their minds and stories very quickly.

I am looking for closure to a very sad incident in my life. I have never been thrown out of anything... I do not know why this has happened or how long this had been preplanned by Linda. I feel I deserve, as anyone would, a proper explanation. I ask all of you to put yourselves in my position for a moment and decide how you would feel if this happened to you.


Lellie Ward

1 comment:

Sandy said...

This is indeed a very sad day for Aiken Hounds. Thank you Lellie for all that you have done to help us become better, more confident riders, without having to resort to other means.