John Tabatchka affectionately pats his horse, Will, and flips the switch on the Electro-Groom. He begins to methodically vacuum Will’s flanks.
“It’s designed to groom show cattle, horses, etc,” Tabatchka said over the roar of the machine. Will shudders his flesh as if shooing a fly. “He’s a little ticklish.”
Tabatchka is the huntsman for the Sewickley Hunt Club, one of two remaining foxhunting clubs in Western Pennsylvania. Instead of chasing a live fox, Sewickley organizes a drag hunt, in which members chase a fox’s scent through the woods. But Tabatchka’s job remains the same.
“My job is to breed, raise, train and then hunt the hounds on a hunting day,” he said.
Foxhunting came west over the Alleghenies with the region’s earliest European settlers and took root in the region. George Washington himself spent as much time as possible on the back of a horse. The sport is a direct link to the past, Tabatchka said.