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00000176-e6f7-dce8-adff-f6f771470003The people of Pittsburgh and the Western PA region have a deep pride and connection to our roots and an honor to those who came before us. Pittsburgh is a city that has much to be proud of. The growth of the area in the late 1800s-1900s is an achievement unprecedented in other parts of the country. As our region rises from the ashes of the mills, we will look back on the incredible people and events that lead us to this second birth as a powerhouse region. This series is made possible with support from UPMC. You can check out 90.5 WESA Celebrates People Making a Difference here, which was also supported by UPMC.Subscribe to the podcast here.

In Sewickley, George Washington's Favorite Sport Is Alive And Well

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Margaret J. Krauss / 90.5 WESA
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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.

“It’s full of tradition," he said. "And the job [huntsman] itself hasn’t changed a whole lot. It’s still up in the morning, take care of the animals; hounds have always needed to eat, trails have needed to be cleared.”

If the appearance and comportment of foxhunts haven’t changed much, the physical landscape has, said Andy Komer, joint master of the Sewickley Hunt.

“We’re losing land for development,” he said. “So without landowners [allowing the hunt to use their land] you couldn’t have a hunt.”

The Sewickley Hunt Club can be found astride their horses on Wednesdays and Saturdays from August through Jan. 1, following a scent as vulnerable to the passage of time as the hunt itself.

90.5 WESA Celebrates Inventing Pittsburgh is supported by UPMC.