Fox Hunting Life with Horse and Hound

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graham buston.smallHuntsman Graham Buston brings the Blue Ridge hounds to the first draw, where a fox was quickly unkenneled for a field of juniors participating in one of 31 qualifying meets for the 2016 Junior North American Field Hunter Championships. /  Michelle Arnold photo

Every junior who qualifies by competing at any one of thirty-one Qualifying Meets offered across fourteen states and provinces will be eligible to compete in the Junior North American Field Hunter Championship Finals this year. The meets are in full swing.

The Blue Ridge Hunt hosted a qualifying meet on Saturday, September 24, 2016 at the McIntosh farm situated just above the Shenandoah River under western brow of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Anne McIntosh, MFH led the field of hopefuls, judges, and hunt members, the latter riding behind the junior competitors for a change.

Hunting was excellent, with foxes getting away right at the start and giving the judges plenty of opportunities to watch and judge the young riders and their mounts in action. And everyone viewed the quarry at least once!

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JNAFHC2015.heatherjumpHeather Feconda, Loudoun-Fairfax Hunt (VA), was Champion, 13 & Over, on Yogi. /  Richard Clay photo

The Junior North American Field Hunter Championship competition that began modestly twelve years ago between a handful of geographically-close Virginia hunts continues to expand in scope. This year’s competition involved juniors from twenty-seven hunts located across six MFHA Districts.

The program is succeeding because it’s purpose rises above just competition. Founders Douglas Wise, MFH, Old Dominion Hounds and Iona Pillion from the Blue Ridge Hunt had a larger dream: bring children to new hunting countries and open their eyes to the fact that these playgrounds don’t just happen to be there for them by chance, but have been nurtured and conserved for the perpetuation of wildlife, open space, and for those who treasure the natural world.

“We want these kids to know what a conservation easement is,” said Marion Chungo, one of the organizers.

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 andrews bridgeAndrews Bridge first-year huntsman Adam Townsend praises hounds for their work. Mounted rider is whipper-in Charlie Fleischmann.

Adam Townsend joined the Andrews Bridge Foxhounds (PA) this past April as its first professional huntsman in many years. Adam came to us from the Elkridge-Harford Hunt (MD) where he served as first whipper-in for the last three seasons. Since his arrival he has been working diligently with our pack of Black & Tan Penn-Marydels. Each day’s hunting has shown excellent sport but on Monday, October 28, 2013, Adam's efforts were rewarded with a red letter day.

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junior nafh champ.2011(l-r) Lauren Gibson and Landmark Cracker Jack, winner of the Hilltopper Division; Iona Pillion; and Douglas Wise-Stuart, MFH / Liz Callar photoThe tenth annual Junior North American Field Hunter Championship competition is in the offing with this year’s finals scheduled for Sunday, November 4, 2012 at the Radnor Hunt in Chester County, Pennsylvania. What started in Virginia has now spread to neighboring mid-Atlantic states and the number of participating hunts continues to grow.

More than a competition, the main purposes are to expose foxhunters eighteen years of age and younger to a variety of hunting countries, to instill in their young minds the importance of open space preservation if our sport is to continue beyond their lifetimes, and to stress suitability of mount to rider. The concept was hatched ten years ago by Douglas Wise-Stuart, MFH and Iona Pillion, both renowned for their junior foxhunting programs.

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norman_on_SlimKaren L. Myers photo

Over the past couple of months we have run a few News items about the Triple Crown season, kicked off just last Saturday by the Kentucky Derby. We wrote about Uncle Mo, who many in the Thoroughbred industry hoped would be a legitimate Triple Crown contender and breathe new life into the industry. We wrote about Rosie Napravnik who with nearly one thousand wins to her credit hoped to be the first woman to win the Kentucky Derby. True, this isn’t foxhunting, and the question arises whether or not I should be publishing these stories in Foxhunting Life. Why do I?

My answer is because that’s where our great horses come from. The Thoroughbred is the elite athlete of the equine world, and many of our field hunters are off-the-track Thoroughbreds, Thoroughbred crosses, or have Thoroughbred bloodlines in their foundation stock.

If when you take to the field you care at all about grace, generosity, and/or athleticism, you have to thank those bloodlines and those beautiful dreamers—the breeders, trainers, owners, and jocks—who commit their lives, their fortunes, and all their energies to the mostly unforgiving quest of producing a better racehorse. And except for one happy outcome last Saturday, weren’t the hopes of many of those beautiful dreamers cruelly dashed?

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