Fox Hunting Life with Horse and Hound

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Junior Field Hunter Championships: A Big Tree From a Little Acorn

jnafhc claire goff.betsy parkerClaire Goff riding Miss Congeniality was judged 1st Field Champion, 13 and over, of the 2016 Junior North American Field Hunter Championships at the finals hosted by the Iroquois Hunt. With Claire are (l-r) Dr. Jack van Nagell, MFH, host, and President of the MFHA; Marion Chungo, organizer; Douglas Wise-Stuart, MFH, Old Dominion Hounds, and co-founder of the event; Cathy Murphy, daughter of the late Pat Murphy, longtime Iroquois huntsman ; and Cindy Goff, Claire's grandmother and former member of the Iroquois field. And the cute dog is Bert! /  Betsy Burke Parker photo 

Junior foxhunters and their parents traveled from thirteen states to Lexington, Kentucky, where the Iroquois Hunt hosted the finals of the 2016 Junior North American Field Hunter Championships. Thirty-three hunts participated over the course of the informal season by holding qualifying meets from which the finalists were chosen by mounted judges. In thirteen years, the program has grown steadily in participation and geographically from its modest start involving a few hunts in Virginia.

The program is succeeding because it’s purpose rises above just competition. Founders Douglas Wise, MFH, Old Dominion Hounds (VA) and Iona Pillion from the Blue Ridge Hunt (VA) had a larger dream: bring children to new hunting countries, broaden their hunting perspectives, and open their eyes to the fact that these hunting countries 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.

Caelinn Leahy’s Horse Hunts, Wins $50,000 Grand Prix

caelinn-leahy-and-splendor-jumper-and-field-hunterCaelinn Leahy and Splendor go airborne, celebrating their Grand Prix Jumper win at HITS Balmoral in July. "He's so laid back out hunting!" Caelinn says. / Andrew Ryback photography

Back in the day, horsemen and women used to show or event their horses in the summer and foxhunt the same horses in the fall and winter. We don’t see that any more, except maybe in Ireland where they still believe that foxhunting teaches horses about some of the fun in life, how to handle the terrain, and how to get themselves out of trouble by finding that fifth leg when needed.

Fifteen-year-old Caelinn Leahy, who has a connection to Irish ways through her dad, Tony, foxhunts an eighteen-year-old bay Hanoverian gelding. His name is Splendor, and he’s a show jumper, too. On July 22nd, Caelinn and Splendor won the $50,000 HITS Balmoral Grand Prix in Illinois.

Big Year Ahead for Junior Field Hunter Championships

masters and junior fox hunters at Belle Meade Hunt opening meetThe 2017 Finals of the JNAFHC will be hosted by the Belle Meade Hunt (GA) on November 10-12. In this photo, Belle Meade Masters and  juniors celebrate an Opening Meet on the front steps of the clubhouse, Boots Hall. Masters, standing in the back row are: (left) Epp Wilson, (middle) Dr. Gary Wilkes, and (right) Charlie Lewis.

How much foxhunting excitement can juniors buy for $75.00 these days? A junior with turbo-jet-powered horse transport could conceivably hunt with up to twenty-two packs of hounds in twelve states from the East to the Mid-West in qualifying meets over a three-month period this fall. Juniors without such a machine will still find several meets in their region plus an exciting weekend at the finals.

Information for the coming season’s schedule of meets and a single entry form for the entire series is available on the JNAFHC website. MFHA President Tony Leahy, MFH will be Chief Judge at the championship finals the weekend of November 10 to 12.

Some years ago, as the field was walking through the country during one qualifying meet, a child stared at an attractive house and asked a question that warmed the hearts of the organizers.  “Why,” she asked, “would someone build a house in the middle of such nice hunting country?”

Foxhunting Junior Wins USEF Pony Medal Final

IMG 1024Ada Catherine hunting at Moore County on a lovely Thoroughbred mare owned by T.J. Watson, a hunting friend.

Ada Catherine Hays has been on the foxhunting scene since she was in diapers.  “She was an infant in her father’s arms waiting for me at the breakfast after a hunt,” said her mom Elizabeth Hays. “She started hunting on a lead line at the age of four, sharing an 11.3-hand pony field hunter with her brother. She was off the lead and hunting on a great pony at the age of six.”

In mid-August, Ada Catherine, now twelve, took her show pony, Center Field, to her first-ever major show, and won the USEF Pony Medals Final over 164 entries. That’s what the foxhunting experience gives talented young riders. It’s interesting that this story of Ada Catherine’s experience follows so closely on the heels of our recent article about seventeen-year-old Caelinn Leahy, foxhunter and Grand Prix jumper winner.

The Hunt

Enjoy this foxhunting essay by ten-year-old Libby Nelson. It was awarded second place in the United States Pony Clubs Hildegard Neill Ritchie Foxhunting Writing Contest. Judges were Nancy Ambrosiano, former USPC Foxhunting Committee chair; Mary Pierson, lifelong Pony Club supporter; and yours truly from Foxhunting Life. Libby is a D-2 member of the De La Brooke Pony Club in the Maryland Region and aspires to be a junior whipper-in with the De La Brooke Foxhounds.

libby nelson and gallant gabe Libby Nelson and Gallant Gabe

I was cantering through the beautiful autumn woods when someone yelled, “Fox!” My horse reared and in lightning speed I was on the ground and thought to myself, “Back to dream horse.” I had grown out of my pony a few months ago and I was looking for a calm, safe foxhunter. I was taking a gorgeous grey out hunting. He was supposed to be a “gem.” Apparently he has a fear of foxes. This guy wasn’t as much of a “gem” in the hunt field.

The next day I found a bold bay and took him hunting. I was all packed and ready to go. It was time to load him on the trailer when his owner called. She said she had forgotten to tell me that he doesn’t load without his friend, Clyde. After two hours of trying to get him to load, I had to accept the fact that I was going to miss the hunt.