The Virginia Horse Festival is a three-day celebration of the equine industry held at the Meadow Event Park, on the grounds of the farm where Secretariat was foaled. Last Saturday, in addition to cheering for 4-Hers competing in horse judging, watching a demonstration by a technical large animal rescue squad, and shopping in the indoor pavilion, attendees were treated to the sound and spectacle of the hunt field as formally turned out Rappahannock Hunt (VA) staff, members, and juniors paraded more than ten couple of hounds.
Rappahannock Hunt MFH and huntsman Michael Brown spoke about his pack's breeding and training. M. Drum photo.
Second-generation Master and huntsman Michael Brown was "mic'd up" to let the audience hear his mounted explanation of the history and practice of foxhunting. The pack followed him around the large covered arena so that spectators on all sides could see hounds, which included variations in type - some with the distictive fuzzier appearance of Welsh blood.
Collins Brown (on lead with Mary Foley), Clara Dart, Wilson Lee Lawson, Dayna Dillon, Barney Riley, Rachel Dillon, and Shannon deWit, among others, turned out in formal attire and braids for the demonstration. M. Drum photo.
In addition to mounted and unmounted whippers-in, members and several juniors - all aboard clean and braided mounts of different sizes - paraded around the ring in a fine demonstration of hunt horses' calmness and versatility. Brown then dismounted to demonstrate several horn calls, which gave the audience of non-foxhunters an opportunity to watch how hounds immediately reacted to the sound.
Everyone enjoyed getting up close and personal with the friendly hounds. M. Drum photo.
In addition to describing the origins of hunting, he talked about training puppies, the schedule on hunting day, the roles of different riders in the field, and how different ages and family members participate together. He patiently answered many questions - all in an accurate but not overwhelming way, which communicated his own passion for our sport without being overly techical or too detailed for the listeners.
Collins Brown and his pony, Winter, enjoyed representing Rappahannock Hunt's family tradition alongside member Mary Foley. M. Drum photo.
Two Rappahannock juniors dismounted and sang a song they had composed that reflected the traditions of courtesy and giving thanks to landowners, staff and hounds at day's end. Toward the end of the hour-long demonstration, the crowd was invited into the ring to meet hounds and horses.
Whipper-in Virginia Rushing, DVM, was delighted to let the children meet her athletic Thoroughbred staff horse. M. Drum photo.
Nearly 30 people - shyly at first, but with more confidence as they realized that indeed, these big spotted dogs were perfectly friendly - came in and enjoyed patting and visiting with the animals up close. The horses were also popular and stood quietly as families with toddlers and babies in carriers stroked their muzzles, asked questions and took pictures.
Horses and ponies stood calmly meeting the multigenerational crowd. Members Susan and Kris Deal, at left, introduce ponies to a curious child. M. Drum photo.
Whether these attendees ever follow hounds themselves, this warm-nosed introduction will surely leave a memorable, positive impression of our sport.
Five Rappahannock juniors posed following the demonstration: Rachel Dillon, Wilson Lee Lawson, Clara Dart, Dayna Dillon, and Barney Riley. M. Drum photo.