The United States Pony Clubs announce the three top finishers in the 2017 Hildegard Neill Ritchie Joys of Foxhunting Writing Contest. This competition is open to all D- or C-rated Pony Club members. The winner receives a $200 cash prize to spend on foxhunting dues, hunt capping fees, Pony Club camp or related activities, with smaller awards to second and third places. From the sounds of the hunt field, to a sleepy pony reluctant to leave his hay-filled stall, to the unseen bonds between hound and fox, these young writers capture the thrills and mysteries of the field. 

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No one captures the essence of a day's hunting quite like our juniors! M. Drum photo.

Congratulations to the winners, and we wish you many more years of good sport!

First Place:

The Hunt

By Alyssa Seldal, 12, D-3 Traditional, Carbon River Pony Club

“Ware hole, ware hole, ware hole.”

Each horse canters around the hole.

HOWLLLLLLLLLL!

Everyone slows down to a halt.

The hounds have found the “fox”.

We take a break

to let the hounds rest.

CRACK!

The hounds

head off down the trail.

Everyone follows,

trotting to keep up.

Soon we are

galloping down the trail,

jumping jumps one by one.

After about 2 hours,

we start to slow down.

We see more and more

trailers and finally,

the clubhouse.

“Good boy” I say,

before I dismount.

Afterwards we sit

outside the clubhouse,

eat lunch and talk

about the hunt.

After that we

load the horses up

and head off after a

wonderful foxhunt.

Second Place:

The Fox and the Hunt

By Lila Entwistle, 12, Junior member of the Mission Valley Hunt, D-3 Traditional, South Wind Pony Club

These are my acres. The deserted abundance, my home. I live to be the lion of my wilderness, the dreamer of my plains. But to my kingdom, a fox. I am a wise fox, but I do not know who is tugging on the strings, the strings that are attached to the sun and the moon, the lakes and the land, life and death.

As you can tell, they are opposites, but they run my kingdom to a higher power than I. They are beautiful if you can see them; if you aren't blinded by conspiracies. One day, I did see them, the strings. I had heard the thunder, not clapping, but thunder that thumped the earth delicately. I heard a million babbles, I heard a powerful horn, I heard the “Tally Ho.” I found my burrow and cowered like a possum. I was a disgrace to my kingdom. Would they all die from the human’s hounds?

The answer is no…The hunters sat there a second, praising each other and gazing at me in my burrow. The dogs started frolicking and I knew I found the strings. It was as if we were both in my burrow, the humans and me, patting each other on the back and respecting one another’s presence. It was like we were old friends seeing each other again. The stereotypes drifted away in the impenetrable fog. I could see how beautiful it was. Every week they came out and I presented myself, happily.

Everything was well until they stopped coming out. It had felt like years; a fox’s life can be short. It had been a while, but one fox said it was their off-season; their break. Soon, the thunder commenced.The babbling began, the many huntsmen and women screaming, “Tally Ho!” I found my heart raising and lifting me up. Like a balloon in my chest. I came out of my burrow and saw it. A huntswomen carrying a child. 

I was the first fox the infant had ever seen and she happily babbled with the hounds. She reached for me and I knew the strings were not caused by someone, o rsomething… they are caused by the acts we do. Do we do something kind? The strings pull; do we do something out of our way? The strings tug another. Some day I could repay the kindness brought to me by the huntsmen. I just have to wait for the right moment. Until then, together, we play and the strings tug.

Third Place:

Starfire’s First Hunt

By Sylvia Byars, 10, D-2 Traditional, Wayne-Du Page Hunt Pony Club

I woke to the sound of grain being dumped into my feed-box and hay being shoved into my hay-net. My rider made some weird noises.

“Up and at ‘em, Starfire! It’s 5:00 a.m. and the hunt starts at 6:15.”

‘Well,’ I thought, ‘I’ll hustle along with my grain and start on my hay as fast as I can. My rider doesn’t like to be kept waiting."

It took fifteen minutes to get to the barn, so we had to leave at what you humans call 5:45. Since I only had about forty-five minutes, I could only eat about half of my hay.

“Don’t worry, Starfire,” says rider. “It will still be there when you come back.”

Once we got to the barn, we had ten minutes to groom quickly and tack up. Then we walked over to a grassy field. Two people who were there. One had a brass-looking horn. The other one was in the center of about 30-45 dogs. The dogs looked scary, but they were actually nice.

In the next five minutes, about forty more people arrived. Precisely at 6:15 we set off. The man with the horn gave it a loud vroop! and we were off. There was a lot of excitement, with the hounds barking and baying, and the horses jumping over logs and rushing after one another. It made me a little nervous, but it was fun!

Soon, though, I began to tire. I looked around for Snowbell, my best friend. I had seen her earlier, and I wanted someone to talk to. I spotted her a little ways ahead of me. I put on an extra spurt of speed and sidled up next to her.

“Hey, Snowbell!” I nickered.

“Hi, Starfire!” Snowbell replied. “I was just thinking about you. When do you think this is going to end?”

“I don’t know.” I answered truthfully, “I was going to ask you the same question. Are you tired?”“Yeah, I am.” Snowbell neighed with a toss of her beautiful, silvery mane. “I hope it’s going to end soon.”

We continued this talk for a while. After about forty-five more minutes, everyone slowed down. We had gone in a big circle, and we were back at the barn.

Everyone drove back home, tired. I was also hungry. I was glad I still had hay. After I ate, I slept a little. I couldn’t wait to do it next time!

The End

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