Nearly 55 riders representing more than 22 hunts from 11 states converged on Virginia for a fabulous week of hunting during the 2016 Theodora A. Randolph Field Hunter Championships. Organized in conjunction with the Middleburg Fall Races, the competition draws foxhunters and their mounts vying for the prestigious title of Champion Field Hunter and a cash prize of $2500 to the hunt that they represent.
The competition is divided into two categories - owner/rider and a horse ridden by someone other than its owner. Most importantly, the week celebrates the traditions of conservation, cameraderie and sportsmanship that underpin the thrill of the chase.
Particpants enjoyed four days of exemplary hunting with the Middleburg Hunt from the Goodstone Inn, the Blue Ridge Hunt from Ellerslie Farm, Orange County Hounds from Springfield and the Bull Run Hunt from The Hill. The panel of judges, which included Snowden Clarke, Michelle Rouse, Rick Laimbeer, Karyn Wilson, Robert Taylor, Tina Konyot, and Leah Palmer, selected the hunters that they would most like to ride. Finalists were selected following each day of hunting for the final competition at Glenwood Park on Saturday morning.
Joint Master of the Middleburg Hunt, Tim Harmon, expressed the shared sentiments of all the hosts as he reflected, "Middleburg was honored to host the opening meet for the championships and the cocktail party that evening. We are so thankful for all who came out and participated - and we were very proud of how hard the hounds worked that magnificent autumn day. It is always exciting for us to meet fellow field hunters from around the country, and to share our beautiful country and wonderful hounds. We are especially thankful to The Goodstone Inn for hosting the meet and stirrup cup, and to all our landowners for allowing us to share their beautiful land for this great traditional sport."
Saturday dawned rainy and cold, a stark contrast to the beautiful weather enjoyed during the week. Judging began with Best Turned Out, where the most minute detail was scrutinized. George Kuk of the Middleburg Hunt, riding King of Hearts, won the coveted Best Turned Out for the second year in a row, perhaps with some credit due to his wife, Devon Zebrovious. Reserve Champion Best Turned Out was well-earned by Kathleen O'Keefe, representing the Casanova Hunt, on Kathleen Lyons' Prince Of Diamonds.
Competitors listening carefully to the field master's instructions. Photo by Liz Callar.
All of the finalists then participated in a mock hunt, judged over a variety of obstacles. A subset were then called back to execute an individual handy hunter test, which required riders to navigate a course of jumps similar to those that might be found in the hunt field, gallop, halt, dismount to retrieve a fallen hunt whip, and to open and close a gate. Judges Snowden Clarke and Rick Laimbeer then mounted a few of the top contestants for further evaluation.
Battalion and Cameron Sadler, MFH Moore County Hounds, Owner/Rider Champion. Photo by Liz Callar.
Cameron Sadler, Joint MFH of the Moore County Hounds (NC), was crowned victor in the owner/rider category on her Battalion, a 8-year-old Thoroughbred gelding in his third season of hunting. Sadler, picked as a finalist at the Blue Ridge meet, not only participated in each of the four qualifying meets, but ventured with her Moore County colleagues to hunt with Rappahannock on their "day off." "The week was a lot of fun, end to end...with excellent sport, great times with friends, and lovely countryside to cross. However, the best part is having a horse like Battalion, he takes care of me, and that allows me to really focus on the hounds and their efforts."
Virginia Grace and Jennifer Nesbit, Keswick Hunt, Owner/Rider Reserve Champion. Photo by Liz Callar.
Jennifer Nesbit, representing the Keswick Hunt, earned Reserve Championship honors on her Virginia Grace. She was followed by Devon Zebrovious, representing the Middleburg Hunt on Barrister; Heather Heider representing the Loudoun Fairfax Hunt on Everclene; Rosie Campbell, MFH, representing the Bull Run Hunt on Dylan; Glenn Epstein, representing the Piedmont Fox Hounds on Marqo; Mary Ann Ghadban, representing the Orange County Hounds on Maggie Mae; and Eleanor Morison, representing the Piedmont Fox Hounds on Smart Dreamer.
Grayland Woods, owned by Karen Martz and ridden by Teresa Croce, Middleburg Hunt, Non-owner/Rider Champion. Photo by Liz Callar.
Teresa Croce, representing the Middleburg Hunt on Karen Martz's Grayland Woods, took top honors in the nonowner/rider category. They were followed by Reserve Champion Laura Sloan, representing the Blue Ridge Hunt on Dennis Foster's Strutt; Karen Nutt, representing the Middleburg Hunt on Mary Looney's Windyday Sparkler; Kathleen O'Keefe, representing the Casanova Hunt on Kathleen Lyons' Prince of Diamonds; Michelle Craig, representing the New Market - Middletown Valley Hounds, on Marcia Brody's Magnific Daisey; and Camila Coria, representing the Arapahoe Hunt, on Full Cry Farm's Tarabina Von Castell.
Strutt, owned by Dennis Foster and ridden by Laura Sloan, Blue Ridge Hunt, Non-owner/Rider Reserve Champion. Photo by Dennis Foster.
Most Suitable Pair for the week was awarded to Rachel Wilkoski, representing Mr. Stewart's Cheshire Fox Hounds, on Badger Knox. Glenn Epstein, representing the Piedmont Fox Hounds on Marqo, took home the Sportsmanship Award. Finally, the Middleburg Hunt was fittingly honored for having the greatest number of participants in the competition.
The Theodora A. Randolph Field Hunter Championship is held to honor the memory of Piedmont Fox Hounds' former Master and First Lady of Foxhunting, Mrs. Randolph. The championships are always held in the week leading up to the Virginia Fall Races at Glenwood Park in Middleburg. Proceeds from the event benefit the Inova Loudoun Healthcare Foundation and Glenwood Park Trust. Further information is available from Pippy McCormick at www.VAFallRaces.com
Full list of qualifying participants:
Middleburg Hunt Qualifier
Maureen Britell, Middleburg Hunt
George Kuk, Middleburg Hunt
Eduardo Coria, Old Dominion Hounds
Heather Heider, Loudoun Fairfax Hunt
Karen Nutt, Middleburg Hunt*
Teresa Croce, Middleburg Hunt*
Karel Wennink, Blue Ridge Hunt'
Jennifer Nesbit, Keswick Hunt
Best Turned Out: John Wittenborn, Smithtown Hunt
Blue Ridge Hunt
Rosie Campbell, MFH, Bull Run Hunt
Mary Ann Ghadban, Orange County Hounds
Anne Hambleton, Mr. Stewart's Cheshire Fox Hounds
Kathleen O'Keefe, Casanova Hunt*
Cameron Sadler, MFH, Moore County Hounds
Best Turned Out: Emy Ferrell, Blue Ridge Hunt
Orange County Hounds Qualifier
Michelle Craig, New Market-Middletown Valley Hounds*
Devon Zebrovious, Middleburg Hunt
Will Coleman, Piedmont Fox Hounds
Glenn Epstein, Piedmont Fox Hounds
Laura Sloan, Blue Ridge Hunt*
Will Fraser, Chagrin Valley Hunt
Robyn Harter, Piedmont Fox Hounds
Maggie McGovern, Live Oak Hounds
Eleanor Morison, Piedmont Fox Hounds
Laurie McClary, Snickersville Hounds
Best Turned Out: Rachel Wilkowski, Mr. Stewart's Cheshire Fox Hounds
Bull Run Hunt Qualifier
Camilla Coria, Arapahoe Hunt
Jean Derrick, Belle Meade Hunt
Rachel Wilkoski, Mr. Stewart's Cheshire Fox Hounds
Best Turned Out: Devon Zebrovious, Middleburg Hunt
* Non-Owner Rider