The Retired Racehorse Project kicked off their second annual Thoroughbred Makeover competition on October 27, 2016, in Lexington, Kentucky. Three hundred off the track thoroughbreds competed in 11 disciplines: show jumping, show hunters/jumpers, polo, dressage, barrel racing, eventing, competitive trail, working ranch, freestyle and field hunters. The overall winner of America’s Most Wanted Thoroughbred was chosen by audience applause from each discipline’s winner.

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Competitors head out to the field. Photo by David Traxler.

The MFHA sponsored the Field Hunter class. It consisted of a short demonstration on the flat, a stirrup cup, a mock hunt with hounds and an individual test. The riders were a mix of experienced foxhunters and riders from other disciplines. The judges were Laura Sloan and Julie McKee, both experienced foxhunters from Virginia.

Twenty-seven riders competed in the event. The first portion of the competition was on the flat. Riders were judged on the ability to handle their horse in a group at the walk, trot, canter and the check. The riders were treated to a stirrup cup provided by the Iroquois Hunt Club. Huntsman/Joint Master Lilla Mason, Whipper-in Ivy Grisanti, and Field Master Julie Ward from the Iroquois Hunt brought six couple of hounds to the meet. It was no surprise that some of the thoroughbreds had a difficult time standing while their riders enjoyed a light snack and cider or sherry.

The horn signaled the start of the mock hunt for the second portion, and the 27 riders followed the field master over coops and hunt country-style jumps, including a water crossing. There were checks, including one where the huntsman and her pack went past the field and the field executed a reverse. Some of the thoroughbreds reacted strongly to the passing of the hounds. Riders and horses were judged on their ability to navigate the obstacles, maintain safe distance and appropriate behavior in the field. Overall the judges were impressed by the ability of the horses to handle the hunt environment.

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The individual test simulated challenges from the hunt field. Photo by David Traxler.

The third portion of the class was an individual test. Each horse and rider had to navigate several jumps, and cross water. The horses were also required to stand quietly while the rider opened and closed a gate amidst the crowd of spectators.

The top three riders and horses competed in the Finals on Saturday in the indoor arena. They had a jumping course and a stand at the check. Riders were also required to dismount and retrieve a crop before finishing the course.

Sarah Davis won the class riding J.J’s Local Law. Sarah was exposed to foxhunting through Pony Club and is in the process of joining the Deep Run Hunt. Lyell McMerty and the appropriately named Beau Fox took second place. Lyell hunts with the Moore County Hounds in North Carolina. Lindsey Partridge from Ontario took third on Pentland, and also finished 3rd in the Competitive Trail class. While Ms. Partridge does not belong to a hunt, the Hamilton Hunt Club allowed her to participate in two hunts and taught her the ropes.

Among the hunts represented in the competition were Aiken Hounds who had three competitors, Piedmont Fox Hounds with two competitors, Waterloo Hunt, Fraser Valley Hunt, Metamora Hunt, Green Spring Valley Hounds, Beaver Meadow Foxhounds, Hamilton Hunt, Casanova Hunt, and River Hills Foxhounds. 

For more information on this annual event, visit the Thoroughbred Makeover website.

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