The 2014 Theodora A. Randolph Field Hunter Championship, held September 29 - October 4, 2014 in the heart of Virginia's hunt country, celebrated fox hunting at its best. Seventy-four competitors, representing 23 hunts in 9 different states, travelled as far as 1000 miles with horses in tow for the North American Championship extravaganza of sport and social activities.
Though it was a competition of individuals, there was an unanimous, collective joy, in the opportunity to enjoy sport in such a glorious environment, to make new friends, and to simply share in the experience of the week. Organizers and hosts went above and beyond -- offering terrific sport, sumptuous tailgates, and opening homes, gardens, and institutions such as the National Sporting Library and Museum for their foxhunting colleagues.
Brian Ferrell, joint master of the Blue Ridge Hunt which hosted Tuesday's meet, reflected on the event. "I think many hunts getting together in large groups can only help the sport as a whole. From fundraising to landowner relations, when people come together as a large group of foxhunters the shared ideas give a different perspective on a sport that we all enjoy. I think people participating really enjoyed the Blue Ridge hunting territory. We are very lucky to have limited development in Clarke County."
Forty finalists were selected to return Saturday to Middleburg's Glenwood Park for the final test prior to the running of the Virginia Fall races. Clad in formal attire, they were led by judge Snowden Clarke in a mock hunt over inviting cross country obstacles. Judges then narrowed the field to twelve to perform an individual test, including a most intimidating test for many mature foxhunters - dismounting from the horse, retrieving a whip and then remounting (though there was a convenient outcrop of rocks to make the task easier).
This year first-time competitor Laurie Ambrose of the Piedmont Fox Hounds was the collective choice of judges Helen Brettell (Middleburg), Snowden Clarke, Jean Derrick (Belle Meade), Virginia Perrin (MFH, Deep Run), Cameron Sadler (MFH, Moore County) and Lincoln Sadler (Moore County). Eduardo Coria (Casanova) was selected as Reserve Champion, and also won the award for Best Turned Out. Devon Zebrovious (Middleburg) was runner-up for the Best Turned Out Award. Other placings included:
3rd place - Janet Pendergrast (Keswick);
4th place - Allie Lawaetz (Palm Beach);
5th place - Rosie Campbell, MFH (Bull Run);
6th place - Lissa Green (Piedmont);
7th place - Rita Kaseman (Loudoun Fairfax); and
8th place - Carol Chapman (Farmington).
Allie Lawaetz of Palm Beach received the Sportsman Award and Rita Kaseman of Loudoun Fairfax was recognized for having the most suitable mount. The Bonnie Family sponsors the award of a $2500 cash prize to the winner's home hunt. The Piedmont Fox Hounds received this year's award.
Regardless of the individual placings, every participant from the week emerged a winner. Simply the opportunity to experience hunting with 4 premier packs - Orange County, Blue Ridge, Loudoun Fairfax and Piedmont - in a single week was reward enough for the time, effort and expense of preparing for and traveling to the competition. The enhanced cameraderie of the participants and the strengthening of ties among foxhunters from around the country is an additional benefit that will yield dividends for the sport.
The Randolph Field Hunter Championship is truly a "bucket list" event. I overheard one of the judges - who had never attended the competition before - declare her intent to attend as a competitor next year, because this is an experience not to be missed. Participation is capped at 75 riders - early registration is recommended. Other events which complemented this week were the Piedmont Hunter Trials, held this year on the Sunday preceeding the first leg of the championship, and the Virginia Fall Races which run on Saturday afternoon following the Field Hunter Championship finals.
The Virginia Fall Races and the Field Hunter Championships benefit the Inova Loudoun Hospital Foundation, and have contributed more than any other sporting event to this worthy cause. Put it on your calendar! Can't wait to see you next year!