- Josh Walker
When you unexpectedly dismount in the field with Glenmore Hunt out of Staunton, Virginia, you owe the master a bottle of something special at the next tailgate. Club rules. But when you’re only six years old, as Waverly McDavid was when her pony Jiminy Cricket unexpectedly sprouted wings over a creek crossing, well, you give the master a bottle of Pepsi. Naturally.
It’s one of the learning experiences Waverly’s mother, Mary Lee, appreciates after the fact, of course. Mary Lee grew up riding with her parents but didn’t pick up foxhunting until adulthood. Now, all three generations hunt together. Waverly sat up in the saddle practically before she could walk. She, however, started in the field on the other end of a leadline with the springy Jiminy Cricket at age 5. Now 14, the early experience have helped her mature not only as a horsewoman, but also an independent young lady.
Just as she bounced back up, dusted off her jodhpurs, and presented an offering to the master to add a little levity to a situation that might have otherwise turned off any other young child, foxhunting has a special way of helping riders rebound gracefully and pass on their knowledge to those who follow. While she and her current pony, Heidi, bound around the hunter/jumper show rings, it’s foxhunting, she says, that’s helped her gain the skills and confidence necessary to excel in both.
“You learn to go with your gut and listen to your horse which, overall, helps in all aspects of riding,” she says. “I’ve learned to trust my horse and pay more attention to my surroundings while still looking ahead.”
“You have to be able to think and react quickly and stay in control and balanced on any kind of terrain which you just don’t get in a ring,” Mary Lee adds. “This has helped her tremendously in the hunters and now moving into jumpers.”
Four years ago, Glenmore gave a demonstration at the Frontier Culture Museum of Virginia in the McDavids’ hometown, Staunton. Hundreds of spectators gathered to watch the mock hunt. Waverly, then 10, had only just started riding again after a minor setback, but she was eager to participate, nonetheless.
“I rode in the second flight group and got to gallop a little which was cool because I hadn’t galloped on my pony in an open field in a long time,” she says.
After an invigorating run and well-received demonstration, celebrity status kicked in. “After the mock hunt, people were asking me questions like, 'How long have you been foxhunting?' and, 'When did you get your first pony?' It was fun talking to the adults and kids and telling them about foxhunting and how exciting it is,” she remembers.
Just as spectators took note of the pride and confidence she exuded that day, so too do the experienced within the foxhunting community. More recently, during the last Virginia Hunt Week, a state-wide tour of joint meets that takes place every even year, Mary Lee excused Waverly from school to go camp with their horses and catch up with as many hunts as they could.
“During the last Virginia Hunt Week a gentleman from Ireland came and we played host,” Mary Lee remembers. “He gave her the courage to move up to first flight and told me he would take care of her. Ever since that time she’s pretty much been riding first flight.”
Mary Lee also served as Glenmore’s board president for years. She recently stepped down to spend more time with Waverly and recent high school graduate son, Rhodes. While she still leads Glenmore’s third flight and occasionally second, watching Waverly become a strong, independent rider and sharing that with her parents has moved her most of all.
“Riding with my parents and my daughter has meant the world to me,” she says. “Being outside and enjoying nature and sharing a common bond of horses is just an amazing thing and I feel very lucky and fortunate that I can share that with my daughter, especially as we move through the teenage years. It’s been a lot of fun watching her grow as a rider and seeing her become a better, braver rider than myself.”