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Braving frigid early winter temperatures, 60 junior riders bundled up and turned out for Elkridge-Harford Hunt Club’s (EHHC) children’s hunt last Thanksgiving weekend. New Master Joe Davies, whose son helped take the field, hosted the meet from Dunmore Farm near Monkton, MD.

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An intrepid pair of juniors well over a log at the chilly children's meet. Photo by Tammie J. Monaco.

Ranging from several leadliners atop fuzzy ponies to dozens of capable youngsters in first flight, enthusiasm and energy offset the challenging conditions. “It was a super cold day,” said photographer Tammie Monaco, “but no one complained!”

Located in the heart of Mid-Atlantic horse country, EHHC cultivates robust junior participation despite the lure of other disciplines. Monaco pointed to the Masters’ willingness to engage kids in the field as a key ingredient to this success. “They’re incorporated into the leadership for the day,” she said, adding that offering a second flight for the less experienced riders also boosts attendance and lets children develop their confidence without being overfaced.

Local trainer Mimi Schmitz, who regularly brings out many students, noted the “symbiotic relationship” between EHHC and the Elkridge Harford Hunt Pony Club. In particular, Schmitz praised District Commissioner Dianna Beavers for proactively encouraging pony club members to hunt, even with all the other activities on the busy pony club calendar. “The two organizations really support each other,” Schmitz explained. “The kids participate in all the events - hunter trials, paces - and they feel welcome to follow hounds during the season. The pony club and general horse show schedule is a little quieter in the winter, and that helps too.”

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Just a few of the 60 young riders who came out. Photo by Tammie J. Monaco.

Huntsman Geoffrey Hyde also contributes to the junior cause, welcoming pony campers to kennels every summer. This program offers a mock hunt and lets young people interact with hounds while the pack is still walking out. Schmitz added that staff take the children’s hunts seriously - competent, well-mounted youngsters are invited to ride up and even lead the field, while adults asked to ride at the back.

“We hunt right into April,” Schmitz said, “And that helps the kids get ready for the junior races and field master chases in the spring.” With the cooperation and support of the adults in the community, EHHC looks ahead to a bright future - with more junior riders than some hunts might field in total at a given meet. “We have such a great junior contingent,” Schmitz said, “Even on that freezing cold day, everyone was enjoying themselves and having fun.”

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