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Quite a few juniors participated in the recent Great Lakes Invitational Hound Show, and Covertside Online contacted one of them - eight-year-old Margot Pontia - to ask a few questions about her experiences with hounds - in the field and in the ring. Here are her replies, along with some comments from her mother, large animal veterinarian Dianne Pontia, both members at Miami Valley Hunt (OH).

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Margot and Mudbug at the Great Lakes Invitational Hound Show. Photo courtesy of Dianne Pontia.

Covertside Online: How would you describe hunting (bassets and foxhounds).

 Margot: Well, everyone gets together and they let the hounds loose, in the woods, in a field, where they think they will scare up a rabbit. There are horns and whips that help keep them together and we go along and see if we can see them get on one. You can walk or you can ride. Then when it is done we eat a whole bunch.

Covertside Online: Tell us about the hound you showed at Great Lakes Invitational.

Margot: I showed [Three Creek Wickwire's] Mudbug. He is a red and white basset. He looks droopy and sleepy but really he is a very good boy.

Covertside Online: What was the most challenging part of the show?

Margot: It was a long day and it was hot, but good. I had a hard time getting Mudbug to focus on me when he got near his Mom (Master Lei Ruckle of Three Creek Bassets)

Covertside Online: What was the most fun part of the show?

Margot: Eating a whole bunch!

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Margot shares a treat with Tucker after a ride. Photo courtesy of Dianne Pontia.

Covertside Online: What is the most fun part of walking out [mounted] with hounds?

Margot: Well, it is more exciting than riding at home! I love to ride into the dark woods. But I just tried hard to stay on. I was worried about ditches but he [her 10.3hh Shetland pony "Tuck-n-Roll" aka Tucker] did great with that. Other things, not so much. Horns blowing - AAAAACKKK! Whips being cracked - AAAACCCKK! Hounds popping out in front of us - AAACCCCCK! Whips showing up unexpectedly out of the bushes - AAAAACCCCKKK! Scary tire jumps around the bend - AAACCCCK! But then I made it back to the trailers, and got to eat a whole bunch.

Covertside Online: What would you say to your friends who haven't come out hunting yet?

Margot: I try and get my friends to come try hunting. They don't ride but they can follow the beagle pack or the bassets with me. It is a good time in the woods, the best part when you can find a tree and sit and watch the rabbit and then see if the hounds can find the trail. I like to walk a lot at all different farms, I would lend them my walking sticks too.

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Margot out with Three Creek Bassets, Lei Ruckle, MBH. Photo courtesy of Dianne Pontia.

Margot's mother, Dianne Pontia, reflects on how she values her daughter's involvement with our sport: 

"As a former wildlife ecologist and large animal vet I am always trying to involve my daughter in nature. So many kids are growing up so separated from the land. Being out in the hunt field leads to so many discussions about the natural world. How weather affects scent, what humidity is, what skills other species have adapted to ensure their survival. How we use our senses and how hounds use theirs. And how we can work together to hunt. The role that hunting (of any sort) plays in an ecosystem that has been so fragmented by human encroachment. I can see these things have left an impact on her. She will point out good territory on long car trips, and I know she is truly studying and 'seeing' the land as opposed to just passing through it.

"Seeing the challenges she has with her pony has spurred her to brainstorm ways to train him better for future rides in the hunt field. It may take another year, but she has the 'want' to see it through. Any other kid would be scared of hunting, but because of her years with the foot packs, she will persist in finding a way to finally ride out with the rest of the grownups. The love of 'the hunt' is there, the groundwork laid, it gives her incentive to work on her riding skills. She falls into the camp of those who 'RIde to Hunt.'

"I am amazed at how much knowledge a youngster can actually soak up. Or maybe some are just born with it. As a seven year old, she and I positioned ourselves in a strategic spot in our favorite ravine known for rabbits while they cast two couple of beagles in the far-off hay field. We sat in silence as a rabbit made his way on a rather meandering trail past us over several minutes. I spoke: 'Now watch, remember the trail that rabbit made. Let's see if the new hounds (we were testing out two youngsters) can find that exact trail.' Sure enough, five minutes later, the hounds were on. We watched them come into the ravine. I could not help myself and called out to the youngest entry, whooping and trying to get him to drift closer to where the rabbit's trail actually was. I was scolded by Margot: 'MOM!' she hushed me, "Knock it OFF! If you call to Julio, he will pick his head up and look to you, he will lose the scent that way. Let him work. And anyway ... if he can't find THAT easy scent trail ... well ... maybe we don't want him hunting with us anyway.'"

We wish mother and daughter many years of good sport together!

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