What do foxhunting kids do in the off-season? If you are Mackenzie Taylor, you spend it vaulting, weaving, popping
Mackenzie is tied very closely to the foxhunting community and the Goshen Hounds, where her father Robert Taylor, MFH is also huntsman. Her mother Kathy Jones Taylor rides regularly to the hounds, and her grandmother, Karen Jones, whips in to Robert. Grandfather Rick Jones, ex-MFH, served Goshen Hounds for 13 years as a Master and additional decades as a whipper-in.
According to Joint Master Tom Pardoe, Mackenzie is the youngest Goshen member to serve as honorary whipper-in, and received her colors at age 12. She also hunts the hounds in conjunction with her father on junior days as well as on a few other notable occasions. Mackenzie represents nearly 400 years of continuous generations of the Taylor family associated with hunt service.
Mounted games increasingly compete for Mackenzie's attention. This year, Mackenzie and her pony Ink Spot flew across the Atlantic to prepare and contest the Individual and Team Championships sponsored by the International Mounted Games Association, in Wales. Fifty-six competitors representing 15 countries squared off in 10 separate events. Before Mackenzie Taylor, no American had ever survived past the first round of individual competition. Last year, Mackenzie made it into the semi-finals on a borrowed English pony in the under-15 age group. This year, paired with the amazing Ink Spot, Mackenzie not only bettered her past performance, but emerged victorious to claim the Individual World Championship in the under-17 division.
In the United States, mounted games has grown from a US Pony Club discipline to an increasingly popular sport for all age groups. In the UK and Europe, the top ranks of competitors are likely to be in their mid-20s or even older, and are overwhelmingly male. This year's competition boasted 3 female competitors among the 56 starters in the under-17 category – and interestingly enough, all 3 qualified for the final round.
The caliber of ponies is likewise a bit different. In the United States, games ponies are most likely those suitable for little else until they find their calling in games. In the UK, it is not uncommon for ponies with a few seasons of competition experience to command prices of more than $15,000. Ink Spot was a pony adopted by Rege Dvorsky from Day's End Farm Horse Rescue in Maryland. She proved too difficult a mount for the child for whom she was originally intended, and came to Robert Taylor for a last-ditch training attempt to settle her down. Robert put daughter Mackenzie on the pony, and the connection was obvious. Mackenzie and Ink Spot hunted together before focusing their concentration on the games arena. They are in their fourth season as partners.
The importance of mounted games to this generation of the Taylor family goes far beyond the competition. Had there been no international mounted games, there would likely be no Mackenzie Taylor. Robert and Kathy first met at an international games competition at the Royal Welsh Show in 1990, where Robert and Kathy were coaching competing teams.
Mackenzie will spend the remaining weeks of the summer competing in various international games competitions throughout the UK, and practicing with her British pairs partner, Mitchell Lyons, who was also runner-up to Mackenzie in the World Individual Championship. The pair will contest the World Pairs Championship which will be held at Peterborough in mid-September, and then current plans call for Mackenzie to return to the United States, cub hunting, and school.