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From the Hunt Field to the Winners Circle

Haynes and Hot RizePhoto Courtesy Russell HaynesIf you have been out with any number of Virginia’s hunt clubs this season, you may have recognized the black horse that was the winner of Virginia steeplechasing’s richest purse on May 3. Although he flew under the radar at 10-1 odds, Hot Rize flew under the wire in the Virginia Gold Cup ¾ lengths to the good. He snared the win for a partnership made up entirely of fox hunters -- appropriate for a horse who might never have had a career if it hadn’t been for the hunt field.

Owned by Holston Hall, a partnership managed by The Plains resident Russell Haynes, Hot Rize struggled early in his career to settle. Always a talented horse, the son of Sultry Song would work like a stakes horse at the farm and then let his nerves get the better of him on race day. Despite showing ability, he couldn’t seem to win a race. Until Haynes, who also trains the horse, decided to send him to Tennessee-based Karen Gray.

Step Through the Tack Room Door

Derek tack room by Karen MonroeMiddleburg PhotoIt's a smell you never forget; the aroma of a well-kept tack room. It is unmistakable. The pleasant atmosphere softens the soul, relaxes the senses, stimulates pleasant memories and encourages a feeling of camaraderie, with your fellow riders and your equine friends.

I was reminded of this recently when I made a trip back into the past. I visited the outbuildings of the farm on which I was raised. The stables were no longer home to horses and were now used for storage. But the tack room seemed empty and when I pressed the old-style latch, the door swung open with ease. The moment my foot dropped down to an unusually deep step into the room, I was taken back a life-time of years. That abrupt step down had caused many a visitor to stumble. Not I, for my memory cells immediately beeped a warning from long ago.  The little dark tack room came swimming up to the surface of my mind and I felt right back at home.

An Eastern Foxhunter Heads West

Eastern FH Goes West 1I was so eager to get out of snowy Maryland for my California foxhunting weekend, that I forgot to take all the whipper-in ratshot bullets out of my hacking jacket, which I was wearing on the plane to save suitcase weight. So, as you can imagine, there was a minor incident after I went through security at BWI. Embarrassed and a little worried, my hound training explanation was me with blank stares. Luckily, a nice agent told me to go back, throw them out and come back! I happily complied! After missing our connection in Salt Lake City, we finally made it to Los Angeles via Las Vegas and found my daughter, Sarah. It was so warm and lovely it was hard to believe we were on the same planet as the frozen East Coast.

Belle Meade Performance Trials Exceed Expectations

Belle Meade 14 trialsAllison Howell photoPerformance Trials bring great hounds, fit horses, enthusiastic people and big expectations. The pressure on the staff is huge. The pressure on the judges and guest huntsman is even bigger. This is the event we work toward all season. For many of us it is the high point of our entire hunt season.

So, when we say we had two of the best days of hunting we ever had, we do not take it lightly. We say it with appreciation. We say it with pride. We say it with gratitude for all the landowners who let us ride over 35,000 contiguous acres of hunt country. We say it with a lot of relief. When the expectations are so high, it is hard to meet them.

The Heartfelt Memories of a Foxhunter

Clarice TateSarah Dufton English photoIt was 1995 and I had no idea that my life would change forever. My friend, Katy Sheesley and I were at a meeting in Nashville comprised of professional women, and the meeting happened to seat us according to hobbies. Our table was marked, “Horse Back Riding.”  We sat together and I learned that she foxhunted. I had no idea that the hunting activity depicted in the traditional paintings and prints that I had seen and collected all my adult life did not just take place in England, but was a very active sport in the good old USA. Not only that, but that there were several foxhunting clubs in Tennessee. One thing led to another and a few weeks later we were riding trails at Panorama Farm in Leiper's Fork, TN because as a responsible foxhunter she wanted to see if I had the right stuff to hunt.

Hunting Dressage: The Flask Pass

foxdressage2.0Perhaps you and some friends have decided to taste all the entries in The Great Covertside Sip-Off.  You each have your flask filled with a different brew.  You are all is gathered on the edge of a sunny field, the quarry put to ground, and the huntsman calling the hounds.  Everyone is on perfectly behaved and trained horses that happily swing that left hip over or move one small step to the right so you can pass flasks.

Maybe for you; my reality is usually more like this.  The wind is blowing and things are flapping.  My horse, a youngster, is sometimes quite sure THIS time the cue to step right really means he should swing his haunches to the left and back up.  Then my friend’s horse has a crabby moment and makes a face.  Now how are we going to pass?

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