On Saturday, April 14, the members and friends of South Creek Foxhounds participated in the annual Hunter Trials hosted by Ridge Point Stables in Haines City, Florida.
The weekend started off with a late afternoon practice session followed by dinner at Melonie's Cafe in quaint, downtown Dundee. All out of town competitors and Ridge Point clients and friends were invited to enjoy a feast of beef Marsala, pork tenderloin and roasted potatoes. The three tiered Monty Python themed birthday cake, featured in the center of the restaurant, let all the guests know they were celebrating Mike Gallagher's Birthday. A local guitar duet entertained with a mixture of blues and country music, which lead to some great dancing.
Saturday morning, the Hunter Trails began with the first rain the area had seen in three months. The show manager was overheard saying, "Rain was the only thing I didn't worry about, until now!" However, the steady drizzle, which eliminated dust, was a blessing, and the clouds that hung around all day kept the temperatures tolerable for the well-turned out foxhunters.
The Future Foxhunters classes started off the morning and consisted of a walk trot class anda trot or canter over 18" logs. The participants, all under the age of ten, showed off their skills to the morning crowd "decked to the nines" in their hunting best. Madison Staiano, aboard her own Mighty Mouse, topped the field in both classes. Next were the Low Hunters and Green Foxhunter's classes won by Jeff Parker's Smarty and Marylu Gallagher's Short Approach. The Open Flat class, held in the open field, reminded everyone that following one another in the field across hill and dale still requires some control and thought. Kate Ryan and Soul Sister took top honors.
The real fun began with the Medium Field Hunters where the riders first got to experience the outside course. Haylee Russell navigated Morgan Richard's Curtis Lowe successfully to the blue ribbon. The course, designed by Meredith Gallagher, flowed over two large pastures and included a log pile, brush boxes, a flower bank, the 3 stride "coop chute', a natural grob, and numerous coops. "I was pleased to get the opportunity to take advantage of the rolling hills to build this course," commented Meredith. Later in the day the jumps and adjustable coops were raised for the High Field Hunters to compete. Son of a Gun and Tracey Ramirez put in a smooth, forward ride to win the class.
In the member's only classes, the Ladies’ Hunters, Gentlemen's Hunter and Junior Hunters, horses and riders competed not only for individual titles but also for a chance at the coveted SCF Championship. Dana Coberly and her mount, Taylor, took the Lady's title, Master Jack Phethean and Lacey; his bright chestnut with the terrific walk won the Gentlemen's Class and Sergio Hernandez aboard Epic, was the best in the Junior section. However, it was South Creek's own young Huntswoman, Sarah Fox and her big gray Karlo, that claimed the Championship honors, having qualified by her second placing in the Ladies' Class.
The Hunter Trials broke for lunch, catered by Acropoli Pizza of Dundee around 1:00, something rarely seen at a horse show. Everyone enjoyed the respite, including the judge, Sue Starling who remarked, "We break for lunch! I like that!" Following lunch, the always entertaining Teams and Pairs classes took the field. It was great fun to watch three horses tandem travel through the "coop chute" successfully. Son of a Gun and Atlas, piloted by Tracey Ramirez and Linda Williams respectively dominated the Pairs Class. With a late entry, sponsored by Bruce Griffey and consisting of him, Meredith Gallagher and Sergio Hernandez won the Teams Class astride Mocha Magic, Jen Staiano's Rock My World and Richard Cook's Sahara. The Handy Hunter Class proved to be quite a challenge for the competitors, but Taylor and Dana Coberly emerged from the woods and through the gate to be victorious.
The last class of the day was a special class, the P.M. Jamaica Memorial Derby. The class isheld in memory of Marylu Gallagher's unbelievable little bay horse that passed away in October 2011 at the age of 26. Broke and trained by Marylu, Jamaica grew up in the show ring, shown first by Marylu and later by Meredith in the Children's and Junior hunters. He earned the National Half-Arabian Hunter Championship three times, twice with Marylu and once with Meredith before deciding that foxhunting was his passion. Jamaica led the South Creek field, the first day of the 2011 cubbing season, hunted Opening Day with Live Oak Hounds and passed away in his sleep a week later. The participants in his Derby were expected to show the boldness and great jumping style that Jamaica presented throughout his life. Soul Sister and Kate Ryan rose to the challenge, touring the course in a smooth and soft manner earning the first engraving on the beautiful sterling plate donated by the Gallagher family. At the end of the day everyone sat down to enjoy Mike Gallagher's legendary Bar-B-Q dinner.
But the weekend's festivities weren't over! Sunday, April 15, Ridge Point hosted a unique Hunter Pace experience. Those members and friends who stayed to enjoy the pace were handed a map and a description of the day's foxhunting. The course covered 5 3/4 miles of native Florida countryside, an eighty acre cedar grove, palmetto woods, open pasture and shaded wooded trails weaving around lakes, bogs, hog traps, coops and deer feeders. "When I was Junior hunting in Virginia everyone knew the hunt country so instead of following flags on hunter pace you had to look for landmarks. I thought it would be fun to create something similar to accompany our Hunter Trials, so folks could make a whole weekend of it, "said Marylu Gallagher, who mapped out the imaginary hunt. The first flight, second flight and hilltopper categories all traveled a slightly different route while still participating in the same mock hunt. They chased a gray fox that went to ground by the horseshoe pond and galloped out of the woods in hot pursuit of a fast coyote all the way to the end of the property. Although, there was some confusion along the way all the teams arrived back at the starting point with smiles on their faces and stories to tell.