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The 2nd Annual Maury River Hunter Trials was held April 2, 2011, at the Virginia Horse Center in Lexington, VA. Despite threatening weather, this lovely event attracted over 70 competitors, numerous tailgaters, sponsors, spectators, volunteers and judges to the rolling cross country fields of the Horse Center.

Maury River Hunter Trials

The event is run by the Virginia Horse Trials, headed by Brian and Penny Ross, in conjunction with the organizing committee of Donald Clark, Brooks Cushman, Henley Gabeau, Dr. M. Brent Hall, and Liz Kiss. Foxhunters themselves, the committee developed the hunter trials as a way to celebrate the end of the fox chasing season, to bring positive publicity to the sport, and to benefit the local hunt clubs.  The committee plans for the hunter trials to be an annual event, with the 3rd running scheduled for April 7, 2012.

This year’s event was judged by Joy Crompton, Farmington Hunt’s MFH. The show offered something for everyone: over-fences classes for future hunters (“puddle jumpers”), second flight (2’6”) and first flight (3’); hunter on the flat classes, and a hilltoppers class. There were open and qualified foxhunter divisions, for those who hunted at least six times in the past season. Area hunt clubs represented included Glenmore, Rockbridge, Farmington, Middlebrook, Bedford and Stonewall, all of which vied for the Clifford J. Hunt Memorial prize: the most points accumulated by a hunt club.

Many remember Cliff Hunt, who passed away in December 2010. Cliff was an avid foxhunter and genuine horseman. Cliff’s many accomplishments include serving as whipper-in to the Blue Ridge Hunt for almost 25 years, chairing the Upperville Colt & Horse Show, and authoring the book The Keys to Good Horsemanship. Cliff and his wife Laura retired to Middlebrook, Va. in 2004. Laura judged the Hilltopper division and the Appointments and Turnout classes at this year’s hunter trials. At the end of the day, Farmington Hunt walked away with the Clifford Hunt Memorial Championship, sponsored by Dr. M. Brent Hall of Raphine Animal Clinic. Farmington earned 195 points during the show, followed by Rockbridge Hunt as the Reserve Champions.

Another highlight of the event was the Melvin Poe Cup, sponsored by Brooks Cushman of Winbrooke Farm, and awarded by the legendary Melvin himself, in attendance with his wife Peggy. Cheryl Microutsicos and her handsome bay, WoW! Graphic Design’s Up & Coming, a.k.a. “Uzi”, accumulated the most points in the First Flight Open division. Cheryl and Uzi also won the Glenmore Hunt First Flight Qualified Foxhunter Championship, presented by Dan Jones, Huntsman and Joint-MFH of Glenmore Hunt. Despite weather alternating between periods of sun, sleet, and rain, with nonstop blowing wind, Uzi flowed around the courses with ease, placing in the top three in Hunt Teams, Hunter on the Flat, Handy Hunter, Field Hunter over Fences, and the Field Master’s Chase. Cheryl and Uzi hunt with Stonewall Hounds and Farmington Hunt.

Spectators sadly missed out on the planned Parade of Hounds, as some of the Rockbridge Hounds’ pack picked up a cough after their glorious run at the Carolinas Foxhound Performance Trials the previous week. Rockbridge took home the Sedgefield Cup for overall best pack, and Rockbridge Lawyer and Lead were awarded top hound honors. Congratulations to David Conner, huntsman, Cindy Morton, MFH and whipper-in, and all their staff and hounds. At the Inaugural Hunter Trials in 2010, the Glenmore Hunt paraded their hounds during the lunch break, showcasing for spectators the beauty and pageantry of our sport.

The David Law Handy Hunter award went to Brodie Lower from Farmington Hunt. Wendy Higginson of Swoope, VA sponsored this first flight class in honor of David Law to thank him for donating his farrier services to the hunter trials, and in honor of his many years at the anvil. It’s surmised that David has trained half the farriers in Central Virginia, and he used to shoe the famous Gray Goose, an international event horse in the ‘80s.

Other top honors went to Cathi Ecklund of Rockbridge Hunt, who was Reserve in the First Flight Qualified division riding Irish Penny, owned by Julie Bullock, DVM. Cathi placed first in the Appointments class on Irish Penny and second on Camedic, with whom she was also Reserve Second Flight Qualified Champion. Camedic is owned by Diane Gibbs, who hunts her regularly with the Glenmore Hunt. Juniors were well represented, with the Camp Mont Shenandoah Junior Championship going to Rebecca Barber on Twain. Full results can be found online at www.vahorsetrials.com.

The hotly contested tailgate competition ended up as a tie this year between the Rockbridge and Glenmore Hunts. After Rockbridge took home the tricolor last year, Glenmore came back with a vengeance and their Asian Fusion theme organized by Mary Lee McDavid was both creative and visually appealing. Hugh Brown masterfully coordinated Rockbridge’s traditional Virginia Gentleman-themed tent, complete with decadent bourbon-iced brownies. The tailgate competition is an area of the event the organizers hope to expand, so plan on joining us next year! Tailgate spots are offered to sponsors as well as sold to competitors and spectators alike.

The Maury River Hunter Trials’ proceeds benefit the three local hunt clubs: Glenmore Hunt, Rockbridge Hunt and Middlebrook Hounds, as well as the Virginia Horse Trials. The event is made possible by many volunteers and sponsors, too numerous to print. For more information about the competition, visit us on Facebook or at www.vahorsetrials.com.

We hope to see you on April 7, 2012!

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