On November 11, 2012, Blue Ridge Hunt's Barbara Batterton bested a field of 24 competitors to win the Virginia Field Hunter Championships. Hosted by Fairfax Hunt, the Championships were held at Winter Farm in Middleburg, as a result of Fairfax member Karyn Wilson's win last year.
Each recognized hunt in Virginia is invited to select two members to send to the championship. The day starts with an optional Best Turned Out competition, where traditional turnout and appointments are closely inspected. After a brief break for any necessary tack changes, the competitors begin the competition by showing off their horses’ movement and training during a hack phase, with the group doing a walk, trot, and canter in each direction, as well as a hand gallop and hold hard. Then, led by the previous year’s winner, the group is off on a mock hunt through the surrounding hunt territory, where mounted judges score the competitors on their horses’ behavior in the front, middle and back of the field, their jumping style, and handiness. After the mock hunt, the judges confer and select ten finalists to compete in an individual test designed to show off each horse’s bravery, obedience, and form.
This year, the group of twenty-four competitors from fourteen hunts across the Commonwealth was simply outstanding— it was undoubtedly a gathering of some of the best hunt horse and rider combinations to be found. That standard of competency was matched by the hospitality of the host hunt. Fairfax members cheerfully greeted each rider upon check-in, and presented each with a variety of gifts from sponsors of the championships, including Dover Saddlery and Tri-County Feeds, Etc., as well as a lovely flask from Fairfax Hunt itself. The layout of the area for the hack phase and the individual test, as well as a good portion of the mock hunt, was spectator friendly, with supporters able to easily watch the action and cheer for their favorites.
Karyn Wilson, on her big bay Irish gelding, Chase, led the competitors over a tough but inviting course for the mock hunt, which included a good variety of coops, stone walls, rail jumps, and other natural fences, as well as a reverse field in the woods and a change of position for the horses in the field. The field returned to the area where the hack phase was held, while the judges had the difficult job of choosing only ten horses for the individual test.
The test was challenging. Each competitor started out by cantering to a coop set alone in the field, then continued straight ahead to a rail “snake” jump. After jumping a specific section of the middle of the fence, they did a rollback turn to the left to jump the right end section of the “snake,” followed by a sharp right turn to head towards a skinny coop. The coop was to be trotted, and then the riders were to continue trotting down the field to an open and airy tiger-trap jump set amidst a boggy section of the field. From there, they had to canter to a stone wall set in the shadows in the tree line, then turn left to loop around the tree line and canter back into the main field. Once back in the field, they picked up the crowd-pleasing requirement of a true hunting pace gallop to the last two coops to test their horse’s ability to jump out of stride, as well as the rider’s eye for a distance! The test concluded with a hold-hard at a round bale set a short distance from the last coop.
After extensive deliberation, the judges announced the 2012 Championship results:
Champion - Barbara Batterton, Blue Ridge Hunt, on Nicki-Z, owned by Linda Armbrust, MFH
Reserve Champion - Kathleen O’Keefe, Casanova Hunt, on Dudley, owned by rider
3rd – Devon Zebrovious, Middleburg Hunt, on Quest, owned by rider
4th – Jane Bishop, Orange County Hunt, on Gumby, owned by rider
5th – Carly Leins, Thornton Hill Fort Valley Hunt, on Robert E. Lee, owned by Banbury Cross Farm
6th - Elizabeth Green, Piedmont Fox Hounds, on Cambridge, owned by Shelby Bonnie, MFH
Best Turned Out
1st- Helen Brettel, Middleburg Hunt, on Brooke
2nd - Devon Zebrovious, Middleburg Hunt, on Quest
3rd - Greta Siemen, Keswick Hunt, on Alarmus Maximus