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Come celebrate the fall in Virginia and find out how your field hunter measures up. More than a competition, the Theodora A. Randolph Field Hunter Championships should be on every foxhunter's bucket list. Sixty horse and rider combinations from around the country gather for four action-packed days of glorious autumn hunting behind some of the best foxhound packs in Virginia, with social events interspersed in between. The week culminates with finals held at the Middleburg Fall Races.

Dates for 2016 qualifying meets include:

• Monday, October 3, 2016 – Middleburg Hunt;
• Tuesday, October 4, 2016 – Bull Run Hunt;
• Wednesday, October 5, 2016 – Orange County Hounds; and
• Thursday, October 6, 2016 – Blue Ridge Hunt.

Mounted judges ride alongside the numbered contestants, selecting horse and rider combinations based on manners, style and suitability of foxhunting mounts after each meet. A best turned out award is also given each day.

The Saturday morning finals of the Field Hunter Championship give racing spectators an unique opportunity to watch high-level field hunter and rider combinations test their hunting skills. Riders don formal attire and horses are braided and immaculately groomed. Conduct judged during a mock foxhunt narrows the field. Remaining competitors are then required to negotiate a handy hunter course in the center of the race course for the championship title. They might be asked to dismount and remount from a log, unlatch a gate and close it from horseback, or trot over a fallen tree. The judges ask the riders to show each horse's different hunting skills, and after these individual tasks are completed, the championship is decided.

At stake are bragging rights, as well as $5000 and trophies for the Champion Field Hunter, Best Turned Out, Most Suitable Pair, and the Sportsmanship Award. The competition is divided into two sections — owner-rider, and for the winning horse ridden by someone other than its owner. A $2500 prize is awarded to the hunt represented by the winner of each section. All participants receive admission to the Middleburg Fall Races held later that day.

Will Coleman of the Keswick Hunt (as well as Piedmont Fox Hounds) and Tom Mannsman of the Piedmont Fox Hounds took the championship titles in 2015 in the owner-rider and other than owner-rider sections, respectively. Coleman, who also won the competition about 10 years ago, reminisces, "This is a great championship for foxhunters ... lots of good horses and good riders, and much more depth to the horses and riders than there were 10 years ago." He encourages people to take advantage of the opportunity for full immersion in the sporting lifestyle saying, "This is a wonderful week for the people to participate. Four great hunts in Northern Virginia. Kudos to all of the people who put in the hard work to make this happen, judges included."

Participants are kept running with social events nearly every night, including a Masters' Reception on Monday evening, private receptions, an event at the National Sporting Library and Museum, and a Southern barbecue supper with a bluegrass band on Friday night sponsored by INOVA Loudoun Hospital.

Founded in 1989, this event brings together foxhunting enthusiasts from across North America for a shared week of sport and cameraderie. Participation is open to foxhunters of all ages. Forms are available now at www.VAFallRaces.com; however, entry is limited to the first 60 registrants. The fee is $250 per horse. Riders must ride their entered horse each day that they hunt, although some may elect to enter more than one mount.

Clear your calendar for this event once and you will find yourself pulled to return every year. Truly one of the highlights of the foxhunting season.

For more information contact: Pippy McCormick

Additional information and applications are available at http://www.vafallraces.com/Field_Hunter_Championships.

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