Fox Hunting Life with Horse and Hound

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Bull Run Hunt

bullrun

Culpeper, Rapidan, Virginia.

Website: www.bullrunhuntclub.com


trfhc18.wittenborn.leesJohn Wittenborn and Soccer, representing the Smithtown Hunt (NY), win 2018 Theodora Randolph Field Hunter Championship in Virginia.

John Wittenborn and his fourteen-year-old Clydesdale-Thoroughbred cross, Soccer, returned home to Long Island and the Smithtown Hunt with the Championship Trophy and ribbon from the Theodora Randolph 2018 Field Hunter Championship in Virginia. Three tries was the charm for Wittenborn and Soccer. Last year the pair made a good showing, placing third.

It was the first team from a northern hunt to have won the coveted prize in thirty-five years of competitions. And it was fitting; Mrs. Randolph was a northerner, though from Boston’s North Shore.

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Horses

trfhc18.wittenborn.leesJohn Wittenborn and Soccer, representing the Smithtown Hunt (NY), win 2018 Theodora Randolph Field Hunter Championship in Virginia.

John Wittenborn and his fourteen-year-old Clydesdale-Thoroughbred cross, Soccer, returned home to Long Island and the Smithtown Hunt with the Championship Trophy and ribbon from the Theodora Randolph 2018 Field Hunter Championship in Virginia. Three tries was the charm for Wittenborn and Soccer. Last year the pair made a good showing, placing third.

It was the first team from a northern hunt to have won the coveted prize in thirty-five years of competitions. And it was fitting; Mrs. Randolph was a northerner, though from Boston’s North Shore.

Second place and the Reserve Championship this year went to Linden Ryan and Cruising for Gold, representing the Blue Ridge Hunt (VA). ‘Gold’ is owned by Gloria Callen.

Wittenborn first saw Soccer in North Carolina. Six years old at the time, the horse had never hunted—just hacked out. Wittenborn brought the young horse along slowly—in the second field for a couple of seasons, then moving up to first field when he felt the horse was ready. Wittenborn is a trainer and riding instructor at BG Show Stables in Bridgehampton, New York, along with his partner Bobby Ginsburg. During the summer, Soccer has a job as a school horse.

“Soccer’s best attribute is that he’s really cautious and level-headed,” said Wittenborn. “We had a tricky moment at Orange County when the field was flying down a muddy bank, crossing the water, and climbing the muddy bank on the other side. When Soccer was quite young, he got trapped in a bog, so now at water or mud I have to give him a moment to feel the footing and give him time to process things. I don’t rush him. He feels his way and gets his confidence.”

Now fourteen years of age, Soccer appears to have figured most things out to his satisfaction. Smithtown is a drag hunt, where Wittenborn serves as Field Master of the first field on weekends and whips-in to huntsman Brian Quinn on the weekday meet. Soccer fulfills both roles. During the Field Hunter Championship week of hunting, the pair hunted three days in a row with Orange County Hounds, Blue Ridge Hunt, and Warrenton Hunt. Wittenborn skipped the last meet at Bull Run to give Soccer a rest before the finals at Glenwood Park on Saturday, October 13, 2018.

It’s always a pleasure to see highly competent horses negotiating the hunting field. At the finals one year at Glenwood Park someone asked me what the judges are looking for. I recalled what Thady Ryan, the late renowned Irish Master and huntsman of the Scarteen told me one year when he was visiting the States and helping to judge the final day of this same event. His answer was simple.

“I’m looking for the horse I would most like to ride across the hunting country,” he said.

Judges this year were Joy Crompton, MFH, Farmington Hunt; Janie Dear from the Duke of Beaufort Hunt (UK); Becky Harris, Andrews Bridge Foxhounds (PA); Tom Mansmann, Old Dominion Hunt (VA); Paul Lyon Maris, ex-MFH, Robin Muir, and Rupert Uloth, Chiddingfold, Leconfield & Cowdray (UK); and Jennifer Webster, ex-MFH, Potomac Hunt (MD).

Sixty competitors from eight states, representing hunts along the eastern seaboard from New York to Florida, competed. Quite a few entries were turned away to limit the big field. The Moore County Hounds (NC) brought the biggest out-of-state contingent—seven horses and riders. Moore County MFH Cameron Sadler, a 2016 winner of this event, was in the ribbons again.

Kathleen O’Keefe, MFH, Casanova Hunt (VA), was judged Best Turned Out. O’Keefe has been an all-around threat in these trials, having also won the Field Hunter Championship in 2011 and in 1996. Devon Zebrovious, representing the Piedmont Fox Hounds (VA), was Reserve to O’Keefe. Cathy Sweezy and Miss Molly, representing the Live Oak Hounds (FL), were judged Most Suitable Pair. Sam Cockburn and Paris, representing the PIedmont Fox Hounds, won the ribbon for Sportsmanship.

Some avid and capable foxhunters believe that foxhunting is not a competitive sport and decline to participate in trials, and while I can appreciate and respect their view, I also see benefits from these competitions. For the competitor, it’s a great value. If you want a hunting holiday in Virginia, you get to hunt with four different packs for an entry fee of not much more than the cost of a single cap at some of these hunts. And parties all week to boot!

On a more serious side, I believe that a smart and capable field of horses and riders is a valuable image for every foxhunter to see. In this day of sliding standards, the field of competitors—all properly attired and tacked—is a beautiful sight. It reminds us that there was a reason for standards of attire and etiquette. I even admit to enjoying the long-lost sight of the clean lines of sewn-in bridles—plain, flat, workmanlike, and glowing richly—de rigeur for those vying for Best Turned Out honors.

Congrats to Wittenborn, Soccer, and the other fine riders and horses recognized this year.

Posted October 24, 2018

JRs Photo by Rick Stillings 1Judges Graham and Sheri Buston make certain that every competitor at the Junior Handlers Hound Show gets their undivided attention and assistance. / Rick Stillings photo

More than thirty children, ranging in age from fourteen months to sixteen years, enjoyed a day showing, learning, and making new friends at the Central Virginia Young Entry Junior Handlers Hound Show on June 10, 2018 in Charlottesville, Virginia. This unique event offered a full schedule just for youngsters, including four showmanship sections, a retired foxhound class, a modified pack class, and horn blowing and whip cracking contests.

The emphasis was on creating a fun, welcoming day for juniors from any background—even those with no previous foxhunting or hound showing experience. Keeping with this accommodating theme, organizers invited bassets and beagles to compete, as well as foxhounds.

Judges Graham and Sheri Buston, huntsman and whipper-in at the Blue Ridge Hunt, perfectly combined cheerful patience and helpful suggestions with keen professional eyes for pinning the best exhibitors in each event. Foxfield Racing Association kindly offered use of their lush green course just outside Charlottesville as the beautiful venue.

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fhc.greg schwartz and field.suttonRetired Bull Run huntsman Greg Schwartz leads the second flight. / Elizabeth H. Sutton photoFarmington Hunt's participation in March Madness Week at Bull Run Hunt started with a lot of questions. Hounds had not hunted in a week. Would they be up to the task of more open country and multiple game—fox and coyote? Did they have what it takes to give the sporting Bull Run field and their March Madness visitors a good day’s hunting? Would renegades riot?

These questions nagged at some of the Farmington Hunt members and staff as we assembled at Horseshoe Farm in Rapidan, Virginia with  twelve-and-a-half couple and a good gang of members. Three huntsmen and former huntsmen from further north said to me, “Well, you all will have to up your game today,” as we kidded about the lack of action that had been experienced on the three previous days due primarily to the weather.

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vafhc.moe.jump.summersMoe Baptiste and Fifty Grand representing the Piedmont Fox Hounds negotiate a seven-board coop during the individual test on their way to winning the Virginia Fied Hunter Championship. / Catherine Summers photo

Mo Baptiste’s handsome bay Thoroughbred, Fifty Grand, has played the role of bridesmaid for years. He was Reserve Champion to Virginia Field Hunter Champions in 2012 and again in 2015. This year he was, finally, the bride. And the Champion.

Reserve Champion honors go to Marilyn Ware, Deep Run Hunt. The annual Virginia Field Hunter Championship is noted for the quality of the competing horses. The Masters of every Virginia hunt receive an annual invitation to nominate up to two horse and rider combinations which have been hunting regularly with that hunt. Chosen by the Masters, twenty-one riders from eleven hunts competed. They were:

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