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Sam Clifton huntsman with wife Shannon and Son William Photo by Alaine PapertHuntsman Sam Clifton with his wife Shannon and son William. Photo by Alaine Papert.

It began with an early wakeup call but the Juniors were eager. Ponies need to be cleaned, stock ties tied, and girths tightened. It was only a matter of time until the courtyard of Colonial Stables in Ligonier, Pennsylvania would be invaded by nearly thirty Juniors who had come to give foxhunting a try with Rolling Rock Hunt. Juniors from Rolling Rock Hunt Pony Club, Ligonier Polo Association, and surrounding lesson stables joined Rolling Rock Hunt for their annual Junior Meet. Sam Clifton, professional huntsman, and Shannon, professional whipper-in, for Rolling Rock Hunt included their son, William. And what a hat!

Rolling Rock Hunt Junior Meet 2023

The Juniors (and some of the ponies!) were wide-eyed after taking in all the sights and sounds of a hunt meet. This was the largest attended hunt of the season. Parents milled around the courtyard passing out Junior-friendly stirrup cups and donuts. Finally, the Juniors’ eyes lit up as the hounds were released. Huntsman Sam, as a few of the Juniors called him, blew the note that signaled to everyone the hunt was about to begin!

It was a sight to see Junior after Junior lining up behind each other in First, Second, Third, and Hilltoppers Flights as they left for the first cast of hounds. I jumped into the hunt truck with Sam’s father, Steve, because we were in charge of watching the hounds on the tracker. Instead, we found ourselves enjoying the smiles and giggles from Juniors and adults! Although it was not a barn burner of a day, hounds spoke a few times, which gave the Juniors the real feel of a hunt. Riding skills were tested when navigating the rocky and hilly terrain. Everyone headed back as rain was threatening, so excited to tell tales of their experiences to those awaiting back at the kennels.

It was nothing but smiles when the Juniors rode proudly back into the courtyard! Ponies were praised, as Junior and their mount alike, were all extremely well-behaved. Despite the rain, the Rolling Rock Hunt Pony Club hosted a tea for all involved in the day. Huddled under a tent, stories were told, laughs were shared, and cheers were had to a wonderful morning. With a bit of luck, we put the bug of hunting into these Juniors in hopes they will continue the tradition of foxhunting. This was a Junior meet for the record books! I think it’s safe to say Rolling Rock Hunt and its Juniors are ready for the Junior North American Field Hunter Championship Finals in 2024!

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