Mia Valdez is a 15-year-old Junior Member of the Keswick Hunt Club and member of the Mountain Skyline Pony Club. She has an impressive resume of lobbying her state government not once, but twice. Below is her account of the day.
Photo: Virginia Hunts Juniors met with First Lady Suzanne Youngkin and Representative Buddy Fowler. Photo by Joseph Svetina.
The topic of this year’s Junior Foxhunting Day was land conservation and how the Virginia Department of Wildlife and Resources supports the efforts of many hunt clubs within the state. The importance of maintaining open spaces, the involvement of Juniors, and educating the general public about foxhunting were all discussed.
On February 24th, Juniors from Keswick Hunt Club, Deep Run Hunt, Princess Ann Hunt, and Bull Run Hunt Club gathered in the capital of Virginia, Richmond, after meeting with Representatives, Buddy Fowler, Rob Bell, John McGuire, and Chris Runion to discuss land preservation and education about foxhunting.
This is the second year I have been asked to speak on behalf of the Juniors at this event. Early on, a mentor in the hunt field explained the importance of safeguarding open spaces to me. My quote from last year still resonates loud and clear: “no land - no hunting”.
This motivated me to start work towards conservancy and upkeep of land, which falls in line with one of the requirements for Pony Club’s upper-level ratings requiring a land conservation project. I learned about several awards through my Mountain Skyline Pony Club and through a Junior Pack Membership of the Masters of Foxhounds Association of North America (“MFHA”). I submitted a project to the United States Pony Club’s Brookfield Award on land conservancy. I also nominated my Keswick Hunt Club to the MFHA for this year’s Hunting Habitat Conservation Award.
This is the sixth consecutive year that lobbyist Mike Pearson organized what has become known as “Junior Foxhunting Day” for Virginia. The event is always well received, leading to strong relationships within the legislative body with local pony clubs and hunt clubs.
This year Martyn Blackmore, the Professional Huntsman from Princess Ann Hunt brought three couples of their hounds along with their Junior members. The Juniors were dressed in formal foxhunting attire.
I was asked to address the State Representatives at Bell Tower Park near Richmond. It was there that everyone gathered around a podium to hear State Representatives, senators, and Juniors speak about what Junior Foxhunting Day brings to the lives of many. Later, everyone headed to Richmond, where the hunt clubs were recognized.
The director of the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources (“VDWR”), Ryan Brown, who is an advocate for upcoming generations, joined me in explaining how the organization educates the public and supports hunt clubs. Several delegates expressed how impressed they were by the Juniors’ commitment to the program when it was their turn to speak.
An avid dressage rider, Virginia’s First Lady, Suzanne Youngkin, joined the group at Bell Tower Park to express her support of hunting. Keswick Hunt Club invited the First Lady to join us for a day out in the hunt field and plans are underway to have her experience the thrill of chasing a fox with the sound of the hounds from horseback.
This year’s event provided yet another opportunity for the Juniors to show how passionate and invested they are in keeping the foxhunting tradition alive and to lobby for legislative support where needed. Land conservation plays a pivotal role in keeping foxhunting alive, and the Junior Foxhunting Day was an education to lawmakers on this important topic.
About the author: Mia Valdez is a 15-year-old Junior member of the Keswick Hunt Club in Central Virginia. She has been riding since age 8 and competes in Eventing. She has hunted for four years and has won the Junior North American Field Hunter Championship on her pony Kismet. She is a C3, traditional Pony Clubber, and has a passion for public speaking and writing.
Orginially published on April 2, 2023.