On November 8, Old Dominion Hounds welcomed 90 qualified enthusiasts to the finals of the Junior North American Field Hunter Championships. It was a most impressive spectacle when they lined up in the field at the Albert P. & Katherine Steedman Hinckley Memorial Hunter Trial Field, near the ODH kennels.
Championship and reserve honors were awarded in three divisions with rosettes to 10th place: Hilltoppers, First Field 12 & Under, and First Field 13 & Over.
Champion of the Hilltoppers was Brighton Craig, riding Riots Maeve, representing Old Dominion; the reserve tri-color went to Kate Thresher and Caramel Topping of Loudoun Fairfax Hunt. Old Dominion’s Kylee Keahon and Halloween Party took home fourth place. Loudoun Fairfax’s Bethany Visokay on Holly finished 9th and Ashby Hatcher aboard Lightening Bug placed 10th.
First Field 12 & Under champion was Maggie Buchanan and Good Fortune from Mr. Stewart’s Cheshire Foxhounds (Pa.), with Old Dominion’s Emma Keahon and Duck Duck Goose earning the reserve honors. Blue Ridge Hunt’s Drew Schwentker and Scout placed 6th while Lilia Sharp and Isodorable took 10th. Colby Poe, representing Old Dominion aboard Blueberry, finished 8th.
First Field 13 & Over featured the most finalists, 40 in all, with Heather Feconda and Color Me Blue (aka Yogi) from Loudoun Fairfax earning the championship, while Lee Lee McNeil and O’Ryan from Radnor Hunt (Pa.) claimed the reserve tricolor. Old Dominion had three in the ribbons: Hayley Davis and Arts N Crafts placed 3rd, Lakyn Harlow and Ice Princess were 4th, and Connor Poe finished in 10th. (Complete results are on the website.)
Feconda, 15, knows the importance of the correct mount. After she outgrew her pony, she got to hunt her mother’s horse, Yogi, but they had to take turns. Several years ago, she tried to qualify for the finals, but the horse she had
wasn’t quite up to the demands of hunting under the scrutiny of judges.
“This was my first time ever to compete in the Junior Foxhunter Championship, and I rode my mom’s horse Yogi,” said Feconda, who earned her C-3 Pony Club rating last summer on Yogi whom she evented at Training level. “We went to one qualifier and it was my home hunt. I tried to see it as just a regular hunt. I felt pretty comfortable, but it was a little scary when the judges rode up next to me to watch me jump. Yogi is smart with his feet and knows what he’s doing. I was busy with school and my mom hunted Yogi to keep him fit. I was really surprised to win, but Yogi is a really good boy in the hunt field.”
Nina Bonnie, Katherine Byron MFH, Snowden Clarke, Helen Brettell, and Joseph Keusch ex-MFH, avid enthusiasts who know what’s involved to run and jump in a large group of horses with hounds in full cry, judged the finals. The first phase was equitation, like an under saddle class at a hunter show, but in a big field, followed by the pivotal test, a 30-minute Mock Hunt scored by judges on horseback and in vehicles at key locations. Comparing scorecards, judges selected 10 finalists in each division to perform an individual test. Just leaving their companions can be challenging to any equine, let alone jumping or dropping rails, crossing water, galloping and halting out in the open. To be a finalist at the finals is huge; to win speaks volumes for the horse-and-rider partnership.
In 2003, Douglas Wise-Stuart, then Joint-MFH Old Dominion, and Iona Pillion of Blue Ridge Hunt founded the Junior North American Field Hunter Championships. Two years later, the program was growing so quickly, they brought in Marion Chungo to help with organizing. They set three primary goals, above and beyond fun in the hunt field, for the juniors who would participate in this exciting and innovative learning experience.
The first goal involved the youngsters learning about the importance of land conservation. The future of hunting requires young people and open land: win-win to raise their awareness now. Since the JNAFHC’s inception, it has donated more than $35,000 to various land conservation groups that support participating hunts. The entry fee this year, per junior, was $50, allowing them to ride in as many qualifying hunts as they wanted.
The second goal was for like-minded foxhunters to meet each other. Qualifiers offered a day being judged while riding to hounds, followed by a tailgate breakfast. The juniors often hunted totally unfamiliar country, thanks to the qualifying meets hosted by 19 hunts in Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Georgia and North Carolina.
The third goal, the competitive element includes sportsmanship, always an important aspect of hunting. The Lynda Johnston Perpetual Spirit Award was presented for the first time. Old Dominion Hounds’ Lucy Arnold was the junior chosen for best exemplifying the sportsmanship, horsemanship and dedication of the late Mrs. Johnston, who loved horses and hunting, belonged to several packs, most recently Loudoun Fairfax, and had a knack for mentoring young riders in the hunt field.
The greatest overall combined goal, however, is the versatile education of young equestrians who hunt. Foxhunting takes the skills learned in the ring to an advanced level when riders gallop in company across natural terrain, whether or not they jump, but most do, especially if they have the right horse. Many young enthusiasts participate in Pony Club, and almost all love to show — hunters, jumpers, equitation, three-day eventing, etc. Skills and work ethics learned with horses lend themselves well to every aspect of life.
The finals weekend included an invitation to hunt on Saturday with Old Dominion, shopping that afternoon at Horse Country Saddlery and, that evening, a dinner-dance at Alwyngton Manor, in Warrenton. On Sunday, during the finals, Old Dominion Hounds and the ODH Pony Club provided lunch for everyone.
“The JNAFHC program is now in its 13th year and we’re thrilled that so many hunts participated and that we had juniors from nine states for a total of 28 hunts represented,” said Marion Chungo. “Next year, the finals will be hosted by Iroquois Hunt in Lexington, Kentucky. We’re very excited that this program keeps growing and we’re looking forward to it catching on throughout the foxhunting community so that it can continue to benefit our juniors and our countryside.”
For more information: email Marion Chungo: firstname.lastname@example.org and be sure to visit: www.jnafhc.com for complete results and Facebook.com for lots of photos