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How to Break into the Intimidating Sport of Fox Hunting 

Fox Hunting 101: How to Break into the Intimidating Sport of Fox Hunting 

Written by Victoria Peace

Photos by Joanne Maisano 

I stepped out of my 12-year-old Volkswagen convertible and peered down at the creek. It looked to be about a foot deep, but the water was flowing pretty fast, so it was difficult to tell for sure. I didn’t want to chance it. I hopped back into the car, reversed toward the gate that separated the creek from a larger field, and then dashed out to close it behind me. Sighing, I realized I had lost the hound truck for good. How had I found myself in this situation? It’s a long story. 

That chilly March morning, Gregg Ryan, Joint Master of the Snickersville Hounds, had invited me to witness my first-ever fox hunt. Coincidentally, it also happened to be their last hunt of the season. So, without time to borrow my Dad’s truck for the weekend, I decided to brave the morning in my trusty Volkswagen. Initially, I had only planned on watching the start. However, after Kennel Huntsman Gale Cayce invited me to follow the hound truck in my car, I accepted, not wanting to miss any of the action. 

I grew up showing in the jumper ring in southern Maryland. While I’ve always known fox hunting existed, it wasn’t until my family bought a house in Middleburg just over two years ago that I gained any first-hand exposure to the sport. Initially, I didn’t expect to spend much time in Middleburg since I was a full-time college student living and working in D.C. However, the pandemic dramatically changed my plans, and within the span of a few months, I suddenly found myself thrust into the heart of hunt country for the very first time. A passionate student of art and history, I decided to spend my summer interning for the National Sporting Library & Museum in Middleburg (NSLM). And, it was this experience that really sparked my interest in hunting. The sense of tradition, the rich artistic heritage of the sport — I was fascinated.

Over the course of the year and a half I spent at home in Middleburg, I was lucky enough to make several amazing contacts in the fox hunting world through both my internship at the NSLM, my part-time job at a local tack shop, and my work as a contributor for Middleburg Life. Through their generous invitations, I attended point-to-point races hosted by local hunts, interviewed jockeys, and toured the Snickersville kennels. And, this was how I ended up just narrowly avoiding bottoming out my Volkwagen in a creek on that chilly but wonderful morning in March, trying to keep up with the hound truck. 

After months of learning about the world of hunting from the outside looking in, I had finally started dreaming of actually riding to hounds myself. But, there was just one problem. As many of you may know, fox hunting is not the easiest sport to break into for beginners: it requires time, patience, specialized equipment, solid horsemanship skills, and financial investment. And despite having a background in riding, there was no getting around the fact that I was a college student with no horse, no hunting experience, and limited funds. I didn’t think it would be possible for me to participate. 

That chilly March morning, Gregg Ryan, Joint Master of the Snickersville Hounds, had invited me to witness my first-ever fox hunt.”

However, the fox hunting community is one of the most open and generous groups of people I have ever met. I was continuously astonished at how willing they were to introduce a newcomer to different aspects of the sport. And when I expressed an interest in trying hunting for myself, the staff and members of the Snickersville Hunt went above and beyond to help me have a safe, and incredibly fun, first experience. Just six months after observing my first hunt, I found myself swinging into the saddle of a sturdy black-and-white horse named Rolls Royce. Nervous, but brimming with excitement, I set off with the second field. True to his name, Royce piloted me across the rolling hills in an expertly smooth manner — it was a feeling of pure joy. 

If you have ever considered trying fox hunting, this article is your sign to do so. It may seem daunting at first, but there are many resources for riders who are interested in getting involved with their local hunt. Here are some of the best ways to break into the sport from the perspective of a fellow beginner. Trust me, it’s worth it!

Research and Outreach

Most hunt clubs have websites with helpful information about their history, territory, schedule, staff, and contact information. Once you find this information, don’t be afraid to reach out! You can send a message expressing your interest to the general inbox, or to one of the masters if their contact information is listed. 

Many hunt clubs also host “Introduction to Fox Hunting” courses. These are a great way to meet the members of the hunt and gain a solid introduction to the sport. Before my first hunt, I also read William Wadsworth’s book, “Riding to Hounds in America.” It provided a helpful foundation of knowledge for what to expect in the field. 

Getting Outside the Ring

One of the biggest obstacles to hunting is learning how to ride outside of a ring over rugged terrain. This can be nerve-wracking at first, especially if you are riding an unfamiliar horse. However, a great way to become more comfortable with the environment is by participating in hunt trail rides. According to Snickersville Kennel Huntsman Gale Cayce, the trail rides are great because they give you an idea of what fox hunting is like in a casual environment before you are actually pursuing a fox and galloping through the countryside. 

However, other types of cross-country riding can also be great ways to prepare for hunting. A few months before my first hunt, I took a month-long job exercising polo ponies in Millwood, Virginia. I practiced galloping up and down hills in an open field, which was a major confidence builder for my first time in the hunt field. 

It is also important to keep in mind that there are different fields that you can ride with when you hunt. First field is for experienced fox hunters with fit horses who can jump obstacles at a gallop and keep pace with the hounds. However, second field riders have the option to circumvent jumps, and ride at a slower pace than first field. And, if you are not yet comfortable galloping, the third field or the “hilltoppers” allow riders to observe the hunt and enjoy the country at a leisurely pace. There are many options for different skill levels. 

Visiting the Kennels

While riding through the Virginia countryside is a thrill, as Cayce told me during my visit to the Snickersville Kennels, during a hunt, “the hounds are the real magic.” Understanding the hunting process, how the hounds work together as a group, and what special characteristics enable them to do their job is fascinating and contributes immensely to the enjoyment of the sport. 

Each noise a hound makes during a hunt signals something different. Experienced fox hunters can decipher this “hound music” and know exactly what is going on in the hunting process. Although, as a beginner, it’s hard to think about anything else besides staying on your horse, and staying out of everyone’s way.

  If you’re interested in trying out hunting and would like to learn about the hounds in a more relaxed environment, consider setting up an appointment to visit the kennels. Many hunt clubs are happy to have people come to the kennels and talk to the Kennel Huntsman if you reach out in advance. Several also host puppy shows, puppy walks, and hound walks, which are great ways to get up close and personal with the key players of the hunt.

Finding a Horse 

The most important aspect to having a successful first hunt is having the right horse. According to Cayce, it is important, especially for beginners, to have “a horse that takes care of you and knows a little bit more about the hunting process than you do.” 

If, like me, you don’t own a horse that is an experienced fox-hunter, don’t panic — there are cost-effective options available to you. For my first hunt, I rented a horse that was extremely experienced and took amazing care of me. This is an economical way to gain an introduction to the sport in a safe and fun manner since you don’t need to worry about buying tack, committing to a several-month-long lease, or covering trailering fees. If you are interested in renting a horse, reach out to the staff of your local hunt, and they should be able to point you in the right direction.

Looking the Part

Besides the horse, the amount of stylish and specialized clothing and gear that fox hunters use might seem daunting. However, when I went on my first hunt, it was still cubbing season. Cubbing season starts in autumn and is a time when horses, hounds, and riders are focusing on getting conditioned for the months ahead. It is less formal than the regular season, and the pace is a little slower, making it a perfect time for beginners to try the sport out. The attire required is also less formal — I was able to wear the same clothing that I wore when I competed in the show ring. Each hunt does have its own guidelines about attire, so be sure to check with their website or local staff before making a final decision on what to wear. But, especially if you are going during cubbing season, you won’t have to sink hundreds of dollars into attire before finding out if you even like the sport. In addition, if you do decide to commit to buying a full hunting kit, there are several used tack and clothing stores in the Middleburg area where you will be able to find wonderful pieces at much-discounted prices.

Hunting

Gregg Ryan’s favorite part of hunting is “when the hounds are in full cry and screaming after the fox.” He explains that “both you and your horse will get your blood up and off you will go jumping and galloping along to keep up with the pack. The chase will conclude when the fox gives the hounds the slip or he will find his hole (gone to ground). You will look around and see a lot of smiling faces.”

After my first hunt, I couldn’t stop smiling for the entire day. I kept thinking about the beauty of the territory I was privileged enough to go hunting on, the incredible talent of the hounds and horses, and the feeling of community that came from experiencing both of these things with a group of other people who love the countryside and riding as much as I do. 

As someone who didn’t grow up fox hunting and who is relatively new to the Middleburg area, I wasn’t sure I would be able to participate in such a specialized sport. However, with the support of an amazing community, the many resources available for beginners here in hunt country, and a little bit of determination, I not only tried it but fell in love with it. If you are at all interested in fox hunting, reach out, attend events hosted by local hunts, and look for ways you can get involved. You never know what might happen! ML

Some helpful links to start your research:
mfha.com
blueridgehunt.org

middleburghunt.com
facebook.com/PiedmontFoxHounds
theolddominionhounds.com
snickersvillehounds.com
warrentonhunt.com

This article first appeared in the November 2021 Issue.

A Record $180,000 in Net Income Raised At NVTRP Largest Annual Event

Photos by: Tony Gibson/ 22Gates.com

The Northern Virginia Therapeutic Riding Program (NVTRP) held its 15th annual Polo Classic on Saturday, September 25, 2021, at Great Meadow in The Plains, VA.

The event was a huge success – with a record-setting net income of $180,000 to support program operations – while complying with all safety standards and protocols for a safe, in-person fundraiser in light of COVID-19.

“What a spectacular day! We are so grateful for, and could not do it without, all of our sponsors, guests, volunteers and staff that make NVTRP’s largest annual fundraiser such a success,” shares NVTRP Executive Director, Kelsey Gallagher. “It takes a village and we are truly thankful to have such a passionate group of people that care about and support the work we do.”

Guests were treated to an afternoon of polo, live and silent auctions, music, drinks, and dining in the heart of Virginia’s picturesque hunt and wine country. The event benefits NVTRP’s mission to provide equine-assisted services to children and adults with disabilities, youth-at-risk, military service personnel, and their families. All proceeds are used to subsidize lessons for NVTRP clients and assist with general operations at the farm.

The COVID-friendly event format included individual guest tents with private lawn and deck space to allow for social distancing, a self-serve bar area, boxed or plated meals, increased restroom facilities, and contactless registration. This year, we were also able to offer a limited number of general admission tickets while still maintaining a safe and COVID-conscious environment.

Above: NVTRP established the “Greg Pellegrino Excellence Award” which will be presented annually to a military client who has demonstrated excellence in pursuing both their own recovery and the advancement of the NVTRP community. The Greg Pellegrino Excellence Award was presented to Carol Baillie. Carol is an 8-year veteran of the United States Coast Guard.

Special events included music by local artist, Jahnel Daliya, the Color Guard of St. Andrew’s Society of Washington, DC accompanied by NVTRP military riders and NVTRP therapeutic riding clients participating in a halftime quadrille – a choreographed drill pattern on horseback set to music.

Will Thomas, NVTRP Board Member and Vice President at TTR Sotheby’s International Realty, and Sherrie Beckstead, partner at Liljenquist & Beckstead Jewelers, returned to co-chair the event and were joined this year by honorary co-chair and respected entrepreneur and philanthropist, Sheila C. Johnson.

Above: Sherrie Beckstead, Sheila C. Johnson, and Will Thomas

Many individuals and local businesses donated more than 100 items to this year’s live and online silent auctions, including weekend getaways, golf packages, restaurant gift certificates, autographed sports memorabilia and more. 

A special thank you to the lead 2021 Polo Classic sponsors: ITCON, Crescent City Charities, Deloitte, AT&T, Gary Cubbage, Barry & Alla Cline, The Peterson Family Foundation, Ginny & Bill Craig, Sheila Johnson and Salamander Resorts, Sherrie Beckstead, Will Thomas, and Campbell Wealth Management.

The MVP award was named in honor of Debbie Nash, a champion in growing the NVTRP Polo Classic

About NVTRP: Originally chartered in 1980, NVTRP is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to helping individuals realize their highest potential by providing equine-assisted services to people with disabilities, youth-at-risk, military service personnel, and their families in an inclusive, community setting. Learning to ride and care for a horse not only improves the physical health of the rider but also generates a critically important sense of accomplishment. Riders participating in NVTRP’s program represent a range of disabilities, including attention deficit disorder, autism, cerebral palsy, developmental disabilities, vision and hearing impairments, and genetic syndromes. NVTRP is a Premier Center accredited by the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International (PATH Intl), and a member center of the Therapeutic Riding Association of Virginia (TRAV). NVTRP is located in Clifton, VA. For more information on NVTRP and more on this event go here.

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Will Ballhaus received the Debbie Nash MVP award.


This article was published in October 2021

67th ANNUAL VIRGINIA FALL RACES WILL RUN THIS OCTOBER

MIDDLEBURG, VA — The 67th annual Virginia Fall Races will run on Saturday, October 9, 2021, at Glenwood Park in Middleburg, VA. Gates open at 8:00 am and post time for the first race is 1:00 pm.

Witness the nation’s best steeplechase horses and riders as they contend for total purse money of $110,000 over the pristine turf course at Glenwood Park, which offers the best view in jump racing, amongst the century-old oaks of the Virginia countryside.

The $30,000 National Sporting Library & Museum Cup returns as the day’s marquee race, a timber race run over three and one-quarter miles. New this year is the addition of the $25,000 Magalen O. Bryant Memorial, run in memory of Mrs. Magalen O. Bryant, an entrepreneur, conservationist, and staunch supporter of thoroughbred racing in the US and Europe. For decades, a loyal advocate and friend of the community, Mrs. Bryant’s family continues her grand legacy at the Virginia Fall Races.

Photo by Douglas Lees

Spectators are encouraged to arrive early and behold the excitement and pageantry of the Theodora A. Randolph North American Field Hunter Championship Final, which kicks off at 9:00 am. Foxhunting enthusiasts from across the country will compete for the title and $4,000 in prize money.

General Admission and Reserved Parking arrangements can be made by calling the Race Office at (540) 687-9797 or emailing the Secretary at secretary@vafallraces.com. Race day General Admission is $50.00 CASH ONLY per car (admits one vehicle and four occupants). More information is available on www.vafallraces.com as well as Facebook and Instagram.

The Virginia Fall Races has run at Glenwood Park in Middleburg since 1955.  All proceeds from the race weekend benefit the INOVA Loudoun Hospital Foundation in nearby Leesburg, Virginia. Virginia Fall Races has consistently contributed more money to the foundation than any other sporting event.

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Virginians Head To The Olympics With A Village of Support

GOING FOR GOLD:

Virginians Head To The Olympics

With A Village of Support

Written by Kaitlin Hill

“To see your flag and hear your national anthem, there is nothing else like that,” Bonnie Jenkins, Executive Director of the United States Equestrian Teams Foundation (USET), says. “And I think any athlete would agree. To bring medals home for your country, it’s pretty special.”

Jenkins and the USET Foundation’s Chairman, President, and CEO, Jim McNerney, believe reaching that golden opportunity of success in elite equestrian competition requires early development, complete dedication, effective financial support, and a heavy dose of patriotism. With all eyes on the Tokyo Olympics, Jenkins, McNerney, and familiar equestrian figures Laura Kraut, Robert Ridland, and Joe Fargis, share how the USET Foundation plays a fundamental role in Team USA’s perpetual preparation for this year’s summer games and beyond.

2017 Winning Team USA Laura Kraut, Lillie Keenan, Chef d’Equipe Robert Ridland, Lauren Hough, and Elizabeth Madden Photo Tony Parkes

Best described as the philanthropic partner of US Equestrian Teams, the USET Foundation was established in 2003 with a fixed focus on fundraising. “At the time USET, which had always done the fundraising, transitioned into a formal foundation to continue the fundraising work for high performance,” Jenkins says.

“The first reason to split the two, the management of the teams, athletes, and the horses from the fundraising, is you get a more professional job from each,” McNerney says. “You get two boards and more people involved. The second reason for the split … is it became a better governance standard.”

The repositioning of US Equestrian and USET Foundation created clear objectives for each side while retaining a close working relationship with positive results. “The proof is in the pudding,” McNerney says. “The fundraising has more than doubled on a yearly grant basis and is continuing to grow. It has the virtue of being both good governance and more effective.”

“It’s a great relationship and it serves the sport very well,” Jenkins says.

USET Foundation is the largest financial backer for US Equestrian, helping underwrite the long journey from youth development to elite status in the eight international disciplines: dressage, eventing, jumping, driving, endurance, reining, para-equestrian, and vaulting.

That road begins with providing the financial support to develop young riders, a part of the Foundation’s work that McNerney describes as “critical. Maybe the most important thing we do.”

As an athlete in the 1976 Olympic Games and current US Show Jumping Chef d’Equi- pe, Robert Ridland has seen his share of rider development and explains how the USET Foundation-funded Pathway Program, for example, is an essential element.

“These riders and these horses are part of a long process,” Ridland says. “The major function of the program is the pathway to get there for younger riders of various levels … We aren’t only supporting top riders, we are preparing the riders for the next championship and the next competition. If we are not invigorating that pathway of athletes that are going to be competing in the Olympics seven years from now, we aren’t doing our job.”

“The USET Foundation’s support of the Pathway Program develops the athletes and develops the sport to make us more competitive,” McNerney says. Becoming more competitive is “all-consuming,” Joe Fargis explains, a 1984 Olympic Show Jumping Gold Medalist and Middle- burg resident. “It’s constant and as repetitive as practice can be,” he says. “You have to immerse yourself in it if you want to get better. It takes all day long, seven days a week, 365 days a year.”

With nearly four decades in equestrian competition under her belt, a recent second place in the Rome Grand Prix, with Tokyo on her horizon, Laura Kraut has certainly put in the time and experienced firsthand the support provided by USET Foundation funding over a long career.

“When you’re at the level of competing internationally and jumping for the United States, [the Foundation] is there in every way,” she shares. “Support staff with logistics, veterinarians, team physios, they are there from start to finish making it as pain-free as possible so the athlete can concentrate on what they need to do.”

A major part of the Olympics or any competition is taking care of horses in transit, a task that requires a huge logistical effort and serious funding. “A lot of our funding is to make sure those horses fly comfortably and safely with their veterinarians,” Jenkins says. “These horses are top athletes too. And then with eight disciplines, it’s not just a show jumping team. You could have eight teams going abroad to represent us.”

Kraut shares that USET Foundation’s financial aid sets the US apart in a big way. “I think we are the envy of the international jumping world … We are very fortunate that the people helping us are fantastic, and in the end, it really makes a difference.”

“It takes an awful lot of preparation in your life and in your team’s life,” Ridland says. “And of course, it is a parallel path for the horse as well. That is where the USET Foundation comes in … Many countries have their Olympics subsidized by government subsidies and we don’t. We couldn’t exist without the USET Foundation.”

Much more than dollars and cents, the fundraising efforts of the USET Foundation speak to a uniquely American patriotism and a camaraderie in the equestrian community.

“Our support is sort of grassroots by its virtue, and by the efforts of Bonnie and the board, it engenders a team effort,” McNerney says. This fashion of fundraising not only builds a team dynamic, it also creates a unique life cycle for the athletes and highlights a personal bond shared by many of the donors.

“When you have to go out and find the money, you not only appreciate it, like in the case of Laura, [you take] advantage of it,” McNerney says. “And there’s this life cycle that when she gets to the top, she wants to reach back because she knows there are others embarking on the same journey she was on, and that it wasn’t easy. I don’t want to say that team dynamic doesn’t exist in other countries, but it exists for sure in Americans, both horizontally at any event and vertically [between] generations.”

Passion for the sport combined with patriotism breeds a special connection for the donors as well. “Most of our major donors have either participated themselves in the sport at some stage in their lives, have family involvement, or own the horses themselves. There is almost always a connection,” McNerney says.

“I would put patriotism near the top of the list for donor motivation,” Jenkins says.“Not just in the major gifts program, but also our annual support program. They are truly part of the team too.”

Patriotism is perhaps most apparent during an Olympic year, but Ridland, Kraut, Jenkins, and McNerney agree focusing on the future is equally important for a sport that never stops moving. “It’s a never-ending cycle in a very exciting way … It is fascinating to see where the sport was, where it is and where it will go,” Ridland says. “And we take our roles seriously as stewards of the sport, to put it in a better place 20 or 30 years from now.”

As the sport progresses, so too must the financial support, never losing sight of that patriotism. “Because the future is constant, the requirement is constant,” McNerney says. “There’s an arms race on all those things that add up to competitiveness.”

To cushion that constant change, the USET Foundation is building up its endowment in addition to the cyclical nature of giving that supports annual competitions and training. “Bonnie is really focused on creating and strengthening our endowment, which is stretched out over multiple years,” McNerney says. “That enables us to get through rough spots.”

According to Jenkins, McNerney’s role is key as well. “As our leader, Jim has been on the frontlines of building that endowment, which has made a huge difference to the organization. It’s now at 20 million. When Jim started, it was closer to six million. That was a huge achievement.”

Wherever the contribution is directed, whether it be annual giving for a particular discipline or toward the endowment benefiting the whole team for years to come, every penny counts. “I don’t think Bonnie or I want to create the impression that the smaller or medium-sized gifts aren’t critically important,” McNerney says. “They are. We equally celebrate and appreciate all levels of donors because they bring the same patriotism and love of the sport. It all adds up, making the country better in the sport.”

And many of those donations, big and small, come from the Middleburg area. A few loyal friends of note include Jacque- line B. Mars of The Plains, and Honorary Life Trustee of USET, Sheila Johnson, whose daughter, Paige, won USET’s Maxine Beard Award. Finally, Barbara and David Roux of St. Bride’s Farm who are not only supporters of the Foundation but also own Laura Kraut’s horses, Baloutine and Confu. Laura Kraut will be riding Baloutine at the Tokyo Olympic Games.

Laura Kraut /Image, Stefano Secchi, 88° CSIO Roma Piazza di Siena 2021

“The Middleburg connection to our sport is a big deal,” McNerney says. “There’s a deep cultural connection to the sport, and a number of wonderful supporters live in Middleburg.”

For Tokyo and beyond, it is obvious that the support of the USET Foundation is the secret of the team’s success. From creating opportunities for youth riders, funding domestic and international competition preparation, and building an endowment to secure the sport’s future, Kraut and Ridland describe the Foundation’s purpose best.

“USET Foundation helps us have that camaraderie, and they make us feel like we are doing something important,” Kraut says. “This is a very individual sport … but they make us realize that there is more to the sport than just being an individual. And there is a lot to be said for being part of a team and winning on the international stage.”

“I can’t emphasize enough how crucial the Foundation is to us being able to compete at the highest level of our sport,” Ridland says. “And we as Americans are privileged to have the Foundation leading the way.” ML

The USET Foundation was established in 2003 as a not-for-profit Section 501(c)(3). It is a separate organization from US Equestrian, the National Governing Body, and serves as its philanthropic partner. The Foundation’s mission is to raise tax-deductible contributions to support the nation’s High-Performance athletes and horses through grants made to US Equestrians. Donations may be made through uset.org.

US Equestrian develops, selects, equips, promotes, and manages US equestrian teams, as well as provides funding through corporate sponsorship, membership dues and fees, and USOPC support.

Great Meadow International —Something for Everyone: Equestrians, Spectators, even the Family Dog

By Heidi Baumstark
Photography by Sienna Turecamo

Great Meadow International, a four-day equestrian event, will bring the hills fully alive August 22-25 at Great Meadow in The Plains. Now in its fifth season, this annual event offers three levels of international competition featuring Olympic-level riders and horses in what can be described as an equestrian triathlon (dressage, show jumping, and cross-country).

But this year, Great Meadow International (GMI) has broadened its vision from its first event in 2015. Five Rings Eventing (FRE), founded by Darrin Mollett of Beverly Equestrian and Olympian David O’Connor, is a high-performance event organizer and management company that has led the competition side of GMI since its inception; but this year, Five Rings is managing all aspects of the event. Mollett added, “Our vision for 2019 is to produce a festival atmosphere to enhance the spectator experience and the community flavor of our event. We’ll be a family-friendly, country festival with a special focus on everyone’s best friend—dogs.”

In honor of Mars Great Meadow International in August, the Middleburg Life July cover features Olympic-level athletes, the organizer of Mars GMI and Middleburg Humane Foundation’s K-9s in support of this year’s enhanced spectator and community experience at GMI.

Another change this year is increasing the GMI from a three-day to a four-day event, which will include a fall festival featuring Meadow Market, a charming vendor village with a beer garden, a tent where people can cool off, local food trucks, live music, and entertainment. Organizers are planning for dogs, too, including demonstrations, dog agility activities, and canine treats. There will be a large tent open to everyone overlooking the main arena. Guests can take their food there and get out of the sun. Nearby will be the Mars VIP Hospitality Pavilion for guests who prefer all-inclusive dining and a full-service bar in a private setting; tables and half-tables are on sale for this pavilion venue. For those who want to be close to the action, a variety of tailgates and ringside boxes are available with a cash bar and access to local food trucks.

Athletes on the cover include Karen O’Connor and Lynn Symansky, Mars GMI organizer Darrin Mollett, and adoptive pets from MHF.

Mars Equestrian™, a division of Mars, Incorporated, is this year’s title sponsor, which falls in line with the organization’s canine focus including dog food and treats. A statement from Dr. Bridgett McIntosh, Director of Mars Equestrian™, confirms their support, “Offering multiple levels of [equestrian] competition in a community-focused event, with pet-friendly activities for fans, creates the ideal intersection for Mars, Incorporated’s diverse portfolio of brands. Ultimately, the partnership with GMI is central to our purpose to improve the lives of horses, pets, and the people who love them.”

The equestrian competition portion of GMI has also expanded in scope. With an expected attendance of 200 horse/rider combinations across the three levels of international competition (dressage, show jumping, and cross-country), this number is up from 35-45 in previous years.

Mollett said the event includes the term “International” because it’s an international level of competition for all three levels, which includes dressage on Thursday and Friday, show jumping on Saturday, and cross-country on Sunday. “We moved the event from July to August so competitors could prepare for their fall championships; it’s meant to benefit the rider. And the racecourse has amazing footing and a new irrigation system. Plus, we’ll have so much more for the community,” Mollett explained. The rule of thumb is that competitors bring three to four connections. In past years, thousands have come. With over 200 horses/riders expected, scores of spectators will be attracted, plus owners, riders, trainers, and horse enthusiasts from across the country.

Clothing styled by Tully Rector.
https://www.facebook.com/TullyRector/

FRE’s organizing committee is an all-volunteer group. One volunteer, Max Corcoran, has been on the committee since the beginning. She said, “In previous years, there was just the highest level of the competition; but this year, we’ll have the next level—the intermediate/preliminary level—which opens it up to more riders. There will be different countries represented; we’ll see Canadians, riders from Mexico, Ecuador, Argentina, Australia, New Zealand, England, and Ireland. They’ve come to compete, to ride for their country. It’s such a beautiful facility and a great excuse to come out and enjoy time in the country—not just for riders but for everyone.”

Pet collars & leashes: Loyal Companion
https://loyalcompanion.com/

Plans are on track for a portion of GMI’s proceeds to benefit non-profit partners, including the Pedigree Foundation (the non-profit leg of Mars) and the local Middleburg Humane Foundation, which operates a farm shelter in Marshall, Virginia for abused or neglected animals.

For over 30 years, literally millions have come to events at Great Meadow drawn by its natural splendor, a 380-acre field events center and steeplechase course among the backdrop of the rolling Bull Run Mountain range. It began with the Virginia Gold Cup held every May and grew from there. Today, it is home to a laundry list of greats including the International Gold Cup Races in October, Saturday night Twilight Polo from May through September, the Twilight Jumper series on select Friday summer nights, and home to the popular Fourth of July Celebration. It is also the site of public astronomy events hosted by the Northern Virginia Astronomy Club, Team America Rocketry Challenge, and is a favorite pick for seasonal trail rides, weddings, and other community events.

Dog food: Mars Petcare 
https://www.mars.com/made-by-mars/petcare

But back in 1982, the property known as Fleming Farm was a failing dairy farm. The late Arthur W. “Nick” Arundel (1928-2011), news executive and philanthropist, spotted the property, which was slated for sale, ready to be turned into a large housing development. But Arundel purchased the property, envisioning a preservation of open space for the permanent home for the annual Virginia Gold Cup steeplechase, and to showcase one of Virginia’s most beautiful natural resources. He donated the farm that would become Great Meadow, stewarded by the Great Meadow Foundation, which was first established in 1984 as the Meadows Outdoor Foundation and renamed Great Meadow Foundation in 1996.

Hair and Makeup by Salon Emage Day Spa
https://salonemage.com/
Location: Beverly Equestrian
http://www.beverlyequestrian.com/

Thanks to the initial vision of Arundel—and since then many more—friends still meet at Great Meadow to celebrate the preservation of this sweeping space and the entertainment it brings. Mollett ended, “And GMI is live-streamed on multiple platforms.” So now even more people can catch the vision of this international event and the wonder of Great Meadow as its prized venue.

GMI tickets include general parking and admission to the venue and Meadow Market. For more information and to purchase tickets, tables, etc., visit www.greatmeadowinternational.com. Great Meadow in The Plains is located at 5089 Old Tavern Road; the phone number is 540-253-9845 and the website is www.greatmeadow.org.

Photoshoot credits:

Pet collars & leashes: Loyal Companion @loyalcompanionpets https://loyalcompanion.com/; Clothing: Tully Rector @tullyrector https://www.facebook.com/TullyRector/; Dog food: Mars Petcare https://www.mars.com/made-by-mars/petcare @mars_petcare; Hair and Makeup: Salon Emage Day Spa @salonemagedayspa https://salonemage.com/;
Photography: Sienna Turecamo @siennaturecamophotography; Location: Beverly Equestrian @beverlyequestrian http://www.beverlyequestrian.com; Cover pets: @middleburghumanefoundation http://www.middleburghumane.org

This article first appeared in the July 2019 issue of Middleburg Life.

Unbranded, A Wild Mustang Expedition

SIXTEEN MUSTANGS + FOUR MEN = ONE DREAM

Enjoy a special screening of Unbranded: A Wild Mustang Expedition at the Long Branch Historic House & Farm in Boyce, Virginia from 6-9 p.m. on June 21. 

 The documentary tracks four fresh-out-of-college buddies as they take on wild mustangs to be their trusted mounts, and set out on the adventure of a lifetime. Sixteen mustangs, four men, one dream: to ride border to border, Mexico to Canada, up the spine of the American West. Their wildness of spirit, in both man and horse, is quickly dwarfed by the wilderness they must navigate: a 3,000-mile gauntlet that is equally indescribable and unforgiving.

A special equineart show and history exhibit accompany the event and a wine reception proceeds the film. Presented in collaboration with Long Branch and sponsored by TDC Investment Advisors. Tickets are $10 in advance / $15 at door. Go to visitlongbranch.org for more information.

Prioritize Strength in 2019: It’s about time

By Laura Crump Anderson

Fitness should be a year-round goal, not something we do when we are motivated by our New Year’s resolutions in January.

Health and wellness come from a balanced, but targeted approach to life – whether you ride horses or are regular ‘desk jockey.’ As we age, we naturally lose muscle mass, which is associated with increased health risks.
Regular strength training sessions is the best way to defend and increase muscle mass.

Equestrians have the incredibly demanding task of communicating nonverbally with an animal that weighs 1,500 pounds. Whether the job is to ride a dressage test with precision, jump around a quick but challenging show jumping course, steer a polo pony and setup a shot, gallop across a field with the hunt, turn a cutting horse, or withstand the endurance and the technicality of cross country. Riders are athletes that have a strenuous job every time they sit on a horse. However, unlike in other sports, riders rarely train outside their field.

Equestrian Fitness Specialists Cameron Rouse and Laura Crump Anderson help riders learn the importance of regular strength training. Photo by Nicole Gustavson.

Exercise, outside of the saddle, is not just important for those performing at the top level of equestrian sports, it is essential for anyone looking to become a better rider or live a healthier life. Times are changing, and one will notice that more professionals are addressing their strength, flexibility, and endurance outside of the saddle to improve their ability to be effective when it matters. This additional fitness is not only important for competitions and events, but also during training rides. It requires a lot of skill, as well as fitness, for a rider to look like they are barely doing anything at all.

All horse and rider pairs are constantly learning from one another. The equestrian struggling with their own fitness will be less successful than when they are fresh, with or without a coach on the ground. Working through the struggle to achieve success, is what makes good riders great. However, there is a point when the struggle becomes more of detriment to the pair then a positive learning experience, and this is where strength training can lead to a difference.

While recovering from a significant, horse-related spinal injury, Dave Moyes of Hamilton, Virginia started strength training and noticed a difference after just four hours of strength training over a three-
month period.

“I had lost core strength and I was not able to ride the same way that I used to be able. I am a foxhunter, a master of foxhunting, so I have a responsibility to stay out there… the strength improvements were immediate, and I felt the strength in my legs and core, and my horse noticed the difference.” Dave continued, “For me, time is a major thing. Going to a gym, changing clothes, working out, [and then] showering can take all afternoon. This [program] concentrates things into a matter of 20 minutes.”

Strength training should be a priority every week throughout the year, because it provides the most bang for the buck when it comes to fitness.
Strength training builds muscle that prevents injury, improves core strength and stability, boosts the metabolism, and increases energy and endurance. Putting muscle on our bodies is the best way to prevent the natural atrophy that occurs with age.

If going to the gym for training is difficult, the gym can come to you. Writer Laura Crump Anderson on the InForm Fitness Mobile Gym chest press machine with her colleague, Cameron Rouse, coaching her. Photo by Nicole Gustavson.

The first thing many people notice after implementing a strength training program is an increase in energy. Riders should not expect to become stronger in their aids, but quite the opposite. Strength training allows a rider to fine tune their aids, because they are able to maintain their form. By training off the horse, riders develop improved control of their essential core muscles (without interference from the horse’s movement). This leads to an improved ability to correctly apply aids in the tack, because the horse is not trying to decode the white noise that comes from a weak seat. Strength training has a beneficial impact on one’s galloping position and sitting trot, much more so than running or getting on an exercise bike.

“The temptation to train when they should be recovering drives far too many athletes. This proclivity underscores the importance for athletes… of understanding the stimulus-response relationship of exercise. Guided by this knowledge, they can preview the upcoming schedule, isolate out the competition days, and then institute the proper strategy, including rest, necessary to ensure that they arrive for the event fully recovered…What this means is that in a competitive season, physical conditioning workouts may need to be performed very infrequently. High-intensity workouts that are performed to positive failure to stimulate a positive adaptation may have to be postponed…Above all, athletes should do nothing to make themselves weaker or set themselves up for a career-ending injury.”
-Dr. Doug McGuff, Author of “Body by Science”

Although not all strength training programs are created equal, slow motion strength training is both safe and efficient. Force is the leading cause of injury in exercise. By greatly reducing the acceleration in an exercise, you reduce the amount of force that goes into the motion, therefore greatly reducing the chance of injury. By moving slowly, the individual can be mindful of movements that cause pain and modify the exercise accordingly.

Secondly, you take momentum out of the equation, requiring the muscle to do more work through the range of motion to move the weight. This leads to a greater intensity in the exercise, and a point of momentary muscle failure, because the person will not have to do multiple sets to achieve physiological adaptation or get the desired results.

Training slow means that one will not have to train as often. As equestrians and/or business professionals, schedules are demanding, and time is not easily traded for something else. However, strength training enables people to do the activities that give their life purpose.

Laura Crump Anderson and the InForm Fitness Mobile Gym. Photo by Nicole Gustavson.

Laura Crump Anderson is a Loudoun County native who grew up immersed in the horse country, jumping on every opportunity to work with horses. By her teenage years, Laura suffered from an overtraining injury, without ever setting foot in the gym. Through physical therapy, Laura discovered that exercise was the key to getting back in the tack and has since dedicated her life to teaching riders the importance of treating oneself like the athlete she regarded the horse to be.

Laura holds a degree in exercise science, with a concentration in kinesiology, is an ACSM certified personal trainer, a 200-hour certified yoga teacher, and specializes in the Power of 10 high intensity, slow motion strength training protocol. She is the Equestrian Fitness Specialist at InForm Fitness Leesburg and Reston, and serves as the current Chair of the Loudoun County Chamber of Commerce Health and Wellness Committee.

This article first appeared in the January 2019 Issue of Middleburg Life.

Orange County Hounds Team Chase

By Helen Brettell | Photos by Joanne Maisano

Orange County Hounds held their annual Team Chase at Old Whitewood Farm in The Plains on Sunday, Oct. 28. Despite rain the day before, the ground dried up enough for superb going on Mark and Karin Ohrstrom’s beautiful farm. Although a cold wind greeted the early comers, by afternoon the sun came out to warm the many hardy onlookers for the championship.

Hilltopper pairs kicked off the proceedings with Jane Quilter and Annabel Bybee winning the best turned out. Mo Baptiste and Boyden Rohner pleased the judges with their smooth round to clinch the best Hilltopper pair round the course.

 

In the afternoon, the First Flight teams tackled the 19 natural hunt jumps after George Kuk, Devon Zebrovious and Maureen Britell, representing Piedmont Foxhounds, won the best turned out prize. The prize for best Hunt Team went to Nina Fout, Helen Hickson and Caroline Fout from Middleburg-Orange County ( MOC) Beagles.

Throughout the event, the four judges had selected those horses which would come forward for the final test to decide the First Flight Junior Champion and the First Flight Hunter Champion. The Junior division was a tightly contested affair with Morgan Botto on Distant Strike from the MOC Beagles winning with Flora Hannum on Snickers as reserve.

Kristin Dillon-Johnson from Piedmont Fox Hounds (PFH) and Nina Fout from Orange County Hounds (OCH) have both won the coveted perpetual challenge trophy, donated in memory of Alfred Hunt, on at least two occasions and this time Kristin on Smooth Jazz came out on top to become the 2018 First Flight Champion.

 

This article first appeared in the December 2018 issue of Middleburg Life.

A Look Back at the 2018 International Gold Cup

Photos by John Scott Nelson Photography

Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these riders from the swift completion of their appointed rounds. While the International Gold Cup like the United States Postal Service has no official motto, the die hard Gold Cup fans could steal the postal workers motto for this October’s event.

Despite the not so cheery weather, fans donned their best hats and put on their smiling faces to brave the damp weather and enjoy what turned out to be an exciting day at Great Meadows on Saturday, Oct. 27.The lush green grass was a bit wet and made for some muddy boots, but the steeplechase races went on and the horses didn’t seem to mind. The day didn’t go to the dogs. However, the entertaining Terrier Races in the paddock did start the day and grabbed everyone’s attention. 

This article first appeared in the December 2018 Issue of Middleburg Life.

 

The Season Begins: Formal Fox Hunting Around Our Town

Photos by Joanne Maisano

The start of formal fox hunting began the first week of November. Weather conditions varied between windy and cold to a steady rain but that didn’t stop the die hard fox hunters.

Piedmont Fox Hounds Opening meet at Oakley farm Whip Johnny Dean, huntsman, Jordan Hicks and whip Michelle St. Onge.

Just as important as having the right horse is having the right look for the formal hunts. Middleburg Life photographer Joanne Maisano donned her boots to be there so we could share these with you.

Middleburg Hunt huntsman Richard Roberts moving off from Mortgage Hall.

Here are a few shots from local fox hunt meets around the area. Huntsmen in their scarlet coats are always a handsome sight to see.

Huntsman Reg Spreadborough of Orange County Hounds at Opening meet

The Joint Masters and members braved the elements in style in their formal attire.

Huntsman of Blue Ridge Hunt Graham Buston.

This article first appeared in the December 2018 issue of Middleburg Life.

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