As foxhunters, we all know the importance of “paying it forward,” “leaving a legacy,” or “passing the torch.” Teaching new and young riders about the sport of mounted fox chasing has never been more important. To engage new foxhunters, Wicomico Hunt Club, on the Eastern Shore of Maryland and Delaware, introduced their first Fox Chasing 101 Clinic in 2017. Member and whipper-in, Alison Howard developed the initial clinic curriculum and chaired it for three years. Under her leadership, it thrived and gained momentum, exposing 20-40 new riders to the sport each year. This year, despite the pandemic challenges, the clinic continued with a few safety modifications and a new chairman, member, and whipper-in, Eden Kloetzli. As in past years, it was a huge success!
Each year, the clinic offers four sessions every Sunday in September, at the same time and the same fixture in Galena, MD. To ensure inclusion and success for all participants, four riding flights are offered to accommodate all levels of riders. This year there were 58 participants, including 30 adults and 28 juniors. Huntsman Marty Morani hunted the hounds as usual but limited the hunting to two hours each 101 session. Wicomico Hunt Club members were dispersed throughout each flight to help with educating clinic participants and assisting with badly behaved ponies (and not surprisingly, there were a few!).
Following each hunt and after unmounting, there was an educational talk, as participants sat on the grass and ate their snack. Joint Master Melissa Wade spoke the first week about etiquette in the hunt field. In week two, Marty Morani demonstrated the various breeds of hounds and their traits. In the third week, Joint Master Ed Fry spoke about the importance of good landowner relations. Joint Master Jane Rhoades concluded the educational talks on the fourth and final clinic by discussing proper hunt attire, where to purchase it, and what it has been like for her to have foxhunted for 75 years! Her undeniable enthusiasm and passion for fox chasing will help to “leave a legacy!”
The 58 participants came from all riding disciplines. Some had never foxhunted, some were green riders or had green horses, some plan to join and some just came to enjoy the experience. Regardless of each person’s reason for participating, one thing is clear: They learned a lot about the sport. A 12-year-old participant had the opportunity to gallop up the edge of the covert alongside the hunted fox with the hounds in hot pursuit. Thrilled with his view, his comment was, “Wow, I didn’t know a fox could run that fast!” He and his 13-year-old sister plan to join Wicomico Hunt Club for the first time this season.
This is the kind of excitement and passion for the sport that we, as foxhunters, can share with others. It is a rewarding experience for the teachers and the learners. Wicomico Hunt Club hopes to “pay it forward” through its 101 Clinic. How can you “pass the torch?”