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I was 53 years young when I began to foxhunt in November 2002, when I first capped with the Rolling Rock Hunt (PA). It was the beginning of my third childhood so to speak. My two daughters were off to college and I wasn't quite ready to make a bucket list. I had taken some riding lessons when I was in graduate school at Virginia Tech, so I knew the basics. I had been an avid bicycler, so balance wasn't a problem, but hanging on over the rivers and through the woods reminded me that the earth can rise up to smite you.

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Choby with Rolling Rock huntsman Sam Clifton at the hunt stables.

Fortunately, I found a steady 16.2hh Thoroughbred/draft cross that tolerated me until I was able to figure out how to ride in the rough terrain around Ligonier, PA. Maybe it was his blind eye that kept Steady Eddie from seeing how sloppy I was in the saddle. I actually thought that I had broken the falling-off record for the Spillwine parties, but another guy took that top dishonor from me. When I finally started using a grab strap for jumping, Eddie was willing to take the leap of my faith.

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Choby and Eddie. Photo by Jeffrey James Photography.

Using a grab strap to stabilize me in the saddle gave me a huge boost in confidence. Hunts were now more of an adrenaline rush instead of my past moments of terror. I highly recommend the strap for beginners of all ages. It also reduces the risk of serious injuries by keeping the upper body from hitting the ground first.

Along the way, I began to realize the rich heritage of the sport in America. As a reenactor of George Washington, I was pleasantly surprised to learn how following the hounds in chase contributed to his riding abilities. Knowing that I never came close to Washington's skill level, I nonetheless tried to portray a mounted George in parades and tea parties. What a hoot!

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Choby as George Washington. Photo by Debbie Brehun.

Eventually, I wanted to make a rider's eye video from the saddle, but my daughter noted that holding on with one hand wasn't such a good idea, so she gave me a GoPro camera for Christmas. I made two DVD movies of the Rolling Rock activities, adding music to the second one. I will cherish these videos long after my hunting days are over, but not while I can make even more video memories.

From the beginning, I kept notes on my fixture cards, and before I knew it 15 seasons and 350 hunts had transpired. I can't even begin to count all of the new friends I made along the way. I owe much to the past and present Masters of the Rolling Rock Hunt for allowing me to participate in America's earliest organized sport. I am especially proud to have been a participant in some of the 100 years' tradition of fox hunting with Rolling Rock in Ligonier, PA.

Comments   

+1 # Gregory B. De La Rue 2019-02-25 23:55
Great article. There are so many members who begin foxhunting on the back side of the next hill. It truly is a great sport at any age and what an excellent way to ride out life chasing hounds across this beautiful land. Never quit.
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