Note: Victoria Jacks of Aiken, South Carolina and Kiersti Wylie from 3000 miles away in San Diego, California traveled to Middleburg, Virginia and northern Maryland March 1-9, 2011 to represent United States Pony Club (USPC) on a nine-day Foxhunting Exchange with Ireland and England. In total, there were two of us from the U.S., four from UK, four from Ireland and chaperones for each team!
To qualify for the Exchange, riders had to be endorsed by the Master of their respective hunts and be a USPC member in good standing.
As well as arranging hunting opportunities, Kristin Noggle in Virginia and Nellie Hanagan in Maryland arranged for various hunts to sponsor social events. Not all riders could hunt the same day, nor with the same hunts, so there was the luck of the draw in regard to hunts and mounts. Between long runs on great horses, found time for some leisure activities and made friends with Pony Club members from other countries.
Victoria Jacks kept a blog of her activities as a recap of the hunting highlights:
Day #1: We had a blast. Loved meeting our foxhunter friends from Europe. The friendships will last forever, and we have so many memories to share. The hunt with Thornton Hill Hounds (THH) was fantastic. It was a perfect start to the exchange. I got a gray 17.1 hand mare named Kiara from MFH Brett Jackson. She was amazing. The country, situated in Rappahannock County at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains, consisted of rolling pastures, open valleys, wooded mountainsides, with rail fences, panels and coops, and some old stone walls.
We got to jump a lot, mainly coops and a couple log fences. All four of the Irish were out, there was one girl from England, and there was me. The other girls went out with Blue Ridge Hunt. The Irish were hilarious and bold riders just like I had expected. The English girl was really sweet and pleasant. I think we all kind of fit our stereotypes, so that is funny.
Day #2: I hunted with Orange County Hunt today and I rode Second Flight, which was led by Master Malcolm who knew exactly where to go to get the best view and stay close to the hounds. The juniors were invited to ride up front, so I got to ride in his pocket most of the time. I got to view four foxes! I have never viewed so many times in one hunt. My horse was good, the country was beautiful, and the hunting was great!
Day #3: Today I was in the non-hunting group. We went to Kinross Farm first. It was a beautiful racing barn with extremely high standards. We got to see them exercise the horses over hurdles. Then we got to go shopping in Middleburg and visited the National Sporting Library. That evening we attended a hunt seminar hosted by Ms. Jacqueline Mars. It was lovely and we learned about what goes on at the Orange County Hunt kennels on a daily basis, and what they do to train and hunt the hounds.
Day #4: I had the pleasure of hunting with the Old Dominion Hounds today. They have all American hounds. We had a couple of great runs; I got to jump quite a bit in First Flight. I rode an amazing mare named Savannah. She is a Cleveland Bay, beautiful mover, comfortable, and a great jumper. I love her. We had dinner at Master Zimmerman’s tonight, of Piedmont Fox Hounds. They had 6 two-week old Piedmont hound puppies and 4 six-week old lab puppies. The party was a lot of fun, and I just love hanging out with the other Exchange kids.
Day #5: Today we all hunted with the Potomac Hunt in Maryland. The Exchange kids loved getting to hunt together as a whole group. I had the pleasure of riding a Belgian thoroughbred mare named Ginger. She was fantastic! Within a minute or two from the start of the hunt, the hounds struck and we viewed a big fox with a bushy tail. We then viewed a second fox later, but didn’t pursue it because the fox was headed straight for the road out of country. The hounds flushed a third fox out of a thicket of bamboo. The fox ran across the field and high tailed it out of there before the hounds left covert.
Day #6: Today we played tourist in Washington DC and saw the White House, the Lincoln Memorial, and the Capital building. The group got along great, and we laughed so much! There was never a dull moment. We had dinner at the Potomac Hunt Master’s house. It was a great day even though we didn’t hunt.
Day #7: Due to all the rain yesterday, today’s hunt was cancelled. Instead, we did the only other obvious thing to do: we went shopping! Later we went to one of the host family’s homes to watch a movie and hang out. It was a good day even though we didn’t get to hunt. Can’t wait to hunt tomorrow with Potomac!
Day #8: Super hunt. We went out with Potomac again since the Goshen Hunt’s Huntsman suffered a broken leg this past week. Today we chased BOTH a coyote and a fox. We had a super time, and enjoyed a great American hunt breakfast that we all gobbled up.
Epilogue: Our International Exchange is over and I reflect back on the week’s hunt excitement. The best was offered by Irish rider Tim Barnby who was snatched off his horse by a tree branch this week and left hanging, and second was by me who went down–still in the saddle—when my mare slipped on the road’s wet macadam surface. The five-second rule applied, and we were back up, and away we went to chase Wiley. No one (horse or rider) suffered any injuries! It was all in a good day’s—well week’s—worth of hunts.
U.S. Pony Club Members on the International Foxhunting Exchange:
Victoria Jacks, 17, C-3 traditional from the Carolina Region. Member (with colors) of Whiskey Road Fox Hounds in Aiken, SC—live hunt—and member with Aiken Hounds in Aiken, SC—drag hunt.
Kiersti Wylie, 18, H-A, from the Southern California region. Member (with colors) of Santa Fe Hounds in San Diego, CA—live hunt.
NOTE FROM KRISTIN NOGGLE, ORGANIZER: My personal thank you to John Coles and Mrs. Mars for including the kids and chaperones in the Hunt Seminar.