Virginia’s ‘hunt country’ status evidenced by junior challenge victory

The Fauquier-based Old Dominion Hounds Pony Club have been announced as winners of the ninth annual Live Oak Hounds U.S. Pony Club Fox Hunting Challenge Award. With the national honor also comes the winner’s share of a $10,000 prize divided between the top six clubs.

The prestigious award recognizes junior clubs that encourage their members to take up foxhunting. It was created in 1996 by Mr. and Mrs. Marty Wood, joint-masters of Florida’s Live Oak Hounds.

ODHPC had finished third the past three years, but put together a winning effort for the 2014-2015 foxhunting season.

The Fauquier-based club dethroned defending champions from Maryland’s Green Spring Hounds Pony Club, who placed second. Another Maryland club, Elkridge-Harford Pony Club, finished third.

â??There are 30 kids in our club this year, ranging in age from 6 to 22,â? said club secretary Michelle Arnold. â??I think we had 90 percent of our members meet the qualificationsâ? to add up for the winning total.

Points are awarded to each pony club member every time they hunt. Some ODHPC junior riders added 20 or more hunting days to their club’s total.

“We’re fortunate to be involved with a hunt that involves and encourages the juniors,â? said ODH whipper-in and ODHPC founder Debbie Welch. â??We’re very proud of our pony club members who will continue to help this sport thrive in the coming years.â?

ODH, parent hunt club of the ODHPC, hosts several special â??junior huntâ? days each season that regularly attract 40 or more young riders. Some pony clubbers ride weekly as members of the hunt, but the point of offering junior days is to encourage kids to try the sport for the first time at one of the festive events. No fee is charged to junior riders, and qualified juniors are selected to ride with the huntsman, whippers-in and field masters.

USPC was founded in 1954 by a group of foxhunters, though many clubs today focus more strictly on dressage, mounted games, tetrathlon or eventing. Pony Club offers opportunities for young members to explore foxhunting through club activities. There are about 9,000 members aged 4 to 25 in more than 600 clubs and affiliated riding centers around the U.S.

Visit www.Ponyclub.org for more information.