A group of lucky kids from Mr. Stewart’s Cheshire Foxhounds learned from the sport’s finest at Cheshire Hunt Camp earlier this month in Unionville, Pennsylvania, when Bruce Davidson treated the campers to an extraordinary morning at his Chesterland Farm.
After the campers spent the morning spent walking hounds, they trotted across the street to Chesterland, where they learned from an eventing icon who happens to take a great deal of pleasure from teaching our next generation of eventers, fox hunters and race jockeys.
The week-long Cheshire Hunt Camp held a bit of a different format this year, which was a huge success. Organized by one of the Joint Masters, Sanna Neilson Hendricks lined up an action-packed week that included 7 a.m. hound walking, followed by days of training with the Unionville area’s experts in fox hunting, eventing, horse showing and steeplechasing.
At Bruce’s, there was a full house of kids on ponies, with parents, hunt staff and BDE clients as spectators who wanted to take in the great experience of watching Bruce teach young riders of every level. The kids were divided into groups by either kid or pony experience, and each group had their first introduction to the Normandy Bank learning proper position riding a drop.
All of the kids followed in line over various jumps, with those who were brave and game even jumping the infamous three-railer log, which stood taller and wider than some of the ponies.
My favorite quote of the day from Bruce came after one of the young jockeys popped out of the tack after a jump. Nina McKenna immediately sprang up to go chase down her pony, and Bruce noted, “Did you see her? She didn’t wait for someone else to go get her pony; she jumped right up herself. This is why I wanted my kids to ride, so they could learn in life you get up, dust yourself off and get back at it!”
My daughter, Kendal Thomas, summarized her experience perfectly: “He pushed our limits, but it was amazing because it gave me such confidence afterwards!”
All of the kids had such a positive experience, and if you note in the pictures with Bruce, he is grinning like a cheshire cat throughout the morning. It was an honor and a thrill for the kids, parents and hunt staff to spend the morning at Chesterland.
Now to make readers green with envy, here’s a sample of the camp schedule that Sanna arranged for the week:
Tuesday: 7 a.m. hound walking followed up by cross country schooling with Cheshire Hunt’s Ivan Dowling, Steph Boyer and Paddy Neilson at Laurel Hill Farm (Neilson’s Hill)
Wednesday: 9 a.m. hack from kennel lawn to Janice and Vince Dugan’s for show jumping
Thursday: 7 a.m. hound walking followed by instruction from Bruce Davidson at Chesterland Farm
Friday: 9 a.m. instruction over hurdles at Sanna’s, led by Paddy Young
Saturday: 7 a.m. hound walking followed by a mock hunter trial over the Cheshire course followed by pony mounted games in the arena at Plantation Field
Each day the kids spent the afternoon swimming either at Joint Master Ann Moran’s pool or tearing up the zip line at Rush and Phoebe Fisher’s. The kids even got to swim their ponies at Sanna’s pond, an experience that many of the moms relished when they were kids growing up in Unionville.
The week of festivities was capped off by a party Saturday night at Sanna’s farm, where hunt staff, kids, instructors and parents all celebrated a week that will be engrained into our memories for a lifetime.
There were so many pictures that I couldn’t possibly get them into this post, so please check out all the kids and their photos in this Facebook photo album.