By Emily Daily
Photos courtesy of Deep Run Hunt Club and Marshie Davis
If you ask Virginia “Ginny” Perrin what she thinks of summer camps, she’ll tell you they aren’t just for kids. For her, as MFH at Deep Run Hunt, sometimes camp is more fun when it’s adults only.
For the past 15 years, adult riders (and a few curious non-riders) have gathered at the Deep Run kennels for a weekend in August to get hands-on with mounted hunting with hounds. Thirty to 45 campers typically attend the sessions in Cumberland, Virginia, and while most are members of the club, some are new to the sport altogether.
Perrin dreamt up the concept back when she became master. “I started it because an adult member who was new to foxhunting, but whose children were hunting and a member of the Pony Club, asked me to,” she says. “She said that we gear every educational opportunity to juniors, but adults need it, too.”
Every summer, the club hosts camps for children, too, offering smaller hands the opportunity to work with the hounds. Most are Pony Clubbers or 4-H members, and they ride out on bicycles with the pack to learn about things like hound conformation and the qualities that make each an individual.
The adult camp offers that experience and more. With the help of Marshie Davis, MFH, and other Deep Run Hunt staff members and volunteers, it became one of the most eagerly anticipated club events of the year.
Campers rise with the sun on that first Saturday morning of the two-day camp. Then, they split up into three to four groups, based on experience level in the hunt field. “Ginny and a few other senior members of the hunt will take the greenies,” says Davis. “Those members will act as ‘counselors’ helping the campers out in the field.” Davis often leads the more experienced group.
Riders practice ground exercises, trotting and cantering as a group, reversal of field, how to handleapproaching staff and other common scenarios faced in the field. They also trot fences, practice safe distances, waiting politely, and crossing ditches and bridges.
After lunch with a keynote lecture and tally-ho tales from way back when, riders saddle up again for day one’s afternoon session. They ride with hounds, an especially useful training experience for the greener horses.
Then, on Sunday, “we put everything all together,” says Davis. “For some horses or riders, this is their first experience in this situation. But for other more seasoned pairs, it’s a great refresher.”
Lunch & Learn
Throughout the two-day experience, attendees hear insightful advice and safety tips, translate common hunting terms, embrace land conservation, learn how to interact with landowners respectfully, heed to staff inthe field and decipher horn calls. They wrap their heads around why proper hunt-field attire and etiquette really matter for horses and riders. Pro-tip: “Proper attire demonstration” at this camp means a “fashion show” with the club members taking their turns on the catwalk.
Though most campers actively ride and hunt, some who attend just want a taste of the fox hunting lifestyle. Last year, organizers created a group specifically for non-riders – many of whom were spouses. They focused more on things like GPS tracking collars and interacting with and caring for the hounds. “Plus, this group has the advantage of often getting to view more action than anyone else in the field,” adds Davis.
Campers are also treated to a tour of Deep Run’s new kennels, which were re-built after the previous kennels burned down two years ago. “Some people never get to see the care and management of hounds, so this helps members get to know the individual hounds better – by name and marking,” says Davis. “Plus, Ginny and her husband Coleman are both hound judges, so they often give a short lecture to our campers on hound conformation.”
A Community Vibe
Each year, the club tries to shake things up. Like the non-rider’s group, last year organizers featured a “men’s group” to change the dynamic. They also ran terrier races (open to all breeds). But regardless of age, gender, species or skill level, the huntsman’s demonstration of calls on his horn seems to be the favorite.
Davis says she loves the community environment more than anything. “We’re all trying to help each other,” she says. “The camaraderie is amazing. It’s such a fun, inviting event to teach horses and people to be comfortable in the hunt field and knowledgeable about the sport.”
Many members return to camp year after year, and they often bring friends the next time around which, says Davis, is keeping a good thing growing.
Interested in learning more about the camp?
Want to start a camp for your own club?
Contact Club and Events Manager Halle M. Shourds for more information.