Junior North American Field Hunter Championship. David Traxler Photography

By Carla Babcock

After two years off, the Junior North American Field Hunter Championship (JNAFHC) Finals resumed Oct. 29-31, hosted by the Iroquois Hunt. Sixty-three juniors attended representing 21 hunts and eight US Pony Clubs. The weekend of hunting and camaraderie was a great reunion for the juniors who have made friendships through the JNAFHC over the years. Juniors new to the program made new friends with a common bond, one of the major goals of the JNAFHC. In 2021, we extended the age limit to 19 to include the juniors who missed in 2020 due to the COVID 19 pandemic. Over the course of the year, we implemented Zoom meetings with Rachel Wilkoski, a former junior participant and now an adult organizer and judge, who presented tips for juniors, parents and judges.

We are very grateful to Dr. Jack van Nagell, MFH of the Iroquois Hunt, and past president of the MFHA, who welcomed juniors, family members, judges, outriders and photographers to his beautiful Boone Valley Farm in Lexington, Kentucky. His generosity exemplifies his passion and commitment to the next generation – the future of mounted hunting with hounds.

The Iroquois Hunt offered a Friday morning hunt, followed by a meet-and-greet tailgate. Hay Barn Number Two, which became gathering headquarters for the weekend, was adorned with clever hunt-themed decorations by Iroquois Hunt members, and a large hay wagon served as the buffet table for an amazing spread of food. Later in the afternoon, Huntsman Lilla Mason, MFH, hosted a kennel visit, with beverages and light snacks for all to enjoy while touring the grounds and facilities. The Iroquois Hunt kennel is a must-see. With its efficient layout and grassy areas, it is a retreat for hounds – both active and retired.

Left: Juniors participating in the Friday morning hunt, hosted by Iroquois Hunt. Right: Juniors galloping during the competition. David Traxler Photography

With rain on Saturday, the organizing crew was unsure how it would go. Then the juniors arrived on their horses and ponies, well-turned-out and ready to roll. The day ran smoothly. The fields accomplished their hacks and mock hunts, individual finalists completed their tests and we moved into the cover of the Hay Barn Number Two, for some well-deserved comfort food on the chilly, rainy day.

After dinner, the Whip-Cracking and Horn-Blowing contests took place on “Rusty,” the vaulting barrel transformed into a mount by the Iroquois Hunt decorating committee.  Andrew Barclay, MFHA Director of Hunting, was on hand to present JNAFHC pins to those who attended the Finals. Championship awards, along with Sportsmanship and Best-Turned-Out were also presented.

Emma Pretti from Live Oak Hounds was champion of the First Field 14-19. It is the third time a junior from Live Oak Hounds has earned the championship honors. The reserve championship went to Henry Nylen from New Market Middletown Valley.

Watch Emma Pretti’s winning round:

In the First Field 13 and Under, Mia Valdez from Keswick Hunt earned the championship and the reserve honors went to Sophie Schroeder of Fox River Valley.

In the Hilltoppers Division, the Caroline Anthony from Hillsboro Hounds earned the championship of the 11-19 section with Abigail Schultz of the MOC Beagles taking reserve. In the 10 and Under sections Porter Pfister of the Iroquois Hunt nabbed the championship with Rosie Voigt of Hillsboro Hounds taking reserve.

After Sunday morning’s hunt, everyone packed up and headed home.

There are so many people to thank, including the parents and adults who make it possible for the juniors to participate, the hunts who support juniors and host qualifiers, the many sponsors who readily support the JNAFHC, the farm owners who provided stabling and all of those who worked behind the scenes to make for a great weekend. Stay tuned for next year’s destination.

Congratulations to all the juniors!

See all the results here.

Left: Emma Pretti of Live Oak Hounds, champion of the First Field 14-19. Right: Mia Valdez of Keswick Hunt, champion of the First Field 13 and Under. David Traxler Photography

Left: Caroline Anthony of Hillsboro Hounds, champion of thethe 11-19 section. Right: Porter Pfister of Iroquois Hunt, champion of the 10 and Under section. David Traxler Photography