Easy riders

September 26, 2018 - Comment

The Martha’s Vineyard Horse Council hosted its eighth annual 2018 Fall Hunter Pace in the Manuel F. Correllus State Forest Sunday. Riders as young as 8 and as old as 80 came to enjoy the crisp morning ride with their friends and family, leaving from the West Tisbury School parking lot. The race is made


The Martha’s Vineyard Horse Council hosted its eighth annual 2018 Fall Hunter Pace in the Manuel F. Correllus State Forest Sunday.

Riders as young as 8 and as old as 80 came to enjoy the crisp morning ride with their friends and family, leaving from the West Tisbury School parking lot.

The race is made to simulate a fox hunt, which originated in England in the 16th century. Riders are sent out in teams or singles, and must complete the preset course in the time set by organizers. According to head organizer for the pace ride, Stephanie Dryer, this challenges the riders to control their pace and also not encounter other teams along the way. “Not too fast, not too slow,” Dryer said. “We send the different groups out at intervals to be safer and not have big groups coming back at once.” Riders are expected to always observe proper trail etiquette, and allow other teams to pass if they desire.

This year’s pace had 13 riders, which Dryer said isn’t their best turnout, but still enough to have an enjoyable competition. In 2016, the event drew 29 riders, the largest turnout since the creation of the event in 2010.

Teams encounter jumps up to 2 feet high, and can choose whether to clear the jumps or pass them by. This year’s course was 6.7 miles long (about an hour and a half on average). The course was set by Dryer ahead of time as she walked it with her horse and planned the route.

She said planning the event takes about two weeks, and once the logistics are in place, setting up the jumps takes about two hours with some helping hands.

The first team to arrive back at the starting area was Laura Marshard (riding Touch of Texas) and her daughter, the youngest in the competition, 8-year-old Charlotte (on her horse Grace). Both riders received participation awards for taking part in all three trail-riding events of the year, while Dryer gave Charlotte a special award for youngest rider.

Dryer said the horse council could not make this event possible without their generous sponsors and donors, L and W Tree Farm, Yered Trailer, Lawrence Hill Shoeing, Chappy Ferry, Annie Parsons, North Tabor Farm, Phoenix Rogers, and Misty Meadows. “They all do so much to help with the event and make everything come together,” Dryer said.

There was a $5 raffle to benefit the M.V. Horse Council scholarship, with prizes like a massage from Annie Parsons, a $50 gift card to North Tabor Farm, a wampum horsehead pendant crafted by Phoenix Rogers, three hours of arena time with the Martha’s Vineyard Community Horse Center, and a 2018 Island saddle pad. The scholarship goes annually to a graduating high school student who is a member of the horse council in good standing.

Council member Tara Whiting said this year’s course gives riders a good view of the range of riding conditions that the state forest contains. “People get to see the different areas of our state forest, of which there are many,” she said.

Dryer agreed, “there are open fields and also small wooded trails, so there is a lot of variety to the terrain, which provides a great experience.”

Dryer said there was a great variety of horse breeds, experience levels, and riding styles. “We have palominos, large draft horses, Clydesdales, and many others,” Dryer said. “And we also have a fair mix of Western riders and English riders.”

Western and English riding are differentiated mainly by the tack the horse wears, with Western saddles being larger and heavier than English saddles.

The mounted rangers from Blue Hills Reservation in Norfolk County were in attendance to make sure everyone made it safely through the course.

At the end, riders were treated to a yummy barbecue with cookies, snacks, and lemonade to celebrate another successful hunter pace.

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