Nearly 200 foxhunters representing eight regional hunts and including show jumpers, Olympians, eventers and dressage riders, gathered at Mr. and Mrs. George Wintersteen's farm in West Grove, PA for "Fox Hunting for Jake."
The hunting community is generously helping one of its own. Among many fundraisers held throughout the equestrian community to benefit Jake Chalfin, Cheshire Hunt assisted in the fund raising efforts by organizing a benefit foxhunt.
Amateur jockey Chalfin, 32, was injured in a fall during the Blue Ridge Fall Races, in Berryville, VA on Sept. 18. His mount Sometimes Not, ran out at the second hurdle and off course, tossing him hard into a fence, Chalfin suffered fractured vertebrae and other damage leaving him paralyzed from the chest down.
“He’s a young guy that got hurt this past fall. He lives in Spring Valley, he’s a neighbor, a friend and a foxhunter and he’s got a big mountain to climb. We figure the Cheshire Fox Hounds as an organization and all his friends could help push him up to the top,” said Cheshire Hounds’ Paddy Neilson, who helped organize “Fox Hunting for Jake”.
The meet was held on Saturday, December 18th on the property of Mr. and Mrs. George Wintersteen in West Grove, PA. Hunts represented at the gathering of nearly 200 riders included Amwell Valley, Cochran Hunt, Doc Addis’ Warwick Village Hounds, Green Springs Valley Hounds, Radnor Hunt, Foxcatchers, Cheshire Hounds and Andrews Bridge Foxhounds.
“It’s a cold day and everybody’s going to have a nice day for it. This is going to be a good fox hunt,” Neilson said. “All the land owners are very enthusiastic, and the whole Cheshire organization wants to make this a good deal for Jake.”
The largest contingent was from Pickering Hunt “That’s only fitting since that was Jake’s hunt when he was a kid,” said Don Cochran, Cheshire Hunt member and one of the Hunt for Jake committee members.
Cochran spoke for a few moments before the hunt moved out, reminding them of the reason for the meet. “I called Jake the other day and spoke to him for the first time since the accident,” Cochran reported. “He said, ‘of all the disciplines that I’ve ridden in, hunters jumpers, eventing, hunting, and steeplechasing of course, the sport that always felt the most welcoming and most comfortable was fox hunting whether in Maryland, Virginia, England or Ireland.’ I think it’s pretty appropriate that we’re here to help. Let’s make some history today.”
“This will be a historic event. We very much appreciate everybody being here for a great cause and a great time. There won’t be a bigger collection of fox hunters go fox hunting in Pennsylvania in some time, so you’re part of history in the making here folks,” said Russell Jones, one of the masters of the Cheshire Foxhounds, who also gave opening remarks before the three flights of riders moved out.
It was not just die-hard foxhunters that came out to the Hunt for Jake. Among the field were also show jumpers, Olympians, eventers, steeplechase jockeys, and dressage riders. There was also a large contingent of supporters who contributed to the event and took part following by car. At one point, where there was a good view of the hunt on a long hillside, at least two-dozen vehicles were parked along both sides of the road for followers to watch the hunt.
The day following the hunt, Neilson reported that well over $30,000 was raised for Chalfin. As for the riders, they also had a good day. “The hunting was a tad slow early on but we got a fox up in the afternoon and chased him for an hour and a half, stopping hounds when it became apparent that all the food might be gone back at the meet!” Neilson said.
There is historic president for a large joint hunt in the Chester County area. The Bayard Taylor Hunt was held periodically until 1955 to commemorate a foxhunt described in the 1866 novel “The Story of Kennett,” by Bayard Taylor.
For the Bayard Taylor Centennial Hunt in 1896 (the novel was set in 1796) there was a reenactment of scenes from the book prior to the hunt setting out. The largest gathering, however, is believed to be the 1940 edition of the hunt. The meet at the Pierre S. duPont estate in Longwood drew an estimated 450 riders, 300 hounds and 10,000 spectators. Hunts participating in that meet included some that are still active today and others that have gone away. The group was reported to include Rosetree, Vicemead of Greenville, DE., Cheshire, Andrews Bridge, West Chester Hunt, Foxcatcher Hounds, the W. Newbold Ely Hounds and the Bayard Taylor Hunt of Kennett.