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Hunter Pace Season Opens in North Salem

Riders came from near and far on Sunday to enter the year’s first Hunter Pace, sponsored by the Goldens Bridge Hounds. The pace took place at the Baxter Road Preserve and the first teams started around 8 a.m.

Libby Laroche, 14, and her good friend, Maddie Asplund, 13, came from Redding, Conn. It was the first hunter pace experience for both the girls and their ponies.

"[The ponies] did really well,” said Libby. “They only refused a couple of jumps and some of the jumps were really high.” Maddie added, “They kept their pace perfectly. They kept going and going and going.”

The hunter pace is a competition among teams of two or three people who try to ride the course in a certain amount of time. Organizer Michael Handler explained, “I choose two riders to go out early in the morning and ride the course, [thereby] setting the pace.” The pace time is kept secret until the pace is over.

The point for competitors is not to be the fastest, but to pace their horses at an appropriate speed, not too fast and not too slow.

Teams are divided into the Hunt Riders (usually the brisker riders), the Juniors, and the Pleasure Riders. The team that is closest to the pace set in the morning is the winner. The pace is set for the Hunt Division. Juniors and Pleasure riders are allowed longer times.

“The course is usually about eight or ten miles,” said Handler, and it ordinarily finishes within an hour. North Salem Event Competitor Teal Hoins designed the course, which is different each time.

Handler commented that they “were very lucky to have a beautiful day. We had more people sign up for this first pace than ever before.” There were 40 teams. “The first pace is usually smaller because the horses are a little out of shape after the winter,” he added.

Sisters June and Dolly Ledingham came to the pace from Greenwich. Originally from Ireland, they have been riding fox hunts since 1968.

Bob Kotch, a volunteer clocking riders at the finish line said, “It’s a real fun outing. It’s just to enjoy the countryside.”

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