Lake Weston, an Ole Miss education student, spent part of this year training her horse, Jolly, for the Chula Homa Hunt in Central Mississippi, as well as other future foxhunting events.
Weston, 22, has been riding horses since she was in the first grade, taking weekly lessons, and changing barns and trainers that have given her a broad range of experience.
Growing up, Weston began showing horses in the Mississippi Hunter Jumper Association. She also became a member of the United States Pony Club and competed in several rallies in the Deep South Region with her team, the Polka Dot Ponies.
“I loved showing horses,” she said. “I have always loved riding and training the horses, so it’s fun to show them off.”
Once she began junior high school, Weston took a break from riding. After starting college and missing home, she decided to pick it up again.
After hearing that the University of Mississippi was starting an equestrian team, Weston joined. She competed with the team for one semester so she could spend her weekends foxhunting. She joined Chula Homa Hunt and Hard Away Whitworth Hounds.
As Weston got older, she was introduced to something new.
“My trainer took me to a foxhunting clinic,” she said. “This is where I learned all about foxhunting. I even got to go on a few hunts, and I found I really enjoyed it.”
“Foxhunting is an old English sport where you have a pack of hounds, led by the huntsmen,” she said. “You go out in the country (land where you are hunting), where a huntsman will blow a horn and orders the hounds to hunt.”
Maddie Bennett, who foxhunts with Weston, explained.
“The hounds may find a fox, coyote, bobcat, etc.,” she said, “but deer and raccoons, other rodents, are bad game. The first, second, and third flight follow the huntsmen while the whippers-in keep the hounds within the boundaries of the property.”
Dennis J. Foster, executive director of the Masters of Foxhounds Association of America, said in all hunts, the master is responsible for the day’s sport and makes the decisions.
“They supervise the hound breeding program, schedule the hunt meet locations, and appoint the hunt staff members who work for them,” Foster said. “If they do not hunt the hounds themselves, they appoint a huntsman, who is sometimes a professional.”
After saving money from work and babysitting, Weston purchased her first horse a few months ago. Jolly is a 5-year-old, off-the-track thoroughbred.
“I am training Jolly to be desensitized to the aspects of foxhunting,” she said. “She will be around lots of dogs, a loud horn, the whip popping, along with the heard of horses.
“It’s hard to juggle everything. I have a job along with babysitting to help pay for board and other supplies Jolly will need. Having school, too, it all adds up. But it’s also so rewarding seeing the progress being made with my horse.”
Weston will train Jolly for endurance and galloping long stretches “in case we need to stop the hounds or follow the hounds chasing a fox or coyote. She also needs to learn to jump over obstacles we might face hunting.”
The foxhunts take place all over the country, but she has only hunted in the South.
“We will hunt in Mississippi in the morning, then leave for a hunt in Alabama that afternoon for another hunt the next morning,” she said. “In the hotter months, HAWH will cast the hounds as early as 5 a.m.”
Selby Entrekin, another Ole Miss student involved in foxhunting, said it’s unlike any other type of riding.
“I guarantee you’ve never ridden that fast or galloped that long unless you’re a jockey,” she said. “For me, it is not about the kill as much as it is about my love for riding and being outdoors.”
Although foxhunting is fun and exciting, it can also be dangerous.
“One time, while we were on a chase, I witnessed someone galloping, hit a hole, and the horse and rider flipped and rolled on the ground,” Weston said. “Thankfully, horse and rider were OK, and got up, and cantered away.
“I am always mindful of the country while galloping. You never know where there may be a hole. During hunts, we do not always go down cut paths, so while in the woods, there are thorns and branches that constantly hit you.”
Weston recommends foxhunting if you’ve never tried it.