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Oak Grove Hunter Pace


Oak Grove Hunt Club held its annual Hunter Pace Saturday April 20, 2013 at Lodge Farm, the McGee family retreat, located at Hudsonville, MS north of Holly Springs.  

The weather was absolutely beautiful, once past the 30 something chill of the morning!  By the time the pace started, the sun was out, the temperature was warming, and riders were shucking their coats and sweat shirts. Shannon McGee, his wife Amanda, and daughter Evelyn greeted everyone to their farm, all readied for the fifty-two riders who participated.

A hunter pace is a timed trail ride. Teams of two ride a flagged cross country course that simulates a fox hunt. An ideal time is pre-set on horseback and kept secret from the competitors. The team that comes closest above or below that time is the winner. There were courses set for jumping and non-jumping, with both English and western riders competing.  

Oak Grove's two octogenarian members Jack Bowman and John Bruhwiler handled the timing and scoring, making sure everyone had a clean start and keeping the teams separated. 

The first obstacle on the trail was a huge lake created by Thursday's downpour.  It covered the trail, but thanks to volunteers, another trail was cut to by-pass it.  Still, the intrepid girls of Southwind Stables chose to wade through it and came out on the other side smiling and a little damp.  The team, led by their trainer Emma Miller, included Abby Fowler, Sara Grace Steen, Sela Ward, Kimberly Jenkins and Katie Benanati. 

The intersection at the railroad track caused some confusion to some of the riders. Beanie Cone was seen leading his kids up a hill saying, “I think we go this way!”  Unfortunately, some groups missed a really great loop that went on a portion of the Strawberry Plains Audubon Society’s land.  This was a site where the Choctaw and Creek Indians had been billeted until they were moved to Oklahoma on the Trail of Tears in the 1830s. Now it is being restored from farming to its natural state as a wildlife and bird sanctuary.

Once back across the railroad tracks, the trail lead past ponds where turtles scuttled off logs and plopped into the water, up and down farm roads, through woodlands, and across lake levees, finally arriving in a large pasture where some riders took a nice canter around the perimeter.  Back on the pace trail, jumps, both manmade and created by nature, gave the intrepid jumping teams a lot of fun.   

Deteriorating footing from the previous night’s heavy rain made it necessary to close part of the course for the safety of the horses and riders. However, closing that section just made getting to the rest stop quicker.  Barbara Henking and her son, Evan, supplied riders with water, orange juice, soft drinks, and Mimosas.  Many riders wanted to hang around for a few more Mimosas, but time was ticking and off they went to finish the second half of the pace. 

The ride continued through more pine forests, past ponds and through fields, still golden with sage grass. Finally, the end was in view and the food was laid out for the riders to enjoy once they tended to their horses.

Peggy Hart, Master of Fox Hounds, introduced the new Huntsman, Kayla Eick, talked about plans for a new kennel, and spoke of a new territory in Arkansas.  Host Shannon McGee made a surprise announcement that Oak Grove had also been given hunting rights to 14,000 acres located in Tennessee.  A great day, great news, outstanding volunteers and wonderful supporters made the 2013 Hunter Pace a special event for everyone.

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