Side Saddle Chase Circuit debuts its first race in Virginia
The 2018 season of the Virginia point-to-point circuit kicks off this year with the 77th running of the Warrenton Hunt Point-to-Point Races in March. On March 17 Airlie Race Course in Warrenton will provide spectators a full card of races to enjoy, including a new feature race – the Viola T. Winmill Memorial Sidesaddle Chase Cup. This event is the first race of the season for the Side Saddle Chase Association circuit which covers entries from Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Kentucky. Riders on this circuit qualify for the coveted Dianas of the Chase race held in the U.K. every year. The Warrenton Hunt Point-to-Point is hosting the first of only two side saddle races in the Commonwealth.
According to Donald Yvanovich, president of the Virginia Point-to-Point Foundation, “The Side Saddle Chase Foundation’s growth continues to support point-to-point races and hunts as they bring in a new audience members. Their mission to increase interest in point-to-point racing supports the need to preserve and protect the land where we hunt and race.”
Historically, riding aside in the Warrenton hunt field is nothing new. In the 1930’s, Viola T. Winmill was an early enthusiast for this sport, which she viewed as a challenge in the fast paced hunt field. Many families’ legacies include donning their grandmother’s side saddle riding habit in formal fashion, sometimes making a diet necessary prior to hunt season.
Allison Lee, Viola’s granddaughter, adds: “My grandmother taught me to ride and jump side saddle in the mid-fifties. For years I had the honor of wearing her habit when fox hunting and showing. An inspiration and mentor to many, I am excited that there will be a side saddle race in her memory. And am pleased to donate to the Warrenton Hunt Point-to-Point races a trophy my grandmother won in 1929, to be presented to future winners of this race.”
Recently, side saddle enthusiasts have grown in the hunt field. Many of the side saddles used today can be as old as 100 years old, as they are no longer made. Furthermore formal side saddle attire is difficult to come by; if not inherited, it must be custom made by a local tailor. However, these hurdles have not stopped the group from growing according to Maggie Johnston, vice president of the Side Saddle Chase Foundation: “Devon Zebrovious and I founded The Side Saddle Chase Foundation for the purpose of creating and administering educational programs and events for all levels of amateur equestrians which promote the discipline of riding aside. Membership is open to riders and horses in the United States and around the world. As we say riding aside is a return to elegance.’”
To be a part of this unique lifestyle and take a step back in time, come out to the Warrenton Hunt Point-to-Point Races this March. General admission is $20 per car with reserved parking and tailgate packages are available. Races begin at 12:00 p.m. and general admission tickets are available at the gate. Visit www. warrentonhunt.com for more information. For side saddle circuit information visit www.sidesaddlechase.com.
Article by Maria Tufts and Cindy Valk
Photos courtesy of Maria Tufts and Cindy Valk
About the Authors:
Photos and Article written by Maria Tufts, president of Warrenton Hunt and longtime member, and Cindy Valk, member of Warrenton Hunt board who is responsible for marketing the point-to-point races.