A staple in the greater Richmond area’s equestrian community, the Deep Run Hunt Club opened in 1887 in a small kennels off of Broad Street in Richmond, then called Deep Run Turnpike. Since then, the club has relocated on five different occasions to accommodate the growing city. The clubhouse today is located in Goochland County, where it has resided since 1932, with a hunt field, show ground, barns, and a pool. The kennels, stables, and hunt staff are located in Cumberland County, and have been since 1996, and many places across Goochland, Cumberland, and Louisa counties are a part of Deep Run’s history.
The clubhouse is located off of Manakin Road, tucked away down a long driveway, past the old kennels, show ground, and barns. It is a quaint building which sees quite a bit of activity. The clubhouse houses many events, such as weddings, the annual Hunt Ball, an oyster roast, awards banquets, and monthly Pony Club meetings. Recently renovated, the clubhouse is complete with a kitchen and bar. French doors open out to a terrace overlooking the hunt field and pool, making it an idyllic location for special events.
The show grounds are the home of the Premier AA Deep Run Horse Show that occurs annually in June. This show is extremely prestigious and highly rated, with people traveling from all across the East Coast to attend. The show grounds are also home to local schooling shows, the Central Virginia Show Jumping Association, Capital Horse Show Association, and the Greater Richmond Horse Show Association hosts associate level horse shows at the show grounds. The Deep Run Hunt Pony Club, the second oldest branch of the United States Pony Club, also calls the show grounds its home. This junior-oriented organization hosts the annual Deep Run Hunt Pony Club Horse Trials at the show grounds and in the hunt field, as well as a regional Pony Club competition, called a “rally,” monthly clinics (and meetings at the clubhouse), and a summer training camp for its members.
Deep Run Hunt Club is a diverse locale for any equestrian, in terms of disciplines, but it is ultimately founded on and continues to serve the foxhunting community. Foxhunting began in England in the 1600s, and came to the United States in 1742, its roots in Albemarle, Virginia. This pack hunted regularly, and George Washington himself was a foxhunter.
Today, successful foxhunting is still very similar to what it was in the 18th century, retaining “horses, hounds and riders following the call of hunting horns.” The perception of foxhunting, due to the name, is that a pack of people and dogs go out to kill a fox, but this is a common misconception. Collegiate alum Megan Proffitt (’88), began hunting when she was 16 years old with Pony Club, and has never seen a kill. She says, “We are all big animal lovers, so we don’t want to see things get killed… If you do get one, it’s either because they are hurt or old.” Upper School science teacher Dr. Rebecca Hottman, remarks, “I think I would cry if we actually got a fox. I’ve been hunting for 16 years and I’ve only viewed a fox four times.” Although occasionally a fox will be killed, it is a rare occurrence and not the primary goal of foxhunting.
Foxhunting is a high-paced chase, horses often galloping through creeks and over coops, slowing for nothing. This attracts many equestrians, and both Proffitt and Hottman remarked about the adrenaline rush that draws them toward hunting. Despite the hunt itself often being a wild experience, foxhunting is a traditional event as well. The standards are very high, and horse and rider are both expected to be clean and wearing the proper attire. Proffitt says, “Sometimes it’s a pain to get up and look perfect, but it’s worth it.” Often, at many of the larger hunts, such as on Thanksgiving Day, families will come to watch the hunt leave, seeing everyone turned out to the nines, horses braided, tack shiny, and attire perfect. The foxhunting season runs from October to March.
Perhaps the most important aspect of hunting is the hounds. Deep Run’s foxhounds are housed at the kennels in Cumberland County with huntsman Richard Roberts, who raises and trains the hounds. The hounds are extremely thoroughly trained, and when you watch them it is obvious that they know their job well and enjoy it. Hottman says, “Watching and hearing the interaction between the huntsmen and hounds you get to see a lot of that sixth sense that animals have. It’s almost like the word ‘hunting’ shouldn’t be a part of it.”
Foxhunters are very concerned with land availability. As Richmond continues to grow and hunting land disappears, much of the land that Deep Run has rights to hunt on is being developed. This causes the fox to relocate and the loss of riding land. This has become a concern that foxhunters take very seriously, as Deep Run’s territory begins to bulge westward and eastern Goochland County becomes more developed. Members of Deep Run Hunt Pony Club, as well other juniors from clubs across the country, are taught land stewardship and conservation, and they are asked this grave question about their current riding territory, which is constantly being threatened: “Where will you ride tomorrow?”
Deep Run Hunt Club’s 129-year chronicle is full of history. The current location displays this proudly, as well as bringing in new, young blood, through dedicated junior/Pony Club hunts and summer programs for young foxhunters. As a whole, the organization is a proud, stately group, dedicated to nature and its enjoyment.
Cover photo courtesy of Deep Run Hunt Pony Club.