Sun and southern charm at ODH races

This past Saturday, I spent a glorious sun-kissed day at Ben Venue Farm for the annual Old Dominion Hounds Point-to-Point Races. The historic Ben Venue house is more than 200 years old and the farm and Eastham family represents such a classic southern story.

Ben Venue tailgaters (from left) Paul Rapchak, John McCaslin, Catherine Armour, Mark Allen, Nick and Deborah Smith, Thorne Auchter and Tom Hullfish pose for a shot Saturday. Photo by Barbara Auchter.
Ben Venue tailgaters (from left) Paul Rapchak, John McCaslin, Catherine Armour, Mark Allen, Nick and Deborah Smith, Thorne Auchter and Tom Hullfish pose for a shot Saturday. Photo by Barbara Auchter.

This family has so generously donated their land for 32 years to the Old Dominion Hounds to run their annual hunt fundraiser. (Sadly, fewer riders were in attendance this year due to the National Steeplechase Association’s rather awkward scheduling of the Richmond Dogwood Classic on the same day, offering significantly higher purses . . .)

But the event was nonetheless packed. The soft spring hillsides were teeming with tasty tailgates, dogs happily wagging tails and waiting hopefully for morsels to drop onto the green grass from the hands of a precocious child. Broad smiles were all about, lots of laughter to be heard and even a delightful new addition to the steeplechase race was enjoyed – namely, a dog race. Beautiful afghans and exotic breeds I’d never before seen. And, of course, what would an event be without Flint Hill’s own Westminster Kennel Club champion Irish wolfhound in attendance.

Teddy Zimmerman, riding Dr. Alex, clears the last jump and wins the owner timber race at Old Dominion Hounds point-to-point races Saturday. Photo by Douglas Lees.
Teddy Zimmerman, riding Dr. Alex, clears the last jump and wins the owner timber race at Old Dominion Hounds point-to-point races Saturday. Photo by Douglas Lees.

Since 1976, the Eastham family has donated their acreage to let this sport thrive here. As a fox hunter for a number of years, I understand firsthand the importance of generous landowners to our survival. It allows the hunt to exist, for it is their land on which we have the permission to ride. The late Thomas J. Eastham, an avid fox hunter, and a man of a dying breed – that is, an owner and a rider – loved the sport, and his family continues to celebrate the tradition.

I had the great pleasure at ODH’s point-to-point, through the graciousness of Gus Forbush, ODH’s charming master of foxhounds, and his lovely wife Sandra, a gifted artist in the county, to be introduced to Mrs. Louise Eastham during Saturday’s race. My my my, what a lovely lady, what a beautiful woman, bearing such impeccable southern manners, exuding a gracious warmth, to me, a total stranger. Yet she still embraced me with her southern charm as a old cherished friend.

– Chris Doxzen

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