Four-legged hunters pace the State Forest


The Martha’s Vineyard Horse Council (MVHC), a grassroots organization of Island equestrians, has a credo: If you want it, build it. With this attitude, council member Stephanie Dreyer and Secretary Tara Whiting harnessed their shared enthusiasm for Hunter Paces — a casually competitive trail ride derived from fox-hunting — to customize this year’s special event for Island riders.

“There have always been pace rides sponsored by the Horse Council, but this is the first with a jumping element,” Ms. Dreyer said. “The response was fantastic. We had new members joining the council just to ride in this event,” which was held on Sunday beneath an exquisite October blue sky.

A timed competition between small teams of riders over a predetermined course, a pace ride can be designed to accommodate all levels. Ms. Dreyer and Ms. Whiting plotted the six-mile ride with that in mind, taking their own horses through the State Forest trails dozens of times to create a user-friendly course over sandy stretches along fire lanes, through scrubby fields lined by oak trees, and finishing along the chain link fence bordering the M.V. Airport. MVHC members, among others, contributed jumps that were set up along the course, and were optional for riders. From professional looking wooden jumps to simple hay bale obstacles festooned with purple flowers, there were about 15 jumps on the course, ranging in height from 18 inches to 3 feet.

Feedback from participating riders was almost unanimously positive. Margaret Oliveira, who rode Spice, was all smiles as she crossed the finish with her team member Franny Bradley on Deborah, a fluffy-maned, butterscotch-colored Haflinger mare. Both horses have day jobs as mounts at the Rising Tide Therapeutic Equestrian Center. “We laughed the whole time,” said Ms. Oliveira. Her team jumped several of the obstacles, but, “we only pretended to go over the big ones.”

Scott Caskey, whose team took second place in the jumper division, hand-grazed his dapple gray Yuri near his trailer after the event. “Yuri always has fun,” he said. “That’s what makes it so fun for me.”

With volunteers and sponsors coming together to help, the event benefits the MVHC Scholarship Fund.

It was a day of friendly competition shared among happy riders and their gleaming horses. Whether they meandered the course at a leisurely pace or blazed through with hooves thundering, for all it was simply a perfect day to ride.


Jumper Division – 1st, Tallula Brodsky and Melissa Manter2nd, Jen O’Hanlon and Scott Caskey

Trailblazers – 1st, Cindy Bonnell and Elyce Bonnell2nd, Margaret Oliveira and Frances Bradley3rd, Jen Rand and Dinny Montrowl4th, Liz Reid and Anna Sylvia5th, Jocelyn Elliot and Kathryn Kennedy

Hilltoppers – 1st, Barbara Paciello, Lilly Neville, Rachel Neville and Maureen Lloy2nd Chris Arenburg and Mia Arenburg