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Today, in my riding, I honored my father
By Dean Bedford

Saturday, October 9th, 1999. I started the day at 5:30am, by driving out towards Flint Hill, Virginia. Arriving at a beautiful horse farm up against the mountains, I was met by Justin Wiley and his girlfriend, Nancy. Along with the master of the Old Dominion Hunt, Gus Forbush, we loaded up four horses and drove off to the first hunt meet that I have ridden in since I rode with my father on Thanksgiving Day of last year. I drove in the van with Gus and we spent the drive to the meet speaking about dad.

Before we set out, Gus brought the field together. Standing in his stirrup with the hounds all around his horse, he welcomed all out on this beautiful fall morning. Then he turned towards me, some thirty yards away and introduced me to the field. I will remember his words for years to come.

"We are joined this morning by a young gentlemen who has not been out in the hunt field for a few months now. Many of you knew his father, the renowned Master of the Piedmont Fox Hounds, Erskine Bedford. As most of you know we lost Erskine to a hunting accident in December, and Dean informed me on the drive over here that this is his first time out since his father's passing. Thus I want to welcome him as our guest, tell him how much we all miss his father and express how honored the Old Dominion Hunt is to have him in our field today." As my father's son, I stood up in the saddle and removed my helmet. Tipping it towards the master, I gave a simply reply of, "Thank you Sir, it is my honor to be here!"

I was very fortunate to have Justin on my left and Nancy on my right, for as you can imagine, I was a bit emotional. The hunt was wonderful. During the morning, as we galloped around the beautiful Virginia countryside, almost to a person, ever member of the field made their way up to introduce themselves. Many reveled in how much fun they had had out hunting with dad. Stating how gracious he was and how he always wore that big devious grin. Most ended by simply saying how much they miss him. Again, I can't say enough about having Justin there. He made sure at ever turn that I was all right.

After returning the horses to the farm a few hours later, I jumped in the car to return to Charlottesville. A quick stop at the house to pick up my white pants, and I was off to the Keswick Polo club to play in a USPA sponsored '0 to 4' Goal game. Being a little sore from the hunting in the morning did not stop me from closing down the Georgetown Polo team's best player. During all four chukkers, I simply did as our pro instructed, I took my pony and drove their best player away from the play. After the game the gentlemen I was marking made a very nice compliment. He stated how much I really frustrated him because every time he tried to get to the ball, I hooked his stick or rode him off. A very nice compliment, indeed. The best part of this little story is that I also scored two of our ten goals. My first 'big time' game, USPA sponsored, a victory, all complimented by two wonderful goals and a big silver plate.

Saturday, October 9th was a wonderful day. Life of late has been tough, with the emotions of dad passing weighing on me heavily. My day started early, it was emotional and long. During the day I rode five different horses. I jumped, I galloped, I stopped hard and I turn sharply while going full speed. All the while not having to consider the actual riding of the horse. It simply came naturally to me. My father was a wonderful horseman, and yesterday I was able to honor his memory in my riding. As much as I am writing this cathartic note with tears in my eyes, I am writing this as the proudest of sons. 'Somewhere up there, my father is proud and smiling that devious grin '.