One of the first times that Sharon Russell foxhunted alongside Dot Daus, there was an incident in the Camargo Hunt (Ohio) field that Russell will never forget.
“There was a hound that got cut on his leg, and he was really bleeding,” recalled Russell. “I took off my stock tie [to tie onto the wound] and my belt to serve as a leash, and I handed those down to Dot, who’s off her horse. We needed a tourniquet, because the stock tie wasn’t slowing it down.”
So Daus wiggled out of her sports bra and used that to wrap around the hound’s leg to help stop the bleeding. It worked.
“That’s how committed she is,” said Russell. “Ninety-nine point nine percent of young women in a hunt field would never do that. Dot went above and beyond.”
That dedication to animals and doing the right thing shines through in everything 17-year-old Daus does. She’s walked out hounds and helped prepare them for hound shows. When her mare suffered a bout of eosinophilic keratoconjunctivitis—an inflammatory disease of the cornea—Daus was down in the barn treating her eye four times a day. When a new junior joined Camargo this summer, Daus took her under her wing and showed her the ropes. And she’s at the barn every day before and after school caring for her family’s horses at their farm in Indian Hill, Ohio, just outside Cincinnati.
“She will supplement her income by cleaning tack, but she does tack the Pony Club way, so it’s always perfect,” said Russell, a family friend who hunts with Daus. “She body clips, and she does a beautiful job. She barnsits for people. She got in touch with me earlier in the week to say, ‘We’re going on a trail ride; would you like to join us?’ She doesn’t have to do that, but she does. She is a good egg.”
From Project Horse To Perfect Match
Daus caught the horse bug early from her mother, Kerry Daus. While her siblings eschewed riding in favor of other sports, Dot started riding at 5 and began hunting shortly after that aboard a saintly 11-hand Welsh pony named Stoney. She got involved with Miami Valley Pony Club (Ohio) where Kerry served as the district commissioner, earning her C1 rating.
“What has chased off her siblings is we always said, ‘If you’re going to have them, you have to put the work in,’ ” said Kerry. “When she wanted to ride at 5, part of riding is the grooming, picking feet, clean your tack, all of it, not just sitting on the pony. That’s something that’s maintained in our house. Other family members know how to help, but it’s definitely our work, not someone else’s.”
While Dot has dabbled in eventing, dressage, Pony Club mounted games, hunter/jumper and side-saddle, she’s found her niche in the hunt field, and she was awarded her colors by the Camargo Hunt in 2020. During hunt season she heads out once or twice a week, occasionally skipping school in favor of riding with the hounds.
“There have been a few appointments with ‘Dr. Fox,’ ” admitted Kerry.
Her partner lately is a 6-year-old double registered Paint-Quarter Horse who came with the registered name Some R Trophy Gems and the barn name “Gemma.” Dot kept the nickname but updated her show name to Mr. Popper’s Penguin, a fitting reference to the mare’s mostly black and white coloring.
Dot paired up with Gemma a little over a year ago when she was casually looking for a project horse to work with then sell. The 5-year-old (Some R Trophy Boys—Royal Robin Jesse, Heza Requested Son) knew how to walk, trot and canter, but when Dot pointed her at a log during her trial, Gemma stumbled over it. Still, Dot thought the easygoing mare with a good mouth could become a great hunt horse.
Dot got pointers from the occasional trainer but did all the work on Gemma herself, teaching her to jump, to stand for gates, and to be patient at checks. Gemma turned out to be such a star that Dot sold her other mounts and kept her.
Dot has even taken to whipping in a bit off Gemma, even though it was the mare’s first full season in the hunt field.
“Whipping in was so much fun,” Dot said. “You’d never know when you’d have to take off. A lot of times [we’d] just stand and be quiet. We saw some game. I had to crack a whip off Gemma a couple times; I’d already worked with her through that. I could do both sides, off her butt, over her head—she didn’t care.
“She was quick and honest, whatever I pointed her at, she would do,” she continued. “There were some really weird jumps that we had, kind of a half-flattened coop that’s being rebuilt this summer. It’s kind of like a heap of wood on the ground; I didn’t know if she’d step over or jump it. Every time I don’t know what she’s going to do, I just let go of the reins and say, ‘You’re smart. You figure this out, and I’ll stay on if I can.’ She’s very trustworthy. I tell people you could put your grandma on her.”
Seeing The Hard Work Pay Off
It’s that partnership that helped Dot and Gemma win the hilltoppers, 11-18, division at the Junior North American Field Hunter Championship, hosted March 4 by Mells Foxhounds in Lynnville, Tennessee.
After a flat class, the riders headed out for a mock hunt, where Dot and Gemma impressed the judges by getting the first gate and holding a pony whose rider had fallen off. The judges selected 10 riders to come back for a test, which included a drop rail, a gate, a creek crossing, and a hand gallop followed by a halt. Dot volunteered to come back first and nailed every element.
“I’m talking to one of my friends afterward, and they said, ‘Dot, I think you’re the only one to stay on for the drop rail and the gate,’ ” she said. “So I had a good feeling after my test.”
The ribbons were awarded from 10th place down to first, adding to the suspense. When Dot heard the second-place winner announced and knew she had won, she wasflooded with emotion.
“I didn’t cry, but I was really surprised,” she said. “The horse I trained and did all the work with finally paid off. She’s only 6, and I’d only had her for a year. It felt really good. “All the purple shampoo I put into her I got back because Shapley’s gave us the products,” she added.
While Dot may have been shocked at her victory, Russell wasn’t, noting that the young rider has the attitude and work ethic of a seasoned fox hunter.
“She goes to every trailer in the morning and says, ‘Good morning,’ ” said Russell. “She knows everyone’s name and horse’s name. If I need help with anything, she’ll be there. She always has a smile. You want to take a new member or a junior and say, ‘Just watch Dot.’
“She’s super attentive, and she really follows what’s going on,” she added. “She listens to the hounds, and we’ll whisper back and forth about what we think is unfold- ing. Dot is really tuned in to how the game is played out as the hounds are working the hunted game.”
Dot’s career with Gemma will slow down a bit next season as she’s heading off to Ohio University with her sights set on becoming an athletic trainer. She’s leaving Gemma at home for the first semester as she settles into college life, but that doesn’t mean she’s leaving foxhunting behind.
“Rocky Fork Headley Hunt [Ohio] is only a little bit away from there, so I can go up there and hunt,” she said. “We know a couple people who hunt up there that are like, ‘Absolutely, come hunt, borrow a horse, wear my boots.’ There are a lot of people we knew, so it felt like home.”
This article appeared in the June 26-July 17, 2023, issue of The Chronicle of the Horse. You can subscribe and get online access to a digital version and then enjoy a year of The Chronicle of the Horse and our lifestyle publication, Untacked. If you’re just following COTH online, you’re missing so much great unique content. Each print issue of the Chronicle is full of in-depth competition news, fascinating features, probing looks at issues within the sports of hunter/jumper, eventing and dressage, and stunning photography.