Originally published on Virginia Blog Cup in April of 2007.
Steeplechase races are offshoots of organized fox hunting. Fauquier and Loudoun Counties in Northern Virginia are home to more recognized fox hunts and organized steeplechase races than anywhere else this side of the Atlantic. Don’t worry. Unlike fox hunters in England, we don’t kill the fox. It’s just a bunch of hounds barking and horses snorting and people “Tally Ho-ing” which in some language surely means, “If I fall off this horse going 30 mph, I’m toast!”
Since it wasn’t dangerous enough to go galloping over hill and dale chasing a speedy, wily varmint, somebody hatched a plan to multiply the thrills by conducting an actual race under similar conditions. Viola! Steeplechase racing was born. Would you be shocked if I told you this happened in Ireland?
Point–to-point racing got started on the Emerald Isle according to most sources (read that: everyone but the English). The first such steeplechase race was run in Cork in 1752 when Mr. Blake challenged his neighbor, Mr. O'Callaghan, to race from Buttevant church to Doneraile church some four and a half miles away. Along the way, horse and rider would jump stone walls, ditches and hedges as these presented themselves. By keeping the steeple of the church in sight (steeplechasing), both riders could see the finish line.
When the race was over, Mr. Blake and Mr. O’Callghan invented the pub.
Nice work, fellas.