November 2017 Issue - page 10

Page 10
November 2017
PENNSYLVANIA EQUESTRIAN
By Marcella Peyre-Ferry
After 44 years leading the first
flight of the Cochran Hunt, John
Evans is handing off that respon-
sibility, but he is still riding in the
first flight every hunting Saturday
and enjoying every moment of it.
“I turned 80 and I thought
it was time for me to ride back
in the group and not have this
responsibility. So, I gave it up as
of last March,” Evans said. “I’m
still in the first flight, I’m just
not in charge, and therefore I can
socialize more.”
For 70 years, Evans has been
following this pack of Pennma-
rydel black and tan hounds with
the Cochran Hunt Club in southern
Chester County, PA. “When I first
started, it wasn’t a club - it was just
a pack of hounds,” he said.
Evans was introduced to
riding when he was 8 or 9 years
old and began fox hunting with
the group when he was just ten.
“I had the choice of a farmer’s
horse that wasn’t being used that
day and I could ride it, or, on
the edge of Atglen, there was an
older gentleman who bought and
sold ponies. We would stop there,
and if he had a pony he wanted
exercised I could ride that pony
that day, so those were my two
choices.” Evans said. “We rode
from there to the hunt and that
At Age 80, John Evans Steps Back from Cochran Hunt First Flight Duties
would have been several miles,
and when we were done hunting
we rode back to that barn.”
Evans always preferred
Thoroughbreds for hunting. “I en-
joy the run and the jumping and
the heart of the Thoroughbred
horse,” he said.
He purchased his first horse at
age 12, spending his savings of $33
at the New Holland auction. Get-
ting the horse from his home near
Quarryville in Lancaster County,
PA to Cochranville for hunting
proved to be a bit complicated,
because his uncle had only a one
horse trailer. The first time he hunt-
ed his own horse, his uncle took
his own horse to a farm near the
hunt the night before, and trailered
Evans’ horse to the hunt the next
morning. At the end of the hunting
day, his uncle took his horse home
first, and directed Evans to start
riding for home. The plan was to
pick Evans up along the route.
“I was part way home and
it was getting dark. I could see
headlights coming, thinking each
time it was him. It finally was him,
but I was thinking ‘I’m going to
have to ride all the way home’. I
was about half way by the time he
came back and picked me up.”
The only time since then that
Evans has not owned at least one
horse was during his time in the
army.
He made a home for his fam-
ily on a farmette in the Willow
Street area of Lancaster County
where he still lives. Because he
does all his own work maintain-
ing his barn, he decided two years
ago to cut back from two horses
to just one, but that is all he needs
to keep active in the hunt field.
For a time, he was joined in
the hunt field by his son John Evans
II. “He rode with me for about three
years until he reached 10th grade,
then football became his priority,”
Evans said. “When he became a
State Policeman he actually joined
the mounted police and did very
well. So his experience in riding re-
ally came through for him. He rode
for three years as a mounted officer
until he became a sergeant.”
Sixth Grade Teacher
John Evans spent 33 years as a
sixth-grade teacher in the Lam-
peter Strasberg School District.
During that time, foxhunting on the
weekends was his chance to relax.
“It just was a complete release,
riding and being out in nature and
the open air and so forth, and riding
across the country. It just was kind
of a complete relaxation mode for
me. It’s still that way.”
Staying in the saddle and
foxhunting keeps Evans active
and gives him a hobby he enjoys.
“I ride during the week to keep
myself and the horse fit,” he said.
“I think it has helped (me stay
healthy), being out in the fresh
air for several hours each day,
plus riding during the week. I feel
that’s been a benefit in calming
myself down, relaxing, breathing
out fresh air and so forth.”
Currently, the Cochran Hunt
Club runs 28 to 32 hounds with
25 to 28 riders from children to
seniors in the field on a regular
basis. “It’s very relaxed, friendly,
we’re very conscious of the land
owners. We try very hard not to
tear up property or offend any of
the property owners.”
The Club hunts on Saturdays
on land that is also used at times
by the Cheshire Hunt. “We’re very
lucky we’re on the edge of the
Chester County Conservation Area
and because of that wide-open
area, we’re able to hunt there once
a week,” Evans said. “Because of
the Conservancy we still have a
decent area to be able to ride on.”
Evans’ many years of experi-
ence in the field with the Cochran
Hunt made him a natural to lead
the first flight. Responsibilities
of the position include taking the
safest and best riding route when
following the hounds, keeping the
field from straying onto property
where they should not be, and
making sure someone stays with
anyone who has fallen until they
are remounted.
“The first flight field leader
is like a job, seriously. You pay
attention to the huntsman - where
we are, making sure we’re not
tearing up somebody’s property,
that we're riding in the right ar-
eas, if there’s a spill, making sure
we take care of the rider before
we ride off,” Evans explained.
While he is no longer at the
head of the first flight, Evans is still
riding and jumping with them, not
showing his age or slowing down
for a moment. “I can’t remember a
time I thought I was going to quit
and give it up,” he said.
John Evans, center, leads the field.of the Cochran Hunt Club. Evans, who handed off the responsibility
of leading the first flight after he turned 80, will continue to hunt in the first flight and looks forward to
more time to socialize.
Photo credit: Jon R. Smith.
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