Type to search

Meet River Hills' Master of the Foxhounds


Jimmy Paxson takes a deep breath and exhales slowly as he settles into the saddle. “It’s the first thing I do every time I get on a horse,” he says. “The horse will either turn its head slightly with one eye to you or twitch one ear back to you.”

Establishing a rapport with horses comes to him naturally. Paxson started riding at age 10 and began showing at 12. “I’m not just a rider,” he says. I’ve been a horseman all my life.”

Jimmy Paxson.

He showed grand prix jumpers throughout the 1960s and ’70s. He notably guided his mount over a seven-foot, three-inch jump at Youngstown (Ohio) Charity Horse Show a half century ago. “It takes a helluva horse to jump a wall when you can’t see on the other side of it,” he says. “Thoroughbreds have more heart than any horse out there. If you can figure out how to make the connection with a thoroughbred, whether it’s racing, jumping or foxhunting, it’s magical. You are one.”

Now 70, Paxson hunts four days a week as Master of Foxhounds at River Hills in Chester County, Pa., where he lives with his wife, Doris, and 16 thoroughbreds. He’s been outriding at timber races and steeplechases since 1989. Outriders lead racehorses to the post—and Paxson adds serious panache to the role, bringing foxhounds to the meet. Last year at Winterthur, Del., two of his team members donned high hats and traditional ladies’ riding habits and rode sidesaddle.

“A favorite of our guests, Jimmy and his team of outriders from River Hills Foxhounds show beautifully,” says Jill Abbot, Winterthur’s race director. “They’re the experts who keep our jockeys, horses and spectators safe during the races. They ride on decades of knowledge and tradition.”

Paxson is modest about his popularity with meet organizers. “They like the way we handle ourselves and how our horses behave,” he says. “In outriding, the horses have to be able to follow through on the motion of the rider. You ride a horse with your brain and with your eyes and you need a horse who will take you where you look.”

Paxson has always been partial to grays. Eight of his thoroughbreds range in color from charcoal to smoke. “Most people think grays are too hard to keep clean, but they’re not,” he says.

His go-to horse for outriding is a 24-year-old chestnut gelding with a distinctive white blaze. Northpole Cat is big, but he didn’t have the speed for flat racing. So Paxson turned him into a hunter. “We put him with the horses who are hardest to handle,” he says. “He has a calming effect on them.”

Years of experience have made Paxson a fine judge of such things. “I like a horse with nice, rounded rump and high hips,” he says. “The higher their hips, the better jumpers they are. They call them mule hips. If you’ve ever seen a mule jump, it’s amazing at how high they can go.”

Paxson assembles eight outsiders in scarlet coats on mounts with breastplates and snaffle bits. In addition to their escort role, they assist the horses and jockeys in the paddock. They’re also tasked with catching loose horses who’ve thrown their riders. “There’s a lot of adrenalin on that course,” says Paxson.

The outriders have family members and other supporters who come to the races with necessities riders and horses need. They’re a constant presence in a sport that goes on regardless of the weather. “It could rain, it could be sunny—so we’re all prepared,” Paxson says. “No matter what, we love it. We wouldn’t be here if we didn’t.”

Greenwood farms The Historic Greenwood Farm Carries George Washington’s LegacyGreenwood Farm, George Washington's "Second Headquarters," pushes onward amid ups and downs in Tredyffrin Township.
Gardening Everything You Need to Know About Eco-Friendly GardeningWith more people picking up gardening during the pandemic, why not put some of your food waste or leaves from your yard to good use?
dentists Meet 2021’s Top Dentists Around the Main Line RegionLocal practitioners voted for their peers in a variety of specialties. The results were reviewed and authenticated by our editorial team and dental advisory board.
mindfulness The Healing Power of “Stepping Back” From Intense Emotional SituationsLearning to “step away” from emotionally charged feelings, situations and interactions can reduce reactivity and restore emotional health.
Lyme beware ticks Lyme Disease Continues to Flood Chester County CommunitiesLyme disease has permeated our region—especially Chester County, with its exploding deer population. Local families are paying the price.
Allergy & Asthma Is a Cold Always Ruining Your Summer Vacation?Allergy & Asthma Specialists reveals why a mold allergy may be ruining your vacation and offers tips on how to stay healthy this summer.
tooth feature Two Main Line Dentists Explain the Rise in Chipped, Cracked TeethWhat's behind the increase in damaged teeth? We asked Dr. Rohini Bhatia and Dr. David Stall about the bruxism pandemic.
This Designer Transformed a Berwyn Colonial Into Her Dream HomeInterior designer Larina Kates turned a small brick colonial that needed a bit of work into a property with charm and flair.
Golf Caddie This Golf Association of Philadelphia Scholarship Helps Local CaddiesThe J. Wood Platt Caddie Scholarship Trust assists dedicated caddies in the Main Line region with paying for college.
Golf Remembering the Joy of Golfing During the PandemicA local writer and golfer discusses the simple pleasure of stepping foot onto the golf course after months of social distancing.
mushroom farming Kennett Square Is the Mushroom Capital of the WorldThanks to enterprising immigrants, the Main Line community remains a global leader in the mushroom industry.
Realtor Buy or Sell Your Home With the Main Line’s Top Realtors in 2021Looking to buy or sell a home along the Main Line? These local real estate agents have the expert advice and insight you need.
Philadelphia PGA The Philadelphia PGA Celebrates a Century of GolfThe Main Line area's top golf association marks a century of service to a game beloved across the region.
Main Line Real Estate The Main Line’s Real Estate Market Is Red-Hot for SellersWith so many buyers and so few homes, the real estate scene is thriving along the Main Line. But can this seller’s market last?
Jill Apfelbaum Malvern Saddlery Owner Jill Apfelbaum Is an Equestrian FashionistaAn avid rider, Apfelbaum specializes in boots, britches and show coats for competition and everyday wear in the Main Line area.