The big day is just around the corner. You’ve trained for weeks, months, even years, and now you’re ready to compete in your first hunter/jumper show. It’s an incredibly exciting time, and hopefully the first of many! However, it can also be a very nerve wracking experience. Country & Stable knows just how overwhelming your first hunter/jumper competition can be, so we’re sharing 10 of our top tips to help the day go smoothly and be as enjoyable as possible…
Over the last few months, there’s been a lot of discussion about the problems with American show hunters: they’re too slow, they’re all drugged up, they are prepped and lunged to death, there are too many divisions and too many horse shows. And critics say that all of this combines to create awful animal welfare situations and terrible riders! I’m not here to refute every point, in fact some of it I wholeheartedly agree with. But some of these points fall far from the mark, and I’m here to defend “dumbing down” show hunters.
A brand new show venue is in the process of being built in Central Ohio: Willow Way Equestrian Center and people are excited. While the farm itself (Willow Way) has been around for quite some time, connections with the farm purchased land behind the existing facility, excavated it, and are building a showgrounds. I had the opportunity to compete at the inaugural horse show at Willow Way Equestrian Center, and while it’s far from finished, what is complete is phenomenal and it’s easy to see the facility’s potential.
I had a long, involved post written, but I really need to think more positively in general. So here’s all I’m going to say about the beginning: I took the day off on Friday to go up to the show early and watch an old friend show [she and her young horse looked great in the Baby Greens!] and chatted with her, which was really nice. After that I schooled and it sucked. Vinnie was “up” and we didn’t get to do much; I ended up going over a few fences, but couldn’t put anything together [no lines, just a few singles]. Vinnie’s antics were totally different from the minimal prep horse I rode last year. I went home very upset, worrying that I might not get to show.
The next morning my BFF N [also Trainer’s working student] schooled Vinnie and he was marginally better. At first I thought I would show pretty early in the day, but I ended up not showing until about noon. I went off-course in the warm-up class and promptly wanted to crawl under a rock and die. My two division over fence classes were ok, but not great. Vinnie was still strong and I felt like I was doing everything my trainer asked, but without seeing much improvement.
After my classes Vinnie was still wired, so we went to one of the practice rings and rode some more and did a few more jumps. Again, I went home upset and not looking forward to showing the next day. Honestly, I briefly considered cancelling, but I was already out the money, so I figured I might as well suck it up and go out and ride.
N schooled Vinnie again in the morning and I rode right after her. He was great for her, just okay for me. I decided that all I cared about was two things: thinking on course, especially in between the lines, and following well over the fence. Below were my two courses:
Both courses went much better than Saturday. I still struggled with pace; I was in such a take-back frame of mind from the day before that I really didn’t allow for the correct striding, so we added in the lines. And by the end of the last course I wasn’t following as well because my legs were so tired. BUT it was much improved, and I accomplished the two goals I set out to do. For your viewing pleasure, the best of my rounds from Sunday:
I ended up with as 6th and 8th over fences for my efforts on Sunday out of 12-14 in the classes — which I was much happier with! I also rode the under saddle well, but didn’t place. Overall, I’m honestly not quite sure what to make of the whole experience. I was frustrated, and still am, about how things went on Friday and Saturday, but I’m not sure how much to blame myself (which I usually jump to!). I’m annoyed that I’m showing the same horse in the same division last year, and I feel like I’ve made a lot of improvement, but that it’s not translating into being more competitive.
I guess I’ve sort of decided to not worry about it and focus on the next show, which is mid-June (two weeks away!). I’ll see how that goes and go from there!
So, it’s been a while since I last posted. Sorry guys. I had a blog written about my Thursday lesson, but it was just so negative I decided not to post it. I want to keep things real and write about the good times as well as the bad, but sometimes I get so down on myself and no one wants to read that; heck, I didn’t even want to read it again! So that’s my excuse for the radio silence. Anyways, on to more exciting things… like the schooling show at the farm!
I went out to the barn on Saturday to practice and of course it was absolutely gorgeous out, but it was supposed to rain on Sunday so all the jumping was scheduled to be indoors. Blech. Oh well, April showers and all I guess. After talking with Trainer, we decided on a game plan: I’d show Diamond in Equitation Flat and Vinnie in 2′ Equitation Over Fences and Jumpers. I cried a little on the inside since there wasn’t a single hunter class. I mean, I haven’t shown in Equitation in probably five years and I’ve never ridden a jumper course! All I have to say is thank goodness for being able to practice the day before!
By the time I got there the jump course was all set up in the indoor and it looked really nice, I mean I stepped into the arena and was seriously impressed. Most of the jumps had fancy wing standards with colorful poles and boxes all over the place. I even had a moment where I was just so incredibly grateful to be at a barn like this, with great professionals and a dedicated, caring staff. Anyways, practice on Vinnie went pretty well; I didn’t have much horse and struggled to keep up the correct pace, but at least our “jumper” turns went well. I also flatted Diamond in the smaller indoor to practice for our flat class. She wasn’t bad, but she did feel a little up and I was just a titch nervous, which probably didn’t help her relax. I only rode her for about 20 minutes and called it quits.
I woke up early on Sunday and headed straight out to the barn. It was raining by 7 am, so I was worried that the horses wouldn’t get turned out. Luckily Trainer is amazing and managed to get Diamond some indoor turnout time before they started working the ring for the show — thank goodness! She said Diamond ran around like a bat out of hell. We all figured since it was raining there wouldn’t be many haul-ins, but boy were we wrong! All in all we had about 15 trailers plus boarders; It was much bigger than anyone thought it would be!
Equitation on the Flat was first and I had three simple goals in mind: (1) stretch up, (2) keep weight in my right leg and (3) not break at the canter. I’m not an Equitation rider — I don’t have the body-type and I have way too many things to worry about when I’m riding to try to look pretty while doing it. Overall the class went pretty well I thought. I need to keep working on stretching up in my transitions and I caught myself slipping out of my right leg a bit, but I didn’t break at the canter and I did a sitting trot fairly well considering I never, ever practicing it. We ended up 4th out of 8, which I was very happy with.
Next up was Equitation Over Fences with Vinnie, so I swapped horses and warmed up in the small indoor over a crossrail. Vinnie had a bit more energy, and I was so proud of him for not succumbing to his fear of the bear that lives in there, haha. We tried to go over the big indoor to stand at the end, which was sectioned off as a “waiting area” but it was so crammed full we couldn’t even get in. So I hopped off and stood in the aisle for a while, waiting for our class. We did manage to get back on and over the arena to school a few jumps before our class started. Vinnie was excellent, even with lots of chaos, including one rider who was having a pretty difficult time her mount. Plus since were up there and ready, I was able to get my trip in early on in the class [there were 11 riders total!]. Overall, I was happy with my ride. We were a little wobbly in the line, and I got left behind a little bit at the first fence. Vinnie doesn’t have flying lead changes, so that always hurts us, but again, I wasn’t really going in for a good Equitation round, I just wanted to do my best to generate and moderate our pace, keep my lower leg more still and follow well. I think I really accomplished all those goals and while my trip could have been better, it was still much improved from our school on Saturday. I ended up 4th out of 11 in this class, and I was over the moon ecstatic!
I took a quick break to learn my Jumper course and went back in. This trip definitely wasn’t as smooth or pretty, but Vinnie was a champ and helped me through it. I honestly don’t remember much about this course — I think I was so focused on where I had to go next I wasn’t paying much attention to how I was riding [which is funny, because even though this was the Jumper course, the only part that was more difficult was 4 to 5… everything else was really set like a hunter course]. We didn’t knock down any rails, during our trip, so we got to do the jump-off, which was super nerve-wracking because I can only memorize one course at a time, so I had no idea where I was going! I had to learn the jump-off standing in the ring, but luckily I had some great friends and the ladies at the gate helped me learn it. This trip was pretty ugly, but my only goal was to get over the correct fences, which I did. Our turn to 4 was really rough and I almost fell off afterwards, but we gathered back up and made it over the last fence. Woohoo! We even got a 6th (!!) for efforts! My first [and probably last] ribbon in the Jumper ring, haha.
All in all, this show was a huge success for me. I’m really proud that I accomplished all my goals, even if they were small and I probably could have challenged myself to do a bit better. These courses were definitely out of my comfort zone and I handled it all in stride.
Hi! I'm Tracy, a full-time marketing/communications professional from Central Ohio. Fly On Over follows my journey through horse ownership and as a working adult amateur trying to find success in the hunter/jumper show ring with my Thoroughbred, Miles.