First of all, a housekeeping note: I am pretty aggravated with myself for not blogging more often, and I need to change that. I started this blog with plans to cover a lot of anecdotal ground and wheel out all my best horse-related stories and memories from the past. And I still have plenty of those, never fear! :-) Then I decided to cover more current events as well. But I'm still feeling frustrated with that approach, and want to write more often, so I think I'll be throwing in some more horse-related "train of thought" type posts, just whatever crosses my mind or intrigues me or interests me (and hopefully you) in the horse world. If this isn't making any sense I apologize... I just really want to write more and keeping finding myself thinking, "No, wait, that doesn't really go with what I said the blog was going to be about," and feeling discouraged. I want to knock that off and get some more stuff up here! So look out for more frequent posts (hopefully) on a variety of topics.
Having said that, stay tuned for reports on current events in my horsey life. Namely, I'll be watching and blogging about the following awesome events this weekend at the St. Louis National Charity Horse Show:
- A $25,000 Grand Prix
- The ASPCA Maclay Zone 7 Regional Finals
- A $15,000 USHJA Hunter Derby!
I am just soooo darn excited about the Derby! We always have the Maclay Regionals and a Grand Prix, but now they've added that and I absolutely can't wait to see it. I think it's wonderful that these competitions were started (not too long ago) in response to a growing segment of horse people who said, "You know, how about if we return to the roots of what hunters are supposed to do, and have classes with fences like you might actually find in a hunt field?" A pretty front end and great way of going are still required, but in Derbies the horses are asked to jump natural fences such as post and rail, hedges, coops, and water, along with some tight turns, roll backs and optional fences. It's like an amped-up Handy Hunter class (which are also becoming more popular, I've noted), kind of Hunters Plus Jumpers. Way cool! If you'd like to see some truly excellent hunter showing, the final rounds of last month's International Hunter Derby Finals are available for free here. I spent a very happy hour or so watching that yesterday. If you have not seen/heard about this, you will be simply astounded at the age of the winning rider... *
Back in my 4-H days we competed on outdoor hunter courses. These were in a huge grass field containing jumps like post and rail, coops and brush boxes. These classes scared me pretty badly because the mare and gelding I rode would get excited, I would be nervous and accordingly, we did not have the best brakes (alas, steering also barely functioned). We would rip around at Mach 3, slamming to almost a halt in time to jump. Not the prettiest rounds, obviously, but we'd place because others were even worse. Oh, well! (My most favorite story ever though is the time I was showing over this course and managed a blue ribbon, purely because I was the only one who had remembered to put the chin strap down on her hard hat. According to 4-H rules, that made me the winner - LOL!)
I saw another Big Eq class last week, a Zone Final for the USHJA competition. That was fun to see as well. I felt pretty sorry for the kids, because one of the fences was this:
Another problem area (and I apologize, if I had better computer drawing skills I'd try to recreate the course here for you) was an in-and-out set across the middle of the ring, instead of lengthwise. These jumps were built out of single rails with a small wooden cutout underneath; so airy, and apparently, rather spooky as well. A lot of horses gave these fences a good hard look and I saw several refusals. One girl (they were all girls this time) swam through and absolutely demolished both jumps. I know that horse had some majorly stinging shins.
The top two in this Eq class had to swap horses. The first to ride the test again on a borrowed horse did a lousy, lousy job. I bet the judges wound up being a bit sorry they had to place her second. She barely could get the horse to canter, much less counter-canter to a jump, as they were required to do. The girl who rode her horse, on the other hand, absolutely nailed the test. Very clearly the winner! I was glad to even see a test run because in the last two Maclay Regionals, they didn't even do one, much less make them swap. I thought that was not doing the kids any favors because they certainly will be asked to test and probably swap at the Finals. We shall see what happens this year. (I promise to take more photos and also will get some of the course diagrams - duh)
* If you don't have time to watch I'll go ahead and tell you: she is FOURTEEN. Egads. And, this is the part that really blows my mind - she beat her own trainer, not to mention a ton of top pros. That is some performance! She is a very, very gifted rider with beautiful form and quiet hands. And talk about poise! Now, call me catty, but I also do not think it hurts that the critter she was riding probably cost more than my house, and is just one of a string of spectacular show horses that "she" (actually her dad's company) owns. I read an interview with the young lady and she mentioned that he was originally purchased as an Eq horse but "we decided to make him a hunter." I found this quite interesting because as they were jumping I immediately noticed the horse was far more of a splinter-belly, flat, Eq-style jumper than most of the other competitors who demonstrated lovely hunter bascules. So why exactly he was placed so high I don't quite get... aside from the facts that he looked like an absolutely saint, had a metronomic canter and did the entire course including hairpin turns with his ears pricked and an air of enjoyment. THAT I heartily approve of! :-)