Show Recap: Hunter/Jumper Land Overall Impressions

So now you’ve read the run down of our first and second days at our first real hunter/jumper show, and you’re probably sitting on the edge of your seat with anticipation wondering, “what now? Will they make the jump (pun intended) to hunter/jumper land permanently? *gasp*”.

Let me end your pretend anxiety and say, probably not. However, I was thoroughly surprised to find that I did not see evidence of many stereotypes I had in my head of the hunter/jumper crowd, and that I would certainly be willing to enter a hunter/jumper show again, if only for a day rather than the weekend-long shebang.

Here are the overall Pro’s and Con’s I experienced over the weekend. In hopes that I won’t offend any hunters out there, keep in mind that this is a first real H/J experience for someone who has only done Dressage and Eventing for the last 10 years.

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The Pro’s:

Warm up
These trainers have obviously taken the time to school their students in proper warm-up ring etiquette, and it showed. Calling fences or inside/outside, as well as staying out of the way when standing, were all observed. Considering that I was warming up with people mostly half my age (yay 2’6″ classes!), this was all the more impressive. I feel like at any typical event I am the lone voice in the warm up arena and have been known to yell at more than one person for not calling out their warm-up fences. So, eventers, let’s get our act together.

No snobbery
I’ll be honest, I fully expected to see a bit of hunter/jumper princessness while I was here. Instead, I saw a lot of down-to-earth people and comraderie amongst the competitors.

Adding/scratching classes is awesome
Especially for people who can’t make up their minds (*cough* like myself, Sunday morning), this was a great feature to the show. The downside of course being that nothing can be scheduled down to the minute like at an event, but it still comes in handy.

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part of our badly abuse class-sheet

Legit Jumper Courses
This was pretty cool to see. The level of difficulty was exactly what was expected, and I thought it was still fair throughout the different heights. It might have been neat to ride through a triple combination, but that’s about all that was missing from the courses. Thumbs up from me!

Footing
Also known as water/drag all the things! These people mean business about footing, and the water trucks and tractors came and went so much they had it down to a science.

Turnout
All the pretty ponies, and all the pretty people! And even though I am fond of wearing my Ugly Boots and Ugly Pants to horse shows, it was kind of nice to pretend to be part of the fancy crowd all weekend.

The Ugly Boots (shown here) came along for the trip, luckily the Ugly Pants (also shown here) stayed at home

The Ugly Boots (shown here) came along for the trip, luckily the Ugly Pants (also shown here) stayed at home

No timers
Obviously for the hunter classes, there’s no obnoxious buzzer sending you on your merry way. Not gonna lie, at the end of day 2, this was something Foster and I were seriously appreciating. Thank you, hunter gods, for not asking us to be relaxed and fast. Thank you.

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The Con’s:

The Wait
I know you were expecting this. Waiting around with no schedule sucks. To be fair, I understand why (note my earlier comment about scratching classes), but there is definitely something to be said for knowing exactly when you are going, and being able to plan your day accordingly.

Inconsistent Judging
Maybe it’s my uneducated eye, but I could not find rhyme or reason between the  different judges. And really, I’m talking about flat classes. Where I thought I saw a relaxed ‘hunter-type’ with big strides, swinging movement, and relaxed demeanor, the horse that was clenching it’s jaw and avoiding contact by head-tilting pinned. Or in another arena, when I though a horse and rider produced a nice outline/frame, the horse that had it’s nose to the sky placed. I just couldn’t understand how the scoring was done, and this was a bit frustrating- adding to the mysteries of hunteryness.

The Clothes
And specifically, the rules about what’s OK and what’s not. Your boots need non-functioning laces, the saddle pad must be fitted (or non-existent, the route we went), your breeches must be knee patch, etc, etc. In the (mostly) form-follows-function world of eventing wardrobe, some of these things just made my eyes roll.

Feeling sneaky riding in Full-seats that don't look like Full-Seats!

Feeling sneaky riding in Full-seats that don’t look like Full-Seats!

Confusing class descriptions
Again, totally based on my ignorance as an eventer, but seriously- who comes up with these names? Even checking the state’s Hunter-Jumper Association doesn’t immediately describe what a Special Hunter was, and asking multiple people about the difference between Special Hunter and Pre-Green Hunter didn’t seem to clear up the difference. So. much. confusion.

Photography
It was pretty amazing to see how much more expensive the photography was at this C rated show than it is at any event. And sure, maybe it’s because the clientele are willing to pay that prices, in which case, good for the photographer. But hot damn, that’s a lot of money! Maybe I’m just bitter because they got 4 photos of me, and they were some of the worst photos I have seen in my life. I watched the videos, I know our level of awkwardness wasn’t quite that bad. Maybe next time, Mr. Photographer.

Foster and one of our 2 4th place ribbons!

Foster and one of our 2 4th place ribbons!

Overall Take-away
When it really comes down to it, this weekend was a wonderful opportunity to get in the jump arena in a low-pressure kind of way. I was able to somewhat successfully implement and learn a new technique, expose Foster to new types of fences, and take in a lot of knowledge about a new discipline. I learned a lot about what my horse can handle, and where his fitness limits are, which, though frustrating at the time, is really useful in preparing for future competitions.  So all-in-all, this was a good experience and I’ll be keeping an eye on the hunter/jumper calendar next year in case another opportunity comes up to visit hunter/jumper land again!

Tonight, we return to the world of dressage with another lesson with Eliza. Until next time, hunter/jumper land!

Show Recap: Hunter/Jumper Land Day 2

So, having already established that poor baby Foster was almost debilitated with exhaustion from the day before, I had to come up with a new game plan for Day 2 of our Hunter/Jumper experience. The original plan was to do a couple more jumper classes, but I knew ‘go fast’ and ‘jump big’ were not tools in our tool box that day, so a change of plan was needed.

Foster naps in his stall

Foster naps in his stall

At first, after much discussion, we decided to do 2’9″ Schooling Hunters, and be damned that we would be up against professionals. Not like we were going to place anyways. Then there were concerns that we wouldn’t have time to get ready, and switched to Adult Amateurs. I got on and soon saw that there was no waking up Foster enough to do the 2’9″ fences (that ring also was the one decked out in astro-turf, filler galore). So I scratched again. I suppose there’s something to be said for being able to swap classes, even if you’re driving yourself absolutely bonkers over it all (I despise wishy-washyness, even in myself).

Another day of hunters! Also, tents. We like tents.

Another day of hunters! Also, tents. We like tents.

The final decision was that it would be best for him if we took it all the way back to 2’6″ and do the Special Hunter division. Our first flat class, yay!

Cue the waiting around, and getting hot and bothered about hearing that our arena was being held for 30 minutes at a time. But finally, our time came.

I was relatively pleased with our first round, in that at least we weren’t moving at a complete snail’s pace (though admittedly, still pretty slow), and we got about half our leads (the video chopped off the first half). My friend C had just shared with me a wonderful trick that I decided to implement- Step, Lift, Look. So for trying out something new for the first time in a show arena, I was pretty OK with that! Otherwise, obviously, we got in pretty darn deep to a couple fences, but whatevs, we had a mulligan another round coming up!

Round 2 made me really happy. We got all but one of our leads, and I am debating tattooing Step, Lift, Look on my body. One deepish distance that resulted in him jumping totally over his shoulder again, but I’ll take it! Who knows, maybe my horse could do the hunter thing.

Last came the flat round. Since I came off of our second round huffing like a grampus (seriously, I was as winded as when I come off XC! Not pretty!), I was just kind of going to let him poke around wherever he felt comfortable. So we loped around, and earned ourselves a pretty little 4th place ribbon for our efforts.

After that, I took poor pony back to his stall to cover him in liniment from head to toe, and bubble wrapped him for the ride home. Since then, he’s had two days to chill and recuperate, and tonight he’ll get a nice stretchy walk/trot session and lots of carrots and pats from me.

Next up, I’ll share with you my eventer’s perspective on the whole show, and would I do it again. Until tomorrow!