The Interlopers

Sooooo … you may have noticed (if you’re with me on social media) that I did something pretty much batshit insane slightly crazy at the show on Saturday. If you follow this blog and read between the lines, perhaps you saw this coming.

I got to the show venue in the dark, unpacked my car, picked up my number, and started grooming and tacking up Eli. I had to wait until there was enough light outside to start walking him around (mostly by hand). He jumped out of his skin a few times, as he likes to do, but then he gives a big sigh and seems resigned to the fact that we are going to be at this place for a little while. I held off on mounting up until a horse that was being longed in the warmup area left. By the time I got on, the rings were closed for schooling and being dragged. I am not too worried about that at this point because Eli has seen these jumps at least dozen times. The wet grass (from dew) in the warm up area did give Eli pause–he attempted one of his reary/leapy spooks and slid about 5 feet and froze. I couldn’t help but laugh. He settled right down after that.

He offered up some sass as we started working, but then again, settled right down after a few laps of canter. I popped over a few warmup fences, had my trainer watch us take the oxer and then declared we’d be doing the warmup class in the 3′ ring (I left Eli’s wraps on for this one). If that went “well,” maybe we’d stick around for the first division of the day in the 3′ ring. Which would be a hunter division.

Let me just stop here for a few seconds so you can all roll your eyes at me. In fact, I’ll join you.

You know what, though? Eli and I had a blast! I made the mistake of assuming the schedule had stayed the same, so we wound up doing a division that usually goes in the 2’6″ ring, a 2’6″-2’9″ hunter division. I thought the jumps looked oddly low for us. Normally the first division in the 3′ ring is a 2’9″-3′ hunter division. New for this competition year, the 2’6″-2’9″ division will go first in the 3′ ring at KBF-hosted shows. Good to know.

Now that that is out of the way, on to my hair-brained idea of taking Eli in the hunter ring.

He’s been quiet at home over fences, without being dull. He’s started to get lead changes much more now, and I can mostly get him to land on whichever lead I chose, provided I keep my shoulders square (I don’t sometimes and then Eli picks the lead after a fence). He moves pretty well. We have had our time in the jumper ring and he has been fantastic, but I have noticed he is *still* not really into efficient turns. So why not try him in the hunter ring? I knew full well we’d miss leads, and he’d probably run away with me a little bit, but I wanted to know whether there’s a chance I could recreate the Eli I have at home in the show ring, because if I could, then we should do the hunters, right? (Really, how many more times can you expect me to enter the same jumper division when we’ve done it for two years?)

ring 1 warm up from patentlybay on Vimeo.

(Warmup round, left polos on. Eli doesn’t like the sound system going off haha. I also added the last outside line accidentally–that was not part of the posted course. Oops.)

He did, indeed, run away with me a bit. We missed leads. We even had a rail because we disagreed about how many strides should fit in a line (no video for that one but I am sure you can imagine). He flipped his head a time or two (or eight). Trust me, I know our rounds were nothing short of a shitshow by hunter standards, but I also liked a handful of things from each course. Eli caught on quickly to what we were doing, and seemed to enjoy himself more at this show than any other. He relaxed enough to STAND STILL outside the ingate while I caught up with someone I hadn’t seen in years. I took him in the flat class and he moved well and didn’t mind the other horses at all. When we got home, in the early evening, Eli still seemed bright and energetic, like hey cookie lady, we could go again. Of course we got no ribbons in a division of about a dozen horses, but we had so much fun! I *want* to do this again (well, but the 3′ stuff next time). To the best of my knowledge, this was Eli’s first time in hunter classes and I can only assume his first flat class. I am sure some were shocked to see me and this horse doing hunter stuff, and thinking wtf is she doing??? He’s too strong! Yes, if we keep doing the hunters for this year, we have some homework to do, but it’s all stuff I am familiar with and can easily incorporate into our rides at home. It’ll mean trying out different set ups–clearly just a kk ultra and a horse that thinks he’s a jumper is not the right combination for the hunter ring.

ynp h2 from patentlybay on Vimeo.

Another thing about the hunters–I have complained before about over-longeing and doping and all of that, and I realize I am at a disadvantage in the hunter ring even on the local level because I won’t longe or give whatever/who knows what to my horse to calm him down. I am at a disadvantage because I am not a good rider for the hunter ring. I am at a disadvantage because my horse struggles with lead changes and new places and slowing down. But I’d rather show my horse on my terms and never get a ribbon than try to create something I can’t without cheating. I want to work at it to get good at it, so people can see that an energetic horse can be tractable and make a good hunter. I think many people already do know this, so mostly I am just doing this for myself.

Not at all tired!

It’ll be easy to convince Eli he’s a hunter–I think he likes to go that way and wants to go that way. I am a poor hunter rider at best, and my track record in the hunter ring is nothing short of nightmarish (and not for want of nice horses), but Eli’s the right horse for me regardless of discipline so maybe we can make it work. I am going to work on landing soft and on our leads. I am going to work on keeping Eli steady in the lines. I am going to try to keep my shoulders up, and therefore Eli’s, in the corners. I am going to work on smoother rounds overall over fences. We may never pull off a faultless hunter round, but at least we’ll have fun trying!

Unfortunately, I am not sure when our next show will be. There are shows in April and May that I REALLY want to go to, but because of some non-horse-related circumstances, showing in April is most definitely out and May is a maybe. I am planning on the June show for sure, at least for now.

31 thoughts on “The Interlopers

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  1. I think the hunter ring can teach really valuable skills to have… even if you decide to go back to jumpers. Staying consistent, finding a distance from farther and farther out, learning to “finesse” and be relaxed… those are all great things to know how to do regardless of exact discipline, IMHO. I think it’s awesome that you want to challenge yourself and Eli and work on new things!!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. You will help reinvent the hunters! All this talk right now about “real” horses. Maybe if more “real” horses start showing up and going well will help change the norm from sleepy half-dead, to alive and pretty with long lines and such! I love the hunter ring and I refuse to participate in having a fake horse. Happy huntering!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You have articulated my philosophy pretty much exactly! 😊 I am merely a teeny tiny fish in a teeny tiny pond, but if I can set a good example of horsemanship for even one person then I have succeeded


  3. You know me, I love the hunters and I love Thoroughbreds in the hunter ring. Calmness wise, I totally get Simon there with close to 0 prep (I will lunge him every horse show day regardless of what ring I’m in so he has a chance to stretch his legs if needed). I think y’all can do it!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Simon is a total treasure! Eli is not manageable on a line, so I walk him around A LOT (in hand and under saddle) to accomplish the stretching and loosening up. It seems to keep him from getting frantic.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. That’s awesome! Honestly I think it’s really cool that you are posing the challenge of asking both you and your horse to try a new discipline that doesn’t necessarily come easily but that can be a true test and demonstration of all the work and training you’ve put on the horse. And a cool way to keep it interesting ! Glad it was a good experience!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. He’s an excited hunter, isn’t he? But he’s having fun and you’re down to try something different, so why not? I think you guys could do well in hunters, I’m looking forward to following along!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Welcome to the dark side!!! muhhahaha!

    That being said, I take a little bit of an issue with the claim that you are at a disadvantage because you won’t lounge or dope your horse 😟. I think that takes a pretty negative view of hunters in general. It is my hope that the majority of nice, calm hunters are that way due to a good brain and good training. I certainly don’t lounge or dope my 5 yr old, but I don’t think that means I’m at a disadvantage, especially at the local level. But hey, maybe I’m too naive/optimistic!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You make a great point! I did not mean to insinuate that if a horse is doped or exhausted it is more likely to win, and there are most certainly well-schooled, polite horses that are a product of good training, not short cuts. My view of the hunter ring is definitely clouded by some of the doping controversies, but at the same time I should point out all of the great riders and trainers who do right by their hunters and don’t take shortcuts.

      Liked by 3 people

  7. I think it is super cool of you to show in the hunter ring. I definitely go to shows to audit and be like “yeah my horse will never look like that- guess I can’t show” but seeing something I can relate to would definitely make me go “look she can do it! Why can’t I?”

    Liked by 1 person

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