I am, undeniably, a hunter princess at heart. I love my little race car, and we have a lot of fun. But I dream of when my baby horse is finally all grown up and we are doing derbies and the like. So I had a lot of fun watching the hunter ring and reminiscing on my junior days. Back when I was a junior, I had a horse that probably could have done hunters and big eq., but I was gunning to be on an NCAA team, and for recruiting purposes in Texas success in the jumper ring is much more impressive than in the hunter ring, simply because hunters and equitation aren’t nearly as big here as they are on the East and West coasts. There’s always been a little part of me that wished I done the hunters anyway, but I learned so much more in the jumpers, and I gained the tools I needed to teach Val to do his job. So it’s OK.
We watched the Younger and Older Large Juniors Hunters, and later we caught most of the Maclay, and there were a lot of drool-worthy horses. I’d like to have seen the Smalls too, but didn’t feel like waiting for a drag when there were other classes going on. One thing that surprised me was that they actually jogged for ribbons for every single over fences class (excluding the Maclay). I know this often happens at bigger horse shows, but it’s been a while since I was at a show where this was done, and I’ve never done a class that required a jog.
My understanding is that the point of the jog is to check for soundness without a rider in the irons to help package the horse, which can sometimes mask that the horse is off. That being the case, it seemed unnecessary to jog the same horses three different times, but I suppose that it was also a matter of formality. This wouldn’t be the only detail in the hunters that may or may not have a purpose, but is instead done just to do it. Any of you other readers, feel free to correct me on this!
Regardless of the purpose, it was entertaining to watch some of the fat and shiny hunters being dragged across the ring by their juniors, some of whom were trying to jog fast enough for the both of them. It seemed like it took all of their determination just to jog as far as the judge’s box before their horses decided they were done. Hopefully with all of her work on the line, this will be one thing Stellar will be great at. Fingers crossed she doesn’t jog faster than I do!
The Maclay was even more fun to watch than the hunters, because you could tell them kids who really had a plan from the get-go and those who were riding it like another hunter trip. The course was not overly difficult, but it did have one roll back, a trot fence, and a few places where you had options for your turn and approach. My favorite trip by far was one in which the trip was very tidy and efficient. The rider chose to slice one of the jumps, used the innermost track on every turn, and still stayed balanced and hit all of the jumps nicely.
Almost all of the other riders did one of the handier options, but didn’t usually do more than one. The trips were pretty, but no other trips really stood out to me. That being said, the riders were obviously good, though there were more bobbles than I might have expected. I’m going to chalk that up to the fact that there just aren’t as many hunter and equitation riders at the higher level in Texas. I’m sure if there were the dozens of entries many other shows have in these classes, it would be much harder to pick a favorite trip.
As far as turnout goes, I did see some tails that looked like they were thick enough to be fake, but I also saw a surprising number of tails that appeared to be natural tails, including a few that were on the thinner side. Since Pin Oak is a AA show, everyone had braided manes and tails, and though spring is a hard time to have a super shiny horse, all of the horse were very clean, and while they maybe weren’t all polished to a shine, all boots and tack were tidy and clean.
Many of the horses had boots, or polos as well in the equitation, though there were of course no boots in the hunters. I think primarily people used leather boots with normal buckles rather than velcro or studs. Pretty much every horse in every class wore a standing martingale, even though it appeared that many of them did not need the standing. Though some people are very against using a standing unless the horse actually needs it, this is one trend in the hunters that doesn’t bother me so much. Many people use a standing as standard equipment simply for aesthetic purposes, because it can help break up the horse so it’s front half doesn’t appear to be too long, and can generally make a nicer picture (this is not me saying I would opt to use a standing on every hunter, but simply that I understand the reasoning). As a judge, I could see viewing the standing as an indication that the horse is not going to go as nicely as the other horses, but that still shouldn’t cause the horse to be penalized unless he actually misbehaves and hits it. And unless the horse does misbehave, a properly adjusted standing certainly won’t get in the way of the horse unless you are jumping fences much larger then you would find in these classes.
Finally, I was surprised by the bitting in the equitation. When I was doing eq, everyone used pelhams, because it was much easier to package your horse into a frame appropriate for the more technical courses in big eq classes. Most of the horses that we saw go around however, were going in either a D-ring or full-cheek snaffle. Many of those horses had also done a junior trip earlier in the day, and I suppose if your horse is doing double duty, you may not want to do your horse in the hunters with a pelham.
The final thing that I noticed was that most of the horses in the Maclay jumped quite nicely. It is pretty common for equitation horses to jump square, but flat, so that having nice equitation is not difficult over the bigger fences, and that did not seem to be the case. Again, this is probably because many of the horses were doing double duty in the hunters and equitation, but it was still nice to see. I appreciated that the juniors were genuinely riding well for the most part, rather than posing on their horses.
What do you think readers? Is the standing martingale trend stupid? Should everyone use pelhams in the eq all the time? Are ready to steal any of these fancy horses?