While I was visiting in Virginia, we headed over to the Virginia Horse Center to show the babies in the hunter breeding classes at the Lexington Spring Premiere. For Stellar, traveling to and hanging out for a day at rated shows is old hat, since she showed on the line all of last year, but for baby Beau, this was his first horse show. Previously he’s been to the vet once and inspection with Bethany, and that’s about the extent of his traveling experience.
Despite never having been to a show, Beau settled in incredibly fast, and after a short and relatively unsuccessful longe (Sorry, I like words, and I googled this out of curiosity since I’ve seen both–Longeing /ˈlʌndʒᵻŋ/ (US English, classical spelling) or lungeing (UK English, informal USA).), he was perfectly happy to stand tied to the trailer and munch on hay. Stellar, on the other hand, was quiet enough that we figured she’d be alright without a longe, and I opted to take her for a walk to see the sights around the outdoor arena.
**Side note, while pounding the babies on the lunge is hard on them, light longeing for short periods isn’t harmful as long as it is done careful and not a daily practice. Our babies spend less than 15 minutes at a time on the line, 2-3 times a week at most, and most of it is for practicing manners more than anything.**
As it turns out, we should have let Stellar play too. For most of our walk she was well-behaved, but several times she spooked into me and tried to smush me. She’s had a lot of handling and training in hand, and definitely knows better than that, so we had to have a few discussions.
Beau went first, since they do yearlings and up, and they were kind enough to allow all of the yearlings a few laps around the ring before they officially started the class. True to form, Beau took about two laps, then took a deep breath and just took in the sights like he was an old pro. He stood up very nicely when asked, waited patiently for his turn to jog, and his only hiccup was when he picked up a few steps of canter before trotting, but then jogged nicely from there. He placed 3rd out of 5, which was a little disappointing, but he also looked like the youngest in the class, and recently went through a growth spurt which made him look a tad on the thin side.
While her brother was being well behaved and showing off the fabulous brain we bred for, Stellar was busy stomping on my toes, occasionally whinnying/screaming for Beau who she isn’t usually all that attached to, and feeling the need to travel in circles rather than standing still. Yep. Should have longed. Also, I’d like to point out again, that she did numerous Hunter Breeding shows last year and was lovely to deal with. Fortunately, as my mama came out of the ring, a friend of hers arrived and offered to hold Beau so I could actually watch the next class and take pictures.
Unlike the yearlings, it is assumed that the 2 year olds have seen some things, and they were given only a lap to get used to the arena, and even that was only because 2 of the 3 (ours being the third) were leaping in the air, rearing, and refusing to go near the potted plants used as markers for the jog. Ours was only snorting a little and being obnoxious, but was still the best behaved of the class despite that. We chalked all of the silliness in the class up to Terrible Twos.
Stellar finally did settle in, though she was less than cooperative about setting herself up nicely. She jogged nicely, and had the class been based at all on brain and behavior, we totally would have had it, but she ended up 3rd out of 3. While it seems like she should have done better, politics often play a role in hunter breeding classes, and my mama’s is still a new name in the area. Either way, she gets points for the placing toward year end awards. I giggled when the announcer read off her breeding at the start of the class, and then pointed out that Stellar had a “full sister” in the yearling class. He is awfully pretty.
All through the class, Beau stood off to the side and watched quietly, and he and my mama’s friend leaned against each other and snuggled. Clearly he’s the good egg, since it also took us half of the time to braid him that it took us to braid Stellar, even though he’s only been braided once for inspection, and she has been braided at least a dozen times.
Finally it was my turn to do my Amateur Handler class–all alone.
Amateur Handler classes are judged entirely on presentation: how well turned out are the horse and handler, how well does the amatuer handle the horse, how well behaved is the horse for their handler, etc. The class is judged only very slightly, if at all, based on confirmation. The idea behind these classes is that the amateurs who buy babies that aren’t going to be doing anything super exciting for a few years get the chance to do something with their money pits. The classes are another way to encourage people to improve and support American breeding programs, rather than importing a 5 year old who is already going and ready to do things with their ammy.
Being the procrastinator that I am, I waited to pick an outfit for this class until I was packing the night before my trip. That was a really bad time to realize I haven’t worn any of my dress pants since I was 19 (so that’s four years ago now…) and I have apparently…changed proportions a bit. Not a single pair of my dress pants fit well enough, so my back up plan was a cute dress that hit about at my knees and that I could comfortably move in.
If eventers can do a jog in dresses, I can too, right?
Wrong. Dresses are all fine and dandy, but one should really choose a dress that does catch every breeze that flutters by. Oops.
Since we were the only pair in the class, the judge was kind enough to treat it like a mini clinic. He allowed us to go through our paces (which Stellar actually did quite politely, except for, you guessed it, choosing not to set herself up) and then offered some pointers.
The judges main suggestions were just to be a little meaner about putting her feet and head where I wanted them; no tap tap tapping on her shoulder until she deigns to adjust herself. He wanted me to give her a whack if she was ignoring me, and keep her attention 100% on me. He told me to observe the two trainers who’s horses and ponies won pretty much every class he had judged (like I said, a bit of politics). He pointed out that they weren’t super gentle in their handling, and that they simple insisted that their horse be where they wanted it.
This was useful information, in moderation. Most of the horses handled like that only stood nicely for very short periods, before they exploded up, back, forward, or all of the above. Certainly Stellar can take a bit of rough handling, because it is awfully hard to hurt that mare’s feelings, but I’d also much rather she respond correctly to quiet handling, rather than rough handling.
All in all, it was still such a fun outing. The babies were pretty good, though Beau was the star of the day. After we undid braids, Stellar kept trying to climb in the trailer, even with the door shut, so we finally loaded them up, and after running down just to take a peak at the derby ring and watch part of the WIHS jumper phase work off, we headed home.
This was my first experience in a Hunter breeding class, and it was a lot of fun, and I learned a lot. Have you ever done one of these?