Here it is you guys: The final Pin Oak post! Though this will by no means be the last time you see pictures from this show.
By the time this hits the blog, I’ll be having fun on the farm in Virginia. I’m planning to have content ready to post between now and when I return on Monday night, but I may be slow to respond to comments what with the spotty service out on the farm. But fear not! I will read and respond and appreciate all of the comments and love, and I’ll be back to my normal response time on Tuesday next week.
If I took a lot of photos of the hunters, I took waaay too many photos of the jumpers. The photos are all from the Low Adult Amateur jumpers, the High Children’s classic, the Medium Amateur Owner jumpers, and the Under 25 Prix and Water Oil & Gas Grand Prix held in the evening. All day the courses were designed so that even though they seemed simple enough, there were only a few clean trips in each class. Ideally about 8-12 people will have clean trips and make it to the jump off if applicable, and while the U25 Prix only had two clean first round trips, most of the other classes had a few clean trips each.
Watching the Adult/Children’s jumpers was exciting, because after watching some really good trips, but also trips with mistakes, I realized that Val and I would have been pretty competitive. Since my goal is to do either the Lows or Highs by the end of the year, it was great to see that even now we are ready to step into the ring and jump around. The course were technically tricky, but nothing that we couldn’t handle, and we generally jump pretty clean as long as I give him a semi-fair ride, which in both cases would have had us in the ribbons.
The were two bits of course design that were odd. The first was in both the Adult’s and the Children’s classes: Rather than putting the timer somewhere that was a straight shot from the final jump, which headed toward a corner on the short side of the arena, the timer was just past perpendicular the the final jump, so that you had to land from a vertical-vertical one stride and immediately turn left to get through the timers, or you wasted several seconds putting an additional 5-6 strides between the final jump and the timers. I definitely saw several people forget upon landing from the final jump which added lots of time.
The other bit of weirdness was likely not as intentional, but caused problems all evening regardless. In both prixs (If anyone would like to chime in on the best way to refer to more than one prix, please do! It’s apparently a hotly debated topic on the interwebs.), there was a triple combination on one side of the arena that came up after a corner full of scary things. Despite watching over 40 trips tackle the triple, less than 10 managed to find a truly good distance in, partly due to the curved corner rather than a square corner, and partly because many of the horses did not want to get too close to all of the stuff in the corner. Most everyone either jumped in long which made getting across the second element–a wide oxer with tan and white rails–tight, or they got too tight and climbed over the second element. Either scenario often resulted in pulling the top rail of the third element which was a flimsy vertical that also had poles similar in color to the arena footing.
Watching the (soft)1.45m U25 Prix was a ton of fun, and I can see why these are becoming more popular. There were some super talented young riders in this class, but they were on a slightly more level playing field than those who also opted to do the Grand Prix later in the evening. The course was slightly easier than the second prix as well, with slightly smaller and less intimidating (relative I know) obstacles. It was especially fun to see a few riders I knew personally or through connections and cheer them on. The winning rider, Keely McIntosh, rode the first course efficiently, but was also careful since only one other rider went clean in the first trip.
She rode the jump-off similarly, which panned out well for her, resulting in the only double clear pair in the whole class. These riders were so impressive to watch, and it was fun to think that most were around my age, give or take a couple of years. It’s certainly a lofty goal, but I’ve still got two more years until I’m too old, so I’ve definitely added an U25 Prix to my riding bucket list!
The last class of the night was the Water Oil & Gas Grand Prix was was set at 1.50m. In addition to raising the jumps, the course got even more technical, and an oxer was turned into triple bar. Before starting the Grand Prix, I ran to get snacks for myself and the barn friend that had stuck around with me to watch. While I was getting snacks, a team of Clydesdales did a driving demonstration, and an all pinto drill team did a performance. Once the jumps were all set, the drill team came out to walk their pattern to make sure they had planned for any jumps that might be in the way. I’ve always seen drill teams perform at rodeos where the pattern is simpler to condense and modify based only on ring size, and it had never occurred to me that they might need to walk the pattern.
Despite what I assume were last minute changes, there was only one near collision and then the singing of the national anthem by one of the drill team members, who sang it the National Anthem while riding her horse. You guys. I know I jump big jumps, but I was impressed. Especially when her horse got antsy so she moved him around and kept singing without a hitch.
Where the U25 Prix had about a dozen or so entries, the Grand Prix had 27. That being said, a lot of the entries were just multiple horses under one rider. 2-3 horses per rider was pretty standard, and Andy Kocher actually rode 5 in the prix.
There were a lot of rails in this class as well, and the triple combination proved to be just as much trouble in this class as it had been in the U25 Prix. The triple bar was, unsurprisingly, not much of an issue for anyone, but it did make the rest of the line it was on tricky. The line was the triple bar, a flowing 6 strides to a big, colorful oxer, and then a shortish 4 strides to a fairly boring vertical, all headed toward the gate. Most of the horses had a pretty big stride when they landed from the oxer and had trouble balancing back up to stay out from under the vertical. While some of the horses were extra careful and managed to clear the vertical even if they were deep, most of the horses that got deep took the rail down.
Despite the fact that all of the riders were fantastic, the class was not without its exciting moments! There was a 14 year old boy who got jumped so loose on the third to last fence that he lost a stirrup and did the last line with only his right stirrup, and there was a woman who almost went flying off the back of her saddle when her horse launched from a deep spot.
The most exciting moment all night though, was when Andy Kocher’s second horse was too busy being counter-bent to stare at things and generally being obnoxious and never even saw the first fence. Instead of eventually locking on, the horse flung himself over/through sideways and went down almost to his knees before climbing back up and galloping away with Andy clinging like a monkey to his neck. Andy eventually let go and went tumbling under his horse’s legs while we all thought we were about to witness his death.
As soon as his horse’s legs had cleared him though, Andy popped back up and waved to let us know that he was unhurt. Whew! He then went and rode his other 3 horses in the class with dirt all over his shoulder, and seemed not the least big phased by being trampled.
As the sun went down it got harder and harder to get good pictures, but I did my best and occasionally managed to piggy back off of the pro photographer’s super flash. After a long first round, and several speedy but not clean jump-off trips, Meagan Nusz and Willow ended up with a well deserved win, and Noelle Floyd actually published a great article about the pair shortly after. I was disappointed to see that a few riders used their crops more than seemed necessary in the jump off to encourage a horse to leave long, but one of those riders had a rail as a result of his balance being too far back which to me seemed like karma. I was happy to see that the winning trips however, were a result of careful and tactful riding though, rather than a horse asked to bail itself out of a bad spot.
Meagan had glitter on everything–her helmet, the pockets of her breeches,and her bonnets. And after several great trips and a beautiful win, I think that maybe I need more glitter in my riding life! Megan also does reining, and was actually back in Katy after Spring Gathering with her reiner so maybe I also need a a quarter horse and a western saddle?
After both classes, anyone that was still around to ride for ribbons milled around the arena, saying hello to spectators and letting people (but mostly children) pet the beautiful ponies. Andy Kocher manged to place in the top 6 with three of his horses, and he gave two of his ribbons to children in the crowd, even though I was standing right on the railing desperately hoping I could pet his horse and
steal be gifted one of his pretty neck ribbons.
With some of the recent efforts to make our sport more spectator friendly, I loved that the riders actually went to say hello to the crowd. The announcer also did a great job of explaining the ins and outs of show jumping throughout the classes since there were lots of spectators who clearly were not familiar with the sport or the rules. All in all, it seemed like everyone had a good time, and not just the exhibitors who were taking advantage of the free entertainment. It’s been years since I was at this facility, but just one day was enough to remind me why I love it so much, and why it’s one of my favorite Texas show venues.
Finally, while there were definitely specific trends in the Hunter and Equitation rings, tack and attire varied widely in all of the jumper classes. I saw every color jacket, including burgandy, french blue, grey, red collars, blue collars, glitter collars, etc. The tack choices were also never ending, and there were tons of different bit combinations, though I think I only saw one hackamore. Animo was definitely one of the most popular jacket brands, but I saw lots of other brands as well.
What do you think? Am I too soft for thinking that a crop shouldn’t be used to make up for a mistake the rider has made at this level of the sport? What are your thoughts on the Under 25 Prixs being offered? Have you had the opportunity to watch our sport at the top level like this, or is on your bucket list?