Category Archives: Hunter Jumper Discussion

You don’t have to be Rich but you Better Bring Your A Game

I have written about this before and would like to dedicate this article specifically to the four traits I see in top equitation riders. If you look at the past big eq winners time and time again they have these four things in common. There may be exceptions, however,  I cannot think of any off the top of my head. (If you notice, talent is great but not on the top of my list.)

Here they are:

  • Aside from equitation, they also ride jumpers and sometimes  hunters as well.
  • They are a trainer’s child, wealthy, or a working student for a top trainer
  • They have amazing work ethic
  • Mental Strength – They think gold

Let’s look back at our winners… They have many of the above points in common. Now some of you are still thinking, what about talent? The winners are all talented riders. More often than not, practice develops talent making us come back to work ethic.

First look at the fact that top equitation riders also ride upper level jumpers. I know from personal experience, Hunter won her first grand prix long before she even thought about becoming a top equitation rider. Equitation success became another goal for her to add to her riding career but it did not start as a focus when she was little. The experience in the jumper ring gave her the mileage long before she ever competed in an equitation class. Jumper classes gave her the ability to  navigate the bending lines, forward lines, collected lines, courses that are more demanding than your usual hunter or equitation course during the normal show circuit. 

Hunter competing in a Grand Prix in Ocala in 2011.

How can we make a change, as many parents cannot afford two horses for their children to show? Courses with more challenging questions from early on could help this. The derby aspect should trickle down into the hunter divisions. Equitation courses should have more thought and detail put into them (not just a junior hunter course with a roll back or two). WE need to prepare riders so riders can be ready for equitation finals. Trainers need to get off their butts at home and set courses to make their riders ready for finals.  Hunter and I are always moving jumps in our ring at home. The course winning, would never be an option for us. Maybe horse shows should put the actual course from the previous years Equitation finals into play. For example, one week at the end of winter circuit, they should have the Maclay finals course or Hunt seat Medals final course as the course in the regular class at any of the winter circuits. How well the rider does will be a good jumping off point on what they need to work on the rest of the year to prepare for finals. 

The next criteria is really that one of the next three must apply; the big eq winners have either been a working student for a top eq trainer, a child of a trainer, or wealthy. Why is this so?

If they are a working student it goes with the last point on the list, work ethic. They have the hardest job I can think of . They work, work, and work some more. A twenty hour day is nothing for them. They are in their trainer’s eye all the time. It is important for the working student to be successful as it is  reflection back on them. Not only does a good working student collect ribbons for their barn, their success attracts clients. Working students’ skilled  rides sell horses making their trainer money. Not only do they become good riders, but they become good barn managers.  A good junior working student is priceless to a trainer, and a good trainer is priceless to working student. The training and education they gain is a equal to beyond a phd in school. They walk away at 18 with a phd in horsemanship and hopefully some nice accomplishments in the show ring.

If the rider is a trainer’s child. They might not be rich, but they are steered in a path for success. I knew what mistakes I had made as a junior, so I had such a clear understanding what needed to be done for Hunter to be more successful. Trainer’s have the knowledge to pull the correct team together for their child. They have the experience and connections to acquire the proper horses for their child to be safe and become educated. These kids also get to ride all day long non-stop. Supply of horses is in abundance in a trainer’s barn and there are things to learn from the good horses and the not so easy horses. The hours they log, just like a working student is priceless.

The only way I have seen riders get around being a trainer’s child or a working student is money and lots of it. Money will buy the best horses, multiple horses, buy the best trainers, and give them the ability to get to horse shows across the country. This is not a negative, just a point I am making. And these kids have to work hard too. Extremely hard. It doesn’t matter how great your horses are if you don’t ride them well. That requires logging the hours and more hours, just like all the other riders.  Money gives them the ability to ride multiple horses without being a working student, it DOES NOT give them a get out of jail free card. They still must put the hours in.

The last one is mental strength. This is huge. You cannot have gold, without thinking gold. The winners think gold. Even when they say they aren’t, they really are. Take the National Championship football game the other day. 

TAMPA, Fla. — The game clock showed 2:01. Deshaun Watson gathered his teammates and told them simply, “We’re going to get this touchdown. We’re going to win this national championship.”

Nobody on that sideline doubted. Not with Watson under center. Everybody wearing orange and purple firmly believed they had the best player in the country on their side, Heisman or no Heisman. They reminded everybody: Heismans are voted on; championships are won. – Andrea Adelson

Watson thinks gold. And that is what the top Equitation riders do. After Hunter’s 2nd place finish at Maclay finals a couple years ago MacLain Ward told Hunter, “Second place worked out pretty well for me Hunter.”  What a perfect statement, but Hunter didn’t want to hear  it. Her mind was set for the win no matter what. When Hunter’s Equitation horse Sunny ran a temperature the show day of Maclay finals this year that was when “the rubber meets the road.” She took a vertualy unknown that had not shown in an indoor ring in 3 years and won. It is what you do when odds are stacked against you and the pressure is on that shows what you are made of. Will you run with the ball or will you drop it? 

As Mahamud Ali said, “Champions are not made in the gym, they are made deep inside.”


Love this, An eventer’s experience at an A rated horse show.

I love this article below. Not only does it crack me up, but some of it is so true. I think it wasn’t until I started dating Larry that I didn’t lose sleep the night before riding in a grand prix . Not because of how I would perform, but on how I was going to get  a jump in the schooling ring! And once I got it, how was I going to keep it.  I would even go look at the order of go as soon as it came out to see what trainers I would have to compete with for a jump. I was happy to be first because that meant getting a jump would be easier. Maybe not the jump I wanted but back then I was just happy to have a jump at all. Thank God Larry came around and was bigger than everyone else.

If you want to laugh read

An Eventer’s Adventures In Hunterland

Top 5 Equestrian Names

This website always has fun “equestrian world” articles including this one on THE TOP FIVE EQUESTRIAN NAMES. Maybe I like it so much because they mention Hunter:)

Expecting? Top 5 Names for Children of the Show Circuit

How can we make the world of show jumping on budget and viewer friendly?

I recently had a conversation with another trainer about this issue. Why isn’t our sport more popular? When she asked me this question, I thought back to an article I read earlier this year that didn’t make much sense to me. It keyed on things like keeping your horses’ names one word. Really? If we really change our horses names to simple words that will be a game changer? Troy Polamalu did alright.

When I am at horse shows, I attempt to watch what is going on around me, and here is what I see; Bored parents that don’t understand why it is taking so long and why they are spending so much money.

You have to admit even if you love horses and are an avid fan, watching 2’6″ round after round can be extremely painful, not to mention teach you every bad habit there is if you watch too long. So how have things changed? When I was growing up you didn’t go to an A rated horse show if you couldn’t jump 3’6″ period. Mileage to get to this level was done through lessons and some local horse shows. (Please note this article is not a discussion about whether or not someone should show 3’6″ but a discussion on ideas on how to make it less expensive and more interesting for the ‘non-horseperson.)

An argument I hear with this is many parents can’t afford to buy a 3’6″ horse. I don’t buy it. If you can afford to go to an A rated horse show, and go in class after class that offers no prize money, you can afford a 3’6″ horse that has a chance of winning some prize money. My first 3’6″ horse was a cow horse and pole bending horse we bought at the sale barn for $600.00. We later traded that horse for my first Hermes saddle. My first two grand prix horses cost $750.00 (He Can Run aka Caddyshack) and $900.00 (Captain Kidd). Caddy shack and I also won the AQHA World Championships in showjumping and did hunter classes. The problem is riders don’t ride well enough and trainers don’t train well enough to show most horses at 3’6″. In our barn unless it is ancient or crippled it shows 3’6″. Hunter’s first pony was bought from a school horse program. She was a large, but we couldn’t be picky on size, with our budget. I paid for her to do one or two shows at short stirrup and told Hunter if she wanted to show at A shows she had to do the rated division, as I could not pay entries for a short stirrup horse. The next horse show she showed in the large ponies and earned a little prize money. Same thing for Hunter’s first horse, she did a couple classes in the childrens hunters and moved right up to the juniors because prize money was a must to make this sport doable for our family. We still operate that way. Our horses have to earn their keep. If we don’t do well, we cannot go to the next horse show. Bottom line, if a rider wants to show 3’6″, they can, if they put the effort and time into it. They learn so much more than running around trying to make the step at 2’6″ and cutting their corners. It is my opinion, to save the future of the sport, smaller classes do not belong at A shows. Just as you don’t pack a stadium for flag football, same goes for smaller jumping classes. We need to get the parents back if we want to get the next generation of riders. Below is a victory gallop picture of Hunter winning the ASPCA Maclay at Indoors. Look how few spectators for this prestigious class;

Victory Gallop ASPCA Maclay Finals Chicago Equestrian


We need to get our audience back. Unfortunately horse shows are expensive because we have no spectators. If we had people that wanted to watch the horse show, they would make exhibitors costs go down and parents would pony up for more horse shows and more horses, if they were having fun and not spending their life savings for their kid to show. Let’s face it, a normal six figure income will not allow most kids to show on any type of regular basis. Not only is that wrong, but you extremely decrease your market, making life hard on everyone.

How can we make horse shows more interesting? Here is my list;

  • Classes that are exciting , interesting to watch
  • Show at the time you say you are going to show
  • Shorter hours
  • Spectators
  • Pre-loading

Let’s take a note from Europe. They preload. That greatly cuts down time. In Europe, someone is always jumping, someone is in and hacking waiting for their turn, and the one that finished usually hasn’t left the ring yet. WE need to buck up and get used to it. It works. That would lessen the hours and make it more interesting.

Twenty years ago most horse shows were put on by a group of people that weren’t interested in making a profit. That isn’t the case now, so where do we go from here? If they adapted guidelines such as preloading, maybe everyone wouldn’t be too tired to put back on more interesting events in the afternoon and get spectators involved. If we are taking a note from baseball, we need to figure out how to draw a paying audience. Classes would have to start at the time they say and then you are done. Parents get to go relax, riders get to relax, grooms get some down time. Life is good. This year at indoors we were riding from 3 am in the ring until after midnight. The course walk was at 5 am the next day. I had one groom that didn’t sleep for almost 48 hours. That isn’t right. Let’s learn from popular sports in our country and show jumping in Europe.

If we want to make a change I know these things are a must. Every sport that is popular you must have spectators and you must have an accurate schedule. Now what do we do? Where do we start? If we want this sport to be successful and not lose some of our best riders to Europe or quitting because they can’t afford it, we need to make a change.WE NEED TO PUT THE EXCITEMENT BACK IN THE SPORT!