Tuesday, October 15, 2019

on a lark!! hunter trials @ the 100 acre field

The last few weeks of summer around here were a bit tough for really doing a lot of good jumping. We've been on the receiving end of a fairly intense localized drought - with no significant rainfall at Charlie's farm since the second week of July.

charles the field hunter <3
I'm honestly at this point pretty sure that the issues we started having with jumping (like at our last xc lesson at Windurra) had more to do with the cumulative effect of existing on rock hard ground than anything else. It's just... kinda a grind, ya know? And Charlie is a BIG horse, that's a lot of dad bod to keep pounding across the ground lol.

how cute is this course map tho??
So the time off from his nasty bat-cave puncture was actually maybe a blessing in disguise. I kept him tack walking basically the whole time bc he was never really lame. Plus, he's a relatively high mileage model that does better when kept in motion haha.

trainer P brought her gelding over too. try to tell me this classy dude doesn't sorta look like an overgrown shetland LOL
And, ya know, eventually it'll probably rain right?? (Fingers crossed for tomorrow, actually!) And I'd like to put together a proper fall season. It's the best season for riding anyway, after all.

Temperatures have cooled down in a big way, with highs hovering around the low 70s / high 60s. The horses are all completely fluffed out already -- Charlie is legit a woolly mammoth -- but it's still not quite blanket season yet. So actually Charlie may end up getting clipped a little early this year lol. The fluff + dad bod is.... not the sportiest look!!

aw charlie and tommy are frens
But anyway tho, one of the best aspects of the fall riding season in Maryland is that all the local hunt clubs start gearing up for fox hunting season. Specifically, it becomes hunter trial season!!

Hunter Trials are sorta a unique blend of hunter paces, cross country, fox hunting and show hunters. The course is maybe a little shorter than your typical BN cross country course, and contains an array of natural style fences that you might encounter on a hunt. There are usually two tracks - one with fences not to exceed 3' and the other not to exceed 2'6.

also sorta kinda (intensely) jealous of all these kiddos getting to experience this at their ages haha. tho ya know, i guess it's never too late to start!
Riders may enter the course as individuals, pairs (2 riders) or teams (3+ riders). Each jumping effort is judged individually on a score from 0-100, reflecting overall brilliance in way of going, safety, and pleasantness. According to Trainer P, her overall view of judging the fence boiled down to: "Does that look like a horse I'd like to hunt?"

distant pixels jump a log!!
For the pairs and teams classes, horses must stay together throughout the course. So, for instance, if one horse has a refusal the other must wait until they get over the fence before continuing to the next. Also, the final fence must be jumped abreast.

fox hunters apparently love their upright split rail type fences lol
I got my first taste of a hunter trial wayyyyy back in 2014 with Isabel, when we went over to Tranquility for what I had hoped would more or less constitute some positive mileage schooling xc. And... wow, I was so immediately hooked!

I had gone to that show alone and found myself intensely jealous of all the folks doing the pairs and teams classes, and vowed that I'd return with friends next time haha.

final fence must be jumped abreast
Unfortunately that day never came with Isabel (something I still regret, le sigh!) but finally Charlie and I made it out last October to the Elkridge Harford Hunt Club's hunter trials. That was easily one of the highlights of the year for me haha. Plus, it really drove home a point that I'd already sorta vaguely understood: Charlie LOVES riding in company!

aww but aren't they just the best blurry pixels ?? <3 <3 <3
Obviously he's got a lot of experience at this point, since we do group trail rides, hunter paces, and paper chases galore each year. But honestly I think he just really enjoys having company galloping around.

This makes him a great baby sitter too, as all our friends who came with us this year (we had a group of about 4 -- our usual lesson crew!) were doing it for the first time.

the scene was kinda crazy - packed to the gills with all manner of horses and ponies, including more than a few licensed jockeys on timber horses
Trainer P came too, plus we ran into all other manner of friends at the outing. Trainer P wanted me to do the first class with one of the newer juniors in our group, and her chestnut ottb Tommy. They're a very capable pair but Trainer P just wanted to make sure they had a positive experience out there for the first go.

Unfortunately I somehow took us off course and we skipped a whole section - whoops!! But it was super fun. She and the other junior in our group did their second rounds in the junior / jockey class. Which, itself was super super SUPER awesome:: There were loads of pro licensed jockeys at the event (mostly timber racers and steeplechasers, I believe) and they'd pair up with a junior to do the course. How fucking cool, right??


So for my second round, since I obviously wasn't eligible to do the junior class (womp), I went out with my barn mate Amy and her ottb gelding Punky. And we had a grand old time haha. Punky..... lived up to his name LOL, and Charlie and I spent a fair amount of time standing stationary waiting for Punky to return from whatever lark he happened to go on....

But honestly? It was SO FUN. Since it was our second round we knew the course a bit better and I jumped more of the bigger stuff (originally I was a little nervous about how respectful Charlie would be of those upright airy rail fences....). So I put that first in the video since it makes for better watching.

charlie and punky were happy and tired after round 2. carrot bites for good pones!
Charlie for his part was a STAR. He was perfect. This was the best he's felt jumping in ages.  He just settled in, kept a steady pace, carried me to the fences. Adjusted for short and long, jumped everything cleanly.

And even more impressively - at one point around 3:25 in the video we had to stop to wait for Punky, who had missed a turn. So Charlie's just standing there at a halt, waiting patiently. Then as Punky made it back on course, Charlie just picked up immediately into the same exact perfect canter and proceeded directly to the next fence.

Which like... Wow. For any of you all who remember our earlier "dinosaur stuck in tar pit" days, and any of our issues with getting out of the start box.... That's kinda a huge deal that Charlie could just stop and start, no fuss no muss.

and head scritches for my best boy <3
Honestly this whole experience for me really drove home the fact that... Charlie is such a good boy. And even tho sometimes I feel like we didn't really make any big obvious "improvements" this year, like moving up a level for instance, I can look at a day like this and objectively appreciate that my horse has come so far in his maturity and schooling and downright pleasantness as a "do-anything" riding horse.

This summer wasn't the easiest for me in a lot of ways. We had a few low moments, a few existential crises, and more than a few nagging thoughts in the back of my mind on whether I can actually even do the things that I want to do. And even on this day, after our first run I was really doubting whether I should press my luck and go a second time.

But we did it. And it was good. Better than good. Charlie is just so fun, he's just such a good boy. I'm so lucky to have him and be able to enjoy him on days like this <3 <3 <3

So.... Lesson learned is that sometimes it's important to step back on those fun outings haha. And for anyone curious - these hunter paces are ahhhhmazing for just getting out there and letting it rip. I highly recommend haha, 10 / 10 would do again ;)

27 comments:

  1. the hunter trials sound super fun. And I'm pleased to see that Charles got carrots and scritches. :-)

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    1. ha, alllllll the carrots and head scritches for charles <3

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  2. That sounds so fun! Glad you guys had such a good outing. I bet you'd love foxhunting!

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    1. so fun :D and 1000% would love fox hunting. one of these days we'll make it happen!

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  3. I love reading about all the fun things you do with Charlie -- it's so much more than just horse shows and lessons and I honestly really love it <3

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    1. aw thanks haha -- sometimes i feel like i'm making up for lost time!! i see all these kiddos out doing these crazy things like racing shetlands and doing pony club and all that, and it makes me kinda sad that i didn't have horses in my life like that when i was their age. but ya know, maybe i wouldn't appreciate it in the same way that i do now if i had? lol all i know is that i love getting out and about with my giant pony and stuff like this is the MOST FUN :D

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  4. That course map is the cutest!!!! Charles is the best boy! I'm glad he could be the mature leader for your friend! Also I think it's the snip that makes your trainer horse look like a pony, snips are such a pony marking!

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    1. snips are my absolute favorite <3 charlie has a very faint one - it's actually almost more like a milk mustache, but i love it haha

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  5. I love the map. Charlie's just the best!

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  6. One part jealous and two parts so happy for you! This looks like so much fun! I used to do hunter trials when i lived in Millbrook and they were SO FUN! The pairs class is always a blast. Glad Charlie was feeling good and you got your groove back!

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    1. oh man i LOVE the pairs class!! i love the teams class too and had fun with them last year, but at this one they were held at opposite ends of the day so we didn't stick around long enough. maybe next time!

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  7. It sounds like soooomuch fun. And Charlie being the babysitter is awesome.

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    1. he's such a reliable dude, plus honestly he's just got so much experience at this point, it's nice being able to count on him!!

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  8. Awe love it!! The hunter paces around here are run so differently. This looks like a great experience and how fun to jump abreast!

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    1. it's so much fun!! and actually -- it is distinct from a hunter pace. this was a hunter trials. similar name but different judging. hunter paces are generally timed, whereas the hunter trials are actually judged classes, judged according to brilliance and way of going. for our purposes tho, yea we're basically just doing it for the fun haha

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  9. SO MUCH FUN!! And Charlie is a very good boy. :D

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  10. Things like this are just basically non-existent where I live, and it makes me sad when I see these super fun posts!! Charlie is such a good boy & this looks like such a blast!

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    1. aw yea, we're so so so spoiled in this area to have so many options. tho it's also kinda funny in that we've only recently sorta been able to scratch the surface and find out when / where this stuff is. like it was almost kinda top secret before haha, or you had to know a guy who knew a guy or something LOL

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  11. That looks like so much fun! So jealous things like that exist and we don't have them here. Hope you get some rain soon.

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  12. When I first started riding the hunt club my coach belonged to had an annual junior hunter trial. It was so much fun! We did the pairs and teams, which were to be ridden single file until the second last jump which was to be jumped in a unicorn formation (one in front, two together behind), then the last jump was to be ridden 3 abreast. And at lunch the hunt master would bring out the hounds and do a trip around the very large field with 40-50 kids and their ponies and horses trailing behind. Just a wee bit of mass chaos! But an experience I'm really glad I got to have!

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  13. this sounds like SO MUCH FUN. i'm so glad you guys got out there and were able to do a few rounds - good boy, charlie!

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  14. This sounds SO FUN! And yay for Charlie being totally into all of it!

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  15. Those blurry pixels jumping abreast tho! I absolutely love them. What fun!

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  16. Awww this sounds like so much fun!

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  17. Interesting that you're experiencing drought. We've gotten so much rain in western Wisconsin that the pastures have been flooded most of the last two or three months!

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