Tuesday, November 9, 2021

Fall Hunter Trials!!

A million years ago, Isabel and I went to a fun local hunter trials at Tranquillity, and it left a lasting impression on me. These are natural type tracks over varied terrain and styles of fence commonly seen in hunting: coops, split rail fences, brush, stone walls, etc. 

Not dissimilar from eventing-style cross country, but a slightly different flavor -- especially considering the rounds are judged. Each fence gets a score from 1-10, plus an overall round score, based on way of going, style, safety, pleasantness, etc. Basically evaluating the horse + rider as field hunters. 

charlie + spirit were fast friends
Personally I don't really care about the judging haha. The captivating bit way back in 2014 was the pairs & teams classes, omg. I swore right then and there I'd be back, and made good on that promise first in 2018 at the Elkridge Harford Hunter Trials, and again in 2019 at the 100 Acre Field Hunter Trials.

shaggy ponies but a gleaming trailer!!
And this year? We made it back to Tranquillity again for the same. Yesssss!! We were a much smaller group this time around (a party of 2) for a variety of reasons mostly having to do with various lamenesses among our horsey set, womp :( 

class list -- left and right side classes refer to two separate tracks as indicated
But we would not be deterred!! The weather was gorgeous and the footing perfection. Seriously, it's hard to believe after all the rain last week.... But, eh, it was a dry summer and the ground soaked it right up. 

the track for Pairs + Teams differed from the rest to accommodate the "abreast" requirement for the final jump
To be honest, the field trials course at Tranquillity isn't my most favorite -- and doesn't change much from year to year. The track winds through mostly permanent fixtures alongside the jump rings -- vs the horse trials tracks that change yearly, feature predominantly portables, and extend through the various fields. 

possibly not the best pair in terms of height differential lol, but who cares, right?
My biggest complaint is that it's almost entirely up and down a particularly hilly bit of ground, with multiple downhill questions (ie: either entire approaches or landings). Plus a lot of the jumps are vertical and sorta "delicate" looking. Think: split rail fences etc., whereas I prefer solid stuff like cabins or rolltops for my somewhat brutish gelding lol. 

spirit did his best to keep up! and charles did his best to keep a lid on it <3
But. Again. That's all just personal preference (read: omg I *hate* jumping downhill). And these are judged rounds. It's not like eventing where we just gotta get through the flags -- they want the course ridden, and ridden smoothly and pleasantly

100% here for the gratuitous media <3 <3 <3
PLUS. My teammate Spirit is quite a bit smaller than Charlie. He and his teenage rider have slayed since becoming eventing partners just a few short months ago -- but they also often trot some of their courses. So.... I had plenty motivation to just take it easy with Charlie, go slow, be steady, no rushing. And no real glory in the high options either, ya know?

my favorite parts were the jumps in and out of the arenas
As far as Charlie is concerned, if he were allowed to write the rules, EVERY jumping class ever would be a teams + pairs class haha. Charlie loves jumping in groups. Tho, I think his favorite is when he can follow (as he did at EHHC). But ya know, he doesn't mind leading either, good boy ;) 

like so!!
Mostly, my biggest focus was just making sure Charlie knew what he was doing and was relaxed. Which.... is slightly challenging in this environment bc warm up is generally *always* a zoo haha, and the list of riders ahead of you is always long, with lots of horses in various stages of excitement milling around waiting for their turns.

and also so!!
We were nearly done warming up when a positively fire-breathing chestnut dragon entered the ring, trumpeting his arrival with tail flagged straight up haha. Literally every horse stopped and stared, eyes wide agog, wondering what fresh hell that horse had seen, haha. Charlie and Spirit were no exception. 

actually basically anything on level ground was A+
this is fence 5, the trot jump
So we had to pause and chill for a little bit, then get back to actually jump a couple things, then get the hell outta that warm up ring asap -- lest the dragon proclaim some fresh new terror to all the other horses haha. Tho, naturally, at this point the starting list was quite long.... meaning we had to wait something like 15-20min before actually going. 

omg tho the ground was generally not level lol
Obviously tho these are a good set of horses, and once we actually trotted out to begin -- they were aces. We trotted a sorta generous path to the first log just to let them look around a little, and trotted the first fence for good measure. 

particularly this jump landed very downhill -- omg i hate downhill haha
My favorite section of the course was the little loop through the arenas that came as 2-3-4, mostly bc it was flat ground LOL. The course called for trotting jump 5, a good sized brick wall, which Charlie did surprisingly well, then a quick off-camber turn to a shrub fence.

From there, we cruised down to a zig-zag lincoln logs type fence -- with Charlie somewhat incredulously spookin at the mini donk in the next door paddock. Then back around toward the arenas again, catching a big coop along the way. Last jump in this first half was the split rail fence pictured above -- my least favorite on course haha, tho Charlie was quite pleasant to it. 

pretend brush fence -- i think just pallets tbh
We zoomed down that hill, kinda skipped over the little box at the very bottom of the hill, then climbed back up to a series of stone walls and stone coops making up the back half of the course. Last couple jumps were first a faux-brush vertical made from pallets, then an actual brush jump made from living shrubs. 

omg a real brush fence tho!! proper shrubbery lol, also landing TF downhill omg
I actually really liked both of these jumps. The pallets bc it was on nicely flat ground, and the shrubs bc it was sizeable enough that Charlie probably wouldn't plow into it lol. Tho you can sorta see that we aimed straight back downhill after the shrubs omg. 

wheeeeeee off camber downhill turns haha
And omg, I was 100% grateful for the studs as we landed going straight downhill toward home (basically where the camera is positioned in the above shot), but had to immediately roll back off camber away from home back up the hill toward our final jump. 

whew, we made the turn -- headed to the last abreast! 
We made the turn tho! And actually, my barn mate REALLY nailed the whole ride. We knew going in that Charlie would cover ground a lot faster than Spirit, so she cut every turn where I went wide and we were right next to each other to the last -- which, again, should be jumped abreast. 

Also, just a little glowup on that rider too, she went back out for a second solo ride a little bit later, and won second place in a big juniors class! 

Ooooh, and we were 4th in our pairs class too -- which was unexpected after Spirit had a bit of confusion about the trot jump (and, ahem, yours truly also has unimpressive equitation on the best of days -- let alone when half the jumps are downhill....). So ya know -- definitely an awesome day for the ponies haha. 

good boy charlie <3
That's kinda it, too, haha. Rides like this certainly don't matter for anything. There's exactly zero regulation on the design and scope of the "test," and not a clue who the judges were.... It's literally just a field full of jumps --- go jump them! 

And. I am HERE for it! This is the stuff, as far as I'm concerned. The good stuff

Y'all don't need to be told of my constant pursuit of better horsemanship. But... At my most basic instinct, the purpose of all that "betterment" is... enjoyment. And days like this are the payoff. The raison d'être. So this feels like a fitting end (?) to 2021's season of good ground <3 


  1. So much fun!!! It is so hard to tell the terrain in pictures until I saw the far away shots, those are some intimidating hills!

    1. idk if the hills are properly intimidating, or if i'm just a wuss about jumping downhill LOL. for real tho, this was good practice haha

    2. As a Floridian, those are intimidating! I don't wanna meet what other people call intimidating then lol

    3. Lol ok that’s weirdly reassuring. I always think I make mountains out of mole hills (lol puns) esp when I see kiddo after kiddo just cruise right on down hill and jump like nbd at these events… but ya know. This particular geographic region IS pretty freakin hilly as a rule

  2. That looks so fun! I didn't realize you could compete in teams like that.

    1. it's a common class at hunters trials -- shows that often happen in fall when hunt clubs are gearing up for the fox hunting season (where they jump in company)

  3. I don't like hills!!! But it sounds like a fun day!

    1. ugh i despise hills -- but actually was kinda weirdly excited going into this ride bc it felt like a great chance to finally actually practice a little bit lol

  4. This look SO fun! I feel you on the hills though, they are NOT my favorite. Your last paragraph really speaks to me, "the purpose of all that betterment is enjoyment". <3

    1. dude, yes -- i mean, what else even is there, ya know?

  5. These sound so fun, and it makes me miss Area II sooo much 😭

  6. What a blast. I love Spirit- he's gorgeous (as is Chuck :) )

    1. dude -- Spirit is a COOL horse! he and his rider have such a great and trusting bond, and he's just seriously smart. like, he's a backyard bred little hony who maybe hasn't had the most formal education in the world.... but this is my third time trailering him to a show and he just keeps getting better. first show, trailer loading was a bit of an issue both ways, and he couldn't be tied to the trailer (would break away instantly). second show, loading was smoother (we were also more prepared) and while he tested his tie a couple times, he never broke it. this third time? loaded *very* well, and never *once* hit the end of his tie. obvi his rider has been doing her homework too, but he really is just a great little horse!

  7. What a fun day! Congrats on being fourth! That little hony is adorable, especially next to Charlie who's so tall!

    1. omgosh Spirit is SO CUTE haha -- and it really was a lot of fun!!

  8. How fucking fun! I am jealous and after my lesson today I think Dante would also like to just do pairs type like classes. Maybe he can pair up with Charles since he's the same size lol


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