I knew TBs are smart, but how did my mare find an internet connection in her new run-in shed? We didn’t wire it for that, but she clearly read my blog and decided she wanted to stay a hunter princess wannabe. That is, until her stomach over-ruled her heart and she let me catch her with some grain. But it had been a solid 10 minutes of racing around the pasture, bucking and squealing. Or maybe she was just excited about her trip to a foreign country: Eventingland.
I used up all my husband points and made him come with me today for my debut and so he could be camera man. But he was much less grumpy about going to this than a hunter show because here I had exact times to ride: 1:55 dressage, 2:43 stadium jumping and 3:05 cross country.
So that’s the first big difference. No hurry-up and wait here in Eventingland. The second difference is protective booties — for the riders. In Hunterland, there is a lot of safe-walking going on, meaning freshly polished boots are protected until the nano-second your groom gives you a leg onto the horse. My trainer wears three protective booties on top of each other until he is safely mounted and away from dust. Let that be the metaphor for Hunterland vs. Eventerland. I didn’t see anyone in protective booties. And I didn’t see anyone who even noticed the dust.
The third difference is friendliness. In my 30-plus years of showing in Hunterland, more often than not I felt like a stranger in a strange land. I’m not tall and blonde. I don’t have a lot of zeros in my bank account. I don’t have a six-figure horse and I’m not an especially talented or brave rider. I am, however, an outgoing person who, as a journalist, can easily interact with new people and get them talking, mostly anywhere. Except at an A rated show which reminds me of eighth grade where the popular girls only talked to the popular girls.
But on the Dark Side — at least at this lower level — everyone is everyone’s best friend. At the dressage ring, I traded tips with the rider before me who was also doing this for the first time. At the schooling jumps, everyone was ridiculously polite and gracious about moving out of the way, even if they weren’t in the way. And on cross country, we all cheered for each other, even though we’d just met.
It is a bit apples and oranges to compare an A-rated Hunter show to an unrated Event (are they called Events? Or Horse Trails?) Because the truth is one the local level in Hunterland, call it Hunterland-ish, people are also friendly. Just not as ridiculously friendly as on the Dark Side.
First up, as usual I’m told, was dressage. The biggest challenge of this entire day was remembering everything. Thank god it was only an intro test. Walk trot. But my hands were a little shaky when I stopped at X and I dropped the reins. My friend who is dressage judge said my mare should have gotten extra points for standing statue still with no reins. Things went up from there, I remembered the whole 2 minute test and even got 7s, 8s, and one 9! See photo below for my mare’s apparent true talent: free walking.
What can I say about stadium jumping? They were cross rails. Even I, the queen of the weenies, thought they were easy. I tried to make it pretty like a hunter course, but I was too busy trying to remember all 11 fences to ask properly for the flying changes. We got around, no faults.
Then came what I suppose most Eventers love most, cross county. And I can see why. There is really nothing like cantering up and down a wide open field. over jumps . I’m mighty tired of riding in a ring. Okay, for now, our ups and downs and overs were miniscule. But I am officially hooked, so much so that Erin Bartle, my friend and trainer, had to drag me off the cross country course after I’d trotted off a bank and cantered down a hill on the way out.
As my friend, and fellow eventer (yes I can finally say that now!) Yvonneke Prescott Weitzel says, “Welcome to the ‘Bright Side.’ “