Amateurs Like Us: Hunter/Jumper Intern Back In Her Element

Nov 12, 2014 - 4:12 AM

After a two-year hiatus from showing, I finally pulled out my hunt coat, shined up the tall boots and headed to Lake St. Louis to show in the adult amateurs. I hadn’t shown since I was a junior, and my horse Happy Go Lucky (Lucky for short) was coming off of a seven-month vacation while I was gallivanting around interning for Phelps Media Group, working for James Parker and The Book LLC, and interning at the Chronicle.

Needless to say, I was a little nervous for our return to the show ring.

This is Lucky, my 12-year-old Throughbred formally known as “Happy Go Lucky.” I’ve owned him since I was 12 and he was 4, and we showed all the way from long stirrup to junior hunters together, but we had been on a two-year showing break before we went to St. Louis on Nov. 7 to show in the adult amateurs. (Photo by Chloe Tyau) 

When you haven’t shown in a while, it’s easy to get super stressed out and overthink everything leading up to the big day. What if the judge doesn’t like me? What if I’m horrible and miss to every fence?

What if I’m locked in the tack stall with my boot laces tied together, and they’re calling for my hack, and the braider missed my horse, and he just rolled in a mud puddle he magically found in his stall, and my trainer is threatening to kick me out of the barn if I don’t get tacked up like RIGHT NOW? (Recurring nightmare of mine!)

But there are also the good dreams, like what if I’m magically perfect, and every fence is a beautiful hunter gap, and I can see his knees snapping up to his ears, and we sail over the last oxer in slow motion, and the judge throws his card in the air and declares us three-foot champions of the world!

And we take a victory gallop around the ring, both of us wearing tricolored ribbons and sashes, as the crowd of 10, no, TWENTY people chant our names. And the photographer sends our picture to Dover, and on coffee tables across the country whenever someone orders bell boots or hairnets or anything they have to look at OUR FACES on the cover and how perfect we are!

Both the nightmares and dreams are probably a bit extreme, but somehow you can’t convince your ailing amateur brain to quit playing the “what if” game.

Having survived my return to the show ring as a newly instated amateur with neither the nightmares nor delusions of grandeur coming true, I’m here to share what I’ve learned.      

1. When heading to a show that you’re not sure will go as swimmingly as you would like, it is important to pack an overly-supportive friend. This friend should be ready to back up and validate every decision you make and remind you how amazing you are when disaster strikes.

“I thought that was a fresh take on the course—it’s a pity the course designer doesn’t share your vision.”  

“Only you could make lawn darting look so good!”

“I really like how you tried something new at every fence: chipping, launching, running to nothing followed by pulling to nothing—everyone else was so boring and rhythmical.”

Big thanks to Chloe Tyau for coming to St. Louis to cheer me on. I’ll try to get you a bigger suitcase for our next outing; this one was a little crammed.
(Photo by Peyton Rosencrants)

2. Find a friend in your class to be super over-competitive with. You can focus on trash talking and sabotaging each other, and it will take your mind off the fact that there are 12 other people in your class that could beat both of you.

“If your round was a cookie, it would be FULL of big ol’ chocolate chips.”

“It’s going to be hard for the judge to see you in the hack when I cut in front of you every long side.”

“Hey, don’t overthink the single oxer. Did you hear me? Don’t think about it too much. And its singleness. And that reallllll long approach away from the gate.”

Show-time nemesis and other times wonderful friend Taylor Horace, left, giving the stink eye to me, right. She trounced me the first day of the division, and I CRUSHED her the second day, so a no-holds-barred fight to the death has been scheduled to break the tie. (Photo by Chloe Tyau)

3. Invite both your parents to come watch, but make sure whichever one is least comfortable around horses comes. Make them do fun things like hold your horse and her dog at the same time.

My mom, Kathleen, has figured out a horse-holding method that works pretty well for her: loose grip on the reins, lean away from the horse, and if he moves,
 abandon ship and save the dog. (Photo by Chloe Tyau)

4. Try to find a fence on every course jumping towards the judge where you can either wink, pose or otherwise distract from your missed distances (your horse should help too, maybe some especially cute ears or sticking their tongue out). The judge will be so busy thinking, “Did that girl and her horse just coordinate a wink at me?” they’ll forget how chippy-mc-chip-chip your course was. 

Ducky, I’m kind of super busy steering us and making big distance decisions, so if you could throw a wink in the judges’ direction for me I’d really appreciate it. You aren’t busy, are you? (Photo by Lili Weik)

5. Your trainer is going to tell you showing is not all about winning, and they’re right. I like to think it’s less about the ribbons you win and more about the ribbons you can steal when the pony kids aren’t paying attention.

They’re young. They’ve got plenty of time to win more of these. From left: Addi Meyer, Madelyn Mcdowell and Sammi Meyer. 

At the end of the day, I call any show that both Lucky and I leave with no permanent injuries and a KILLER Instagram picture a pretty good outing, and that was true of St. Louis. We got third place in two over fences classes, which is pretty good for us!

On a slightly more serious note, I think the biggest difference I found between showing as an amateur versus as a junior is that I didn’t put so much pressure on myself or blow things out of proportion. When I was a junior, it was like every round was a do-or-die situation, and doing poorly was THE WORST THING EVER and winning a class was THE BEST DAY EVER. Part of that was being a teenager and thinking that my local A show hunter class was the center of the universe, and I’m glad those days are behind me.

In St. Louis I was able to laugh at myself when we chipped into the line and had to gallop out, or when I rocket launched into the two-stride, and Lucky had to sit down on his butt and save us and squeeze the second stride in.  

After all, it’s just a horse show, and at the end of the day, win or lose, I still have the most wonderful and BEAUTIFUL pony on the planet coming home with me, so let’s just all agree to laugh at our mistakes and appreciate our horses for putting up with us, shall we?

Big thanks to Holly Dometrorch and her Riverwoods Farm team (Rocheport, Missouri) for all their help getting us ready for the show—couldn’t do it without you!

The Riverwoods Farm gang! Front row, from left: Lia Benning, Laura Lodisio-Benning, me, trainer Holly Dometrorch, Chloe Cummings and Maggie the dog, Megan Cummings. Back row from left: Daniel Ploesser and Ron Cummings.


Ann Glavan is a former editorial intern for The Chronicle of the Horse. Originally from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Ann grew up competing at A circuit shows in the hunter and equitation divisions, first on her pony Is A Belle and more recently on her horse Happy Go Lucky. Ann interned for Phelps Media Group during the 2014 FTI Winter Equestrian Festival before joining the Chronicle team for the summer, and she continues to freelance for the  Chronicle while she finishes her degree. She currently attends the University of Missouri and is studying journalism and economics. 


 

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