Splendor was absolutely fantastic in the $20,000 speed derby at Equifest II (Ill.). Being the speed demon he is, this was his class. As we jumped over the natural derby fences and the crowd cheered, I was reminded of fox hunting Splendor last season.
I grew up on the back of a horse, since both of my parents were included in Pony Club and fox hunting. My mom was crazy for horses and is a graduate A Pony Clubber. My dad grew up in Ireland fox hunting and show jumping, and when he got to the states, became a professional huntsman. My parents met at the Barrington Hills Riding Club (Ill.), where I grew up.
Because my parents were both in the sport, I guess you could say riding was always in my blood. From a young age, I was riding with my mom and dad cross-country, pretending we were the three musketeers! Horses have always been a huge part of my life. Honestly I don’t think I’ve gone a week in my entire 15 years without being around a horse.
Since my father is a huntsman and horse trainer, I have been able to see the benefits of both ring work and cross-country riding. I started out jumping at a local barn in Barrington, Ill. when I was around 4.
Then I moved to another barn because it was closer, and I finally went to my first B shows on my Appaloosa pony named Taffy Apple. After coming from a lesson with my show trainer, I’d go out to our farm and ride another couple of horses with my dad and mom. Neither of them wanted to be my ring trainer, but instead they helped me outside of the ring, giving me the valuable confidence I needed while showing.
A couple of years later, I had a fox hunting/show pony that turned out to be a dead runaway. I became so afraid of her and going fast. I never wanted to go down hills outside because I was afraid she’d take off and I’d have no control. This made me timid in the ring as well. The pony ended up having a little problem (I forget now after all this time), so she went back to her owners.
Even though that pony was gone, I was still hesitant in my riding. My mom and dad would try to get me to gallop off and do something, but I was always so afraid.
My grandmother had a horse with a trainer named Steve Schaefer, and he had a reputation for being a great grand prix jumper rider, so we decided to take another try at getting me over my fears. I remember the first day he had me ride this little pony named Zack Attack. He was a fiery little guy. I jumped the biggest I’ve ever jumped, and I was addicted. I loved going fast and feeling confident, it gave me a rush. Honestly, Steve showed me that there was nothing to worry about.
I guess you could say the rest is history, I always wanted to go faster and jump bigger. I got over my fear of going downhill due to a fantastic hunt horse I had. As I got more experience, I slowly regained my confidence. I realized I don’t have to be a control freak with my horses; they have a brain too!
Fox hunting and show jumping are so similar, yet so different. I know many show jumpers that could never be fox hunters, and many fox hunters that could never be show jumpers. I think to have that crossover is extremely important. I get tired of just being in the ring, going around and around in circles.
I take my horses on jogs down my road or around our fields all the time. It keeps my mind fresh, but my horses’ minds even fresher. Fox hunting teaches my horses to have a work ethic, and really brightens them up. The show jumping is so much fun and quenches my competitive thirst.
Show jumping also helps with rideability and flat work, as well as, obviously, jumping. I think both fox hunting and show jumping keep me more versatile and fearless, in two different and complimentary ways.
Caelinn Leahy is a teenager who both fox hunts and show jumps. She earned her first grand prix win at age 15 on July 22 aboard Splendor, who also hunted all winter. You can read more about Caelinn in “Winner Of The Week: Caelinn Leahy Won The $50,000 HITS Balmoral Grand Prix On Her Foxhunter.“