Harold Chopping had a bit of a vacation on July 6-7 in Culpeper, Va. He brought just two horses to the Showday National and it paid off handsomely.
On Saturday, Chopping rode Caramo to the blue in the $5,000 Devoucoux Hunter Prix. The next day, he guided Calando Z to the top of the $40,000 Strongid C 2X Grand Prix. The shows were part of the HITS Culpeper summer show series. HITS announced recently that the Commonwealth Park grounds will be undergoing a renovation before the 2014 season.
For Chopping, who usually brings anywhere from 10 to 15 horses to the shows under the Solo Show Stables banner with his wife, Jennifer, the Showday National was a bit of a working holiday. “It's very unusual to arrive at a show on Friday and just spend the weekend,” Chopping said. “Plus, I got to spend lots of time with those horses. You can do as much as you want and play with them and really prepare them. For sure, the results show that it's a good way to do it, but it's not practical to do that too often. But it was fun to focus on them for that one weekend.”
Chopping had been showing for the weeks before the Showday National, and considered giving Caramo and Calando Z the week off along with the other Solo Show Stables horses. “But I didn’t really want to. They were ready to jump,” Chopping said.
Chopping is striking while the iron’s hot with Paddy Ann Burns’ Calando Z. The horse is in his barn to be sold, so he’s enjoying every opportunity with him. “He was a low amateur jumper, but that's not a reflection of his ability,” he said. “He's the type of horse that I think would be successful doing anything you asked of him. He's a wonderful horse to ride, very easy. He just walks into the ring and does it. He just walked in there the first time and picked up a gallop to the first jump.
“We try not to think too far down the road. Someone asked the other day about if we'd go to HITS Saugerties in September for the [Zoetis $1 Million Grand Prix], and I think that's possible, but the owners want the horse sold. They're happy that he pays his way and is successful, but they'd like him to move on.”
Chopping, 49, competes for Canada and was a mainstay of their team 20 years ago, serving on multiple Nations Cup teams, jumping in three FEI World Cup Finals in 1990, ’91 and ‘93, and being the reserve for the 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games with Aerobic. But it’s been a while since he had the horses to compete on that level again.
“I would love to show at the next level if I have a horse that's up to it and can go and participate,” he said. “It's hard to come up with the horses for that. I guess on a certain level it's frustrating, but for me, personally, I try and keep it in perspective.
“If you're around long enough, you start to see that they come and go. It certainly was fun way back when I was able to have a couple of top horses for a few years. You'd like to think you could pull that off again and have a few top grand prix horses and have them hang around for a while. But that's the nature of the business. Hopefully I haven't had my horse of a lifetime yet. I think every rider, if you ask them 'Have you had the horse of your lifetime yet?', will answer 'I hope not!' No matter what you've had, you always hope there's a better one in the future from somewhere. I'd like to do this for a long time. You hope if you stay compettitive, you can really ride well enough that when you're lucky to get one of those horses you can still do it.”
In the meantime, Chopping, who operates out of Southern Pines, N.C., will keep riding and appreciating each horse that comes along, including in the hunter ring. With Caramo, he’s focusing on U.S. Hunter Jumper Association International Hunter Derbies and Devoucoux Hunter Prixs rather than the regular divisions.
“Showing in their division, then going to indoors and trying to get top ribbons or win a class there—that has been the goal with a hunter,” Chopping said. “The focus shifts a bit when you have something like the derby series or the hunter prix series with so much prize money. You can't really ignore that as an alternative, and I think this horse is really built for that. It's his style and he'll walk into the grand prix ring at any show and jump around. He's really that easy. I thought it made more sense than grinding it out and doing the four-foot. This gives him a chance to win a check and he likes it; it suits him.”
Caramo did show in the adult amateur division with his owner, Caroline Russell Howe, but she took some time off to start a family. “You're lucky to get anyone who thinks of their horses that way, to own such a nice horse and be happy to see him compete,” Chopping said. “I do my best to win a prize check and make it as inexpensive as possible. The derbies and prixs help with that.”
Chopping is aiming for not only the USHJA International Hunter Derby Finals in Lexington, Ky., in August with Caramo, but also the Diamond Mills $500,000 Hunter Prix Final in September in Saugerties, N.Y. They currently lead the Diamond Mills Hunter Prix Final standings.