We asked professional hunter riders heading to USHJA International Hunter Derby Finals to share their most embarrassing show ring moments. Here are some of our favorites.
“It was at Showplace Spring Spectacular, and I was riding four horses in the hunter derby and one of the horses was in 12th place. It was a really honest, sweet horse, and I had nowhere to go but up, so I was going to be as handy as I could be.
“In the handy course, you had to hand gallop to the last jump, an oxer at the other end of the ring, so I hand galloped all the way there and the horse never saw the jump coming and slammed on the brakes and I went flying off, doing a full somersault and landing in between the oxer rails.
“The show photographer took a whole series of pictures and my local tack shop has one of those photos hanging in their store. They even got me to sign it!”
LEARNING THE HARD WAY
“I was at a horse show in Mechelen, Belgium, over Christmas one year. I was third in a class called the Queen’s Cup and Jessica Kürten won. The lights were off during the victory gallop and my horse, a mare, freaks out. I jumped off and let her go.
“She takes off and they put the spotlight on her as she’s flying around the ring. Meanwhile, Jessica’s on a stallion, who starts chasing my horse. Now Jessica’s screaming at me, and the jump crew’s chasing the horse. It took 15 minutes to catch her.”
THAT’S ONE SCARY TROPHY
“When I was a kid I was in the Gittings Horsemanship Final for the Maryland Horse Shows Association. My pony, Icecapades spooked at the trophy, and my saddle slipped and I fell off.
“He jumped out of the arena and out of the show grounds and kept going. We found him about five miles away.”
SHOWING OFF MORE THAN SHE INTENDED
“My breeches ripped right in the seat during the 1.40-meter class in the schooling area. I went anyway.”
A MEMORABLE TRIP FOR ALL THE WRONG REASONS
“I remember my shirt unbuttoning all the way down in the middle of an open jumper class in North Carolina about 12 years ago. I was trying to cross my arms and ride at the same time. It was really bad.”
TRICK RIDING SKILLS
“When I was doing medium ponies, I got launched onto my pony’s neck. She cantered away, and I was hugging her neck. I ended up upside down under her neck and climbed back on and finished the course.”
QUITE A FIRST IMPRESION
“When I just started working for [Beth Underhill], I was riding one horse who could be quirky in the low hunters. I was doing my exiting circle and he spun and I fell off in the exiting circle. He went one way and I went the other.”
WHY HE PASSES ON PONIES
“We’d just gotten a new green small pony in our barn, and everyone wanted to see it go. I got on the pony, and he planted me straight on my head. There were tons of people there watching, and my business partner David Belford is yelling at me to just get up and of course I couldn’t.
“I broke my collarbone, and I’d just qualified for derby finals. The horse ended up getting hurt anyway and he wouldn’t have been able to go. I still don’t ride ponies.”
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT….
“I fell off in the victory gallop after winning WCHR Professional Finals in 1996. Susie [Schoellkopf] bought the picture and it was her Christmas card that year. It only went out to about 200 of her closest friends.”
A LONG WALK HOME
“Oh, I fell off Independence during the victory gallop during the derby at Devon the first year they had it, so I know how Jen feels.
“The worst was when I fell off during the first year green under saddle at Devon—at the walk. We were going from canter to walk, about to line everyone up to pin the class. My horse, Hi Tops, stumbled, and I fell off at the walk.
“Of course the first years is a huge division, and they didn’t want to pin the class until I got out of the ring. Everyone thought this was a riot. I was at the far end, and no one would let me out the side gate, so I had to walk all the way to the end in my muddy clothes. You should have heard the stuff people were saying in the stands.”
SOMETIMES, YOU HAVE TO LEARN WHAT NOT TO DO THE HARD WAY
“When I was a kid I taught my horse how to rear. When I went to my first horse show as I was making my opening circle he stopped and reared and put his front feet over the fence and got hooked on a cable.
1, 2, 3, 5
“During an indoor World Cup qualifier at the L.A. Equestrian Center I cantered right by a jump and went on to the next one. I was clean too. I was so embarrassed.”
NOT LAUGHING IT OFF
“I don’t get embarrassed that easily, but I do embarrass my mom [trainer Laura Hightower]. When I was a junior in a medal work off, we were flatting, I caught my foot on a standard and tore down a jump. I thought it was funny but my mom did not.”
WHICH WAY TO THE LAST LINE?
“At Harrisburg one year I had five in the first year green class, and I went off course on the fifth horse. It was one of those courses where you had an option between an outside and a diagonal, and I guess I lost my focus and did the wrong line.”
“The first one I remember was when I was 17 and at Capital Challenge I was sitting in the schooling area to watch the professionals. The bench broke, and I ended up with my feet in the air in front of all my idols.”
ARE YOU SURE YOU KNOW WHERE YOU’RE GOING?
“Going off course three times in the same day. It happened in St. Louis about five years ago. I have no idea why. I forget every once in a while, and when I do the derbies I really have to think about it and take a minute to pay close attention.”
“It just happened yesterday! I had a horse stop on me in the schooling area, and I tried to push myself back on with my rein and the rail, but he started spinning. He was spinning so long that when I fell off and tried to stand up I was dizzy.”
Think you can top these pros with your tales of show ring embarrassment? Share yours in the comments.