Want To Be As Handy As The Pros?

Oct 17, 2013 - 6:48 AM

A handy hunter round can be a chance to show off your horse’s skills with tight turns and angled lines, but it’s a fine line between impressing the judges and going a bit too far. We talked with 10 top hunter riders at the Pennsylvania National Horse Show to find out the keys to success in the ring.

Kelley Farmer

“Ride the right horse!” joked Farmer. “Smooth, efficient, prompt, not fast.” 

Havens Schatt

“I think about how to make the track work. I look at how it’s going to set me up best to land on the correct lead. Or, if I know a horse isn’t going to land on the correct lead, what’s the best way to do the change and still make the nice turn,” said Schatt.

Jen Alfano

“As long as you have the right horse, you should look for all the hardest options you can take,” said Alfano. “Sometimes there are turns or options that are so difficult that you can’t do it smoothly. If you’re going to do a hard option, you have to do it well. It doesn’t help you just to do it. Weigh the pros and cons on the options.”

Sandy Ferrell

“Don’t get greedy,” Ferrell advised. “Don’t try to outsmart yourself.” 

Callan Solem

“So much of it depends on the horse,” said Solem. “My biggest tip would be to try to do what you can do well. Don’t lose trying to win. There’s a fine line between giving the horse experience and always trying to make them better so trying that little bit harder turn or that little bit more direct route but at the same time try being able to try to do it as smoothly and without sacrificing the shape of the jump. I think a lot of times the jump can suffer when the horse is unbalanced. Whatever you’re going to do, the most important thing is to keep your horse in the best balance that you possibly can.” 

Brooke Baldwin De Grazia

“Make sure [the] horse is in front of [your] leg, and make sure [your] reins are short. Look early,” said De Grazia.

Tom Brennan

“It’s still a hunter class, so make sure the jumps are good,” said Brennan. “Turns and short approaches are bonus but you’ve gotta jump well!”

Hillary Johnson

“Watch a couple go to see the track and how things come up,” Johnson advised. “Look ahead, stay calm, and keep [your] eyes up. I tend to look down on the inside turns and the trot fence is my nemesis!” 

Winn Alden

 “I don’t really sit down and think about it and plan it,” said Alden. “I pick up a canter and go forward, really.” 

 Elizabeth Solter

“Just being neat and tidy and efficient but keeping it relaxed as you would in a normal hunter course,” said Solter. “A lot of people think you need to go fast for it, but just keeping the same rhythm and being neat and tidy and efficient and forward around the turns.”

   
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