Monday, May. 20, 2024

What Happened To The Respect?

When you hear the name Rodney Jenkins, what do you remember? If you’re like many of us, you’ll think of his famous partner, grand prix jumper Idle Dice. Or, you might know Rodney as a successful race horse trainer and renowned judge, who still presides over the hunter and hunter breeding rings on occasion.

But did you know that Rodney was also a famous hunter rider? Probably not.
PUBLISHED

ADVERTISEMENT

When you hear the name Rodney Jenkins, what do you remember? If you’re like many of us, you’ll think of his famous partner, grand prix jumper Idle Dice. Or, you might know Rodney as a successful race horse trainer and renowned judge, who still presides over the hunter and hunter breeding rings on occasion.

But did you know that Rodney was also a famous hunter rider? Probably not.

Being a hunter rider doesn’t carry the same weight as it did years ago, when a top hunter was held in high esteem throughout equestrian sport. Back in the days of outside courses, undulating ground and natural obstacles, hunter riders really had to, well, ride. Counting strides? Certainly! The in-and-out is a one.

Sadly, some hunter riders are now ashamed or self-conscious to admit their choice of vocation. This situation is especially true for those riders who have dabbled in other sports yet have chosen to pursue the hunters. We’ve heard the whispered comments at parties or tailgates: “Oh, she rides. But she just does the hunters. You know, outside, diagonal, outside.”

Today’s horse shows don’t do a whole lot to discourage this belief, either. It’s the rare show manager who seeks to challenge his entrants with true outside courses, handy hunter classes or other imaginative tests of riding ability. More often, ours is a world of the generic, of small, all-weather multi-ring shows where the fences are cookie cutter and the horses simply step over them in lines of five or six. On a typical hunter course at a typical show, the rider only has to find three or four distances, and then mathematical ability
simply takes over.

It’s time for a change. It’s time for hunter riders to be admired again.

ADVERTISEMENT

And that’s just what a group of concerned horsemen are doing. They’ve formed the U.S. Hunter Jumper Association High Performance Hunter Committee (see p. 18). They believe it’s time for the hunters to break out of their dull routine and return to their roots, back to the challenge of formidable fences, galloping across country and brilliance.

When was the last time you felt brilliant after completing a hunter trip? When did you come out of the ring and think, “Wow, that was the most fantastic feeling—my horse jumped incredibly over an amazing course!” For many of us, it’s been much too long.

We do have a few special hunter classics—the American Hunter Jumper Foundation’s Hunter Classic Spectacular (Fla.) is one example—but we need many more to upgrade our sport.

We should encourage show managers to invest time in these classes, entice sponsors to join in and help the sport’s leaders reinvent the show hunter. And, while there are changes afoot, why not aim high? The sport’s leaders also hope that by enhancing the hunters they’ll be able to tempt European horsemen to join in the fun.

As a dedicated hunter rider, I would like to hold my head up high when someone asks me what I do with my horse. I’m not just a hunter rider, I’m a rider who shows hunters.

Tricia Booker

Categories:

ADVERTISEMENT

EXPLORE MORE

Follow us on

Sections

Copyright © 2024 The Chronicle of the Horse