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Hunter Jumpers Back in the Day - Won't See This Now

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  • Hunter Jumpers Back in the Day - Won't See This Now

    Fairfield Hunt Club, CT late 1960s. Looks like a lot of fun! What the heck happened between then and now?!

    "No matter how well you perform there's always somebody of intelligent opinion who thinks it's lousy." - Laurence Olivier

  • #2
    I groomed at those shows and remember there were close to 100 first year horses! everything was 3'6" or better, no low classes and all the hunters were on the outside course. I think the one year Rodney Jenkins was champion on Not Always. I also remember a hunter named Jim James Again that had like 80 braids!


    • #3
      I saw that horse! I loved those outside courses. I remember a class there of 75 and I came in 5th with my mare. And, there was a corner of one field which was haunted, I swear.

      I loved showing back then. Very different from today.
      My warmbloods have actually drunk mulled wine in the past. Not today though. A drunk warmblood is a surly warmblood. - WildandWickedWarmbloods


      • #4
        Just drove my mother past my old barn, and its outside course on Saturday. The fences, however, were built in 3'6" on one panel, and perhaps 2-2'6" for a pony panel. If your horse stopped in the 4-sided in-and-out, you were stuck in the middle! And most hunters were TBs - perhaps a Quarter Horse, or "grade" horse.
        But he thought, "This procession has got to go on." So he walked more proudly than ever, as his noblemen held high the train that wasn't there at all. H.C.Anderson


        • #5
          That was awesome. Seen pictures in books like everyone else, but never any actual video of hunters "back in the day." Very cool!

          How did the classes change so dramatically? Did it start with land development and the need for horses and their environments to take up less space?
          Your future is created by what you do today, not tomorrow.


          • #6
            Ahhh... how it *SHOULD* be.

            I have my suspicions on why the warmbloods have become so popular, but I can't voice them because there are some who personalize everything.

            Personal preference aside, I miss those long, galloping courses with the unrelated distances. I'd much rather regulate a stride than have to create every.single.one.


            • #7
              I remember the old outside course at the Mecklenburg Hounds showgrounds in Matthews. It had built in brick "standards", and live boxwood hedges-at least that's the way I remember it. There was a little roll to it, too. Did your division have a round over the outside? I seem to recall it that way.

              The TBs are so beautiful flowing at speed over that green, aren't they? It would be so fun for my Dutchman to stretch his huge step out, and not have to choke it-though I may have to carry a tank of oxygen for him!

              Windsor, that's what I think, about development. I'm sure there are houses all over that course, now. It's so hard to keep that particular beast at bay...


              • #8
                There used to be an outside course at Devon- they jumped in and out of the ring...imagine! NEVER see that happening again...
                When someone shows you who they are, BELIEVE them- Maya Angelou


                • #9
                  Back in the '70s, an eventing venue where I competed held concurrent "hunter trials" over their cross-country course at the same time as the regular eventing horse trials. You COULD cross-enter and only had to ride the course once. It was funny to see some people fly by in eventing getup, followed a few minutes later by someone in full hunter rig. My trainer cross-entered on a horse she had in training and won BOTH the 2nd year green hunter classes AND the Preliminary horse trials on a Connemara cross. Boggles my mind now: Rode a Prelim cross-country "like a hunter." They included the water complex for the hunters, too!


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by ASB Stars View Post
                    There used to be an outside course at Devon- they jumped in and out of the ring...imagine! NEVER see that happening again...
                    I always thought that was neat - I always had a hard time getting the hand gallop started in the ring - my mare was big, long strided and there wasn't much room for her to get her 'move' on in the ring. So there I was, a tidy canter, jump out of the ring, THEN start to get the gallop and stride going. But once she was moving, wow. She was a 17h OTTB whose forte was distance -she ran 1.2 mile races at Hialeah.

                    To practice, we were taught to WALK a 4 foot course, for the fitness. I mean, the horse walked the course. Walk up to the fence, rise and over, walk to the next. The height came with the real class. And yes, 3-6 was the green hunters.

                    Even the eventing doesn't seem the same as the old days outside courses, where the horses just galloped and flowed over the fences. Maybe the fences are different.

                    Are there any such classes anymore? I am out of touch with the show world. How about Hunter Trials, are there any of those any more?

                    To me, this is what a hunter is supposed to be. Not this fakey poking around sort of thing we see today. I never understood why bothering with fences 2'6 or 2'9 - just jump!
                    My warmbloods have actually drunk mulled wine in the past. Not today though. A drunk warmblood is a surly warmblood. - WildandWickedWarmbloods


                    • #11
                      Yes, that's what I would like to know--what the heck happened since then? I was riding in the '60's and everyone was so "with" their horse in the hunter classes. None of this hanging all over the horse the way they do now.

                      The rider positions now are just plain awful. What ever happened to gripping with your legs and following through with your horse over a fence? I just don't understand why "trainers" teach the way they do now. Oh, and back in my day, a "trainer" was the person who trained the horse. An "instructor" was the person who taught the rider.


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Dispatcher View Post
                        a "trainer" was the person who trained the horse. An "instructor" was the person who taught the rider.
                        But he thought, "This procession has got to go on." So he walked more proudly than ever, as his noblemen held high the train that wasn't there at all. H.C.Anderson


                        • #13
                          I have tons of old rounds from the 60s on video that look just like that--except that my sister and I were riding ponies. That big outside course at Fairfield was our favorite place to show.


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Ambitious Kate View Post
                            How about Hunter Trials, are there any of those any more?
                            There are, but you won't find them at a H/J show. Most foxhunts host hunter trial competitions on outside XC type courses once or twice a year. The rides are usually judged on style, way of going and suitability of the horse as a Foxhunter.


                            • #15
                              What happened?

                              What happened, happened incrementally--a matter of "creep," over 35 years; but some major factors jump out at me. I speak as one who's been watching the Fairfield shows continuously since before this wonderful video was made:

                              (1) Back then, rich owners hired good professionals to buy, make up, and show the nicest horses they could afford. The pros did the training and the riding. Now, the owners want to show them themselves, but few posess the time, the focus, the commitment or the athletic ability to ride like pros. Which leads us to:

                              (2) Warmbloods, and the stylistic differences thanks to the influence of "dressage" that's required to ride them. This has changed the American riding and jumping style irrevocably, which could be an entire thread all by itself. See Steinkraus' and Morris' books for referrence. "Warmblood" is name inflation for the equivalent of what we used to call "half-breds;" back in the day nobody good wanted to be caught dead riding anything but a TB, but because these were European, it became the snob rage. Because it was foreign, it had to be better, like Ferragamo shoes. The trainers, no longer being paid to ride and show, had to love horses that a busy corporate type who will never have the sensitivity and skill for a TB can step off the train at 5 PM and ride for an hour, and the horse will dutifully pack him/her through a "lesson." Which became the new focus of:

                              (3) The Lesson Mill. Line, diagonal, line, duck, pose, do it again. No lower leg, no automatic release, no seat, no ability to ride off one's eye. "Get me in the show ring next week." Big financial pressure from owners who didn't know their horse's dock from it's elbow. Most never really learn to "ride" at all, as we used to think of it. Because the riders are never allowed to become independent of the "lesson" situation long enough to ever get out of the ring--they never even have the opportunity to develop the skill set or the guts to gallop an outside course like in the old days. Or, most of the time, the horseflesh. Because of:

                              (4) Drill, baby, drill! Given that these people have a limited time to sit on their horses, practically every minute of it is programmed, mostly spent jumping exponentially more, but much smaller, fences than was the practice in the old days. The horse doesn't need the practice; it's the owner. Another "lesson," another $100, kaching! Leading to:

                              (5) Drugs. Pick up a 1960's edition of The Chronicle. How many drug ads do you see? How many absurd, unproven "supplements?" How many did we need? And today? 'Nuff said.

                              (6) Land development, of course, restricted the acreage available for turnout, courses, XC riding, and especially foxhunting. That was where riders learned to truly ride, not drilling in circles counting strides like a computer.

                              (7) Litigation. I can pinpoint exactly when "risk-factor" thinking started; sometime in 1989, when all of a sudden the Pony Club mommies were in your face if you weren't wearing the lawyer-approved helmet. They went on to normalize the safety police mentality under the rubric of "protecting children." God forbid you opposed this political correctness. Goodbye, big open courses with galloping distances and solid, safe fences. Goodbye, trainers with the courage to send their kids out over them. Goodbye, riders who assumed responsibility for the sport they wanted to play. Hello, lawyers who sued everybody in sight for everything or nothing while gunning for a settlement from the biggest target. Hello, prohibitive insurance premiums and nail-biting show stewards.

                              I could go on; about footing, about too many show venues competing with each other for the same competitors on the same days; about point-chasing and the fact that showing is now a year-round "business," rather than a seasonal sport.
                              But the ones I've listed above are the big factors I've watched evolve.

                              'Bout ready for a seat on a cracker barrel, aren't I?

                              Swamp Yankee



                              • #16
                                I still see riders like this. Admittedly they're few and far between these days.

                                When I was a kid there were still outside courses - I never did the big shows just little stuff but we had to jump the course, jump outside the ring and take fences at a good hunting pace, then jump back into the ring. I don't recall ever jumping anything under 3ft in a show. Of course.... all those places are paved over now...McMansions and strip malls in their place.

                                In Virginia I still see riders like that - mostly out hunting or at Hunt Night. What you're seeing in that video is a hunting pace - nice, forward, consistent. Rock solid lower leg, great form, great horse. Just lovely.

                                Sad that it's a rarity.
                                Brothers and sisters, I bid you beware
                                Of giving your heart to a dog to tear.
                                -Rudyard Kipling


                                • #17
                                  Swamp Yankee...

                                  I think I love you.


                                  • #18
                                    Originally posted by Sansena View Post
                                    I think I love you.
                                    I was just about to say the same thing.

                                    Bring back the style of the '50's and '60's!!!! (and the horses too.....)


                                    • #19
                                      There ARE still courses like that, a lot of hunts have Hunter Trials

                                      Camargo Hunt (Cincinnati OH) still has one every year, usually the first Saturday in October, something like 75 years and still going. Big permanent, 'hunt field" fences.

                                      So all of you longing to give your horses a gallop on real grass over real logs, post and rails and cord wood fences, get fit for October, it's open to all you hunter riders who really want to jump "real" fences.

                                      There's even a real bank jump.

                                      And don't get me started on the amazing, yummy tailgate.

                                      Did I leave out the pace event that happens the same day over real hunt country?

                                      Anyone here can PM either myself or Mudroom who posts here, we'd be happy to get you directions and a prize list!!


                                      • #20
                                        It was called "hunterseat equitation" not huntseat.

                                        Field hunters were shown outside the ring, actually in a field with natural jumps, on grass.

                                        Good riders jumped "out of hand".

                                        Everyone rode tbs. Later on they started the "non-tb" division but those were mostly qh crosses or draft crosses. It was more difficult then, than it is today, to find suitable mounts at the track because they were more in demand. Now I see all the good tbs up for adoption and cheap and think I how I would have jumped at the chance to own so many of those horses.

                                        I still have one old relic from the time toward the end of "those good ol days". He is in his thirties and still sound except for a bit of arthritis.

                                        Ain`t nothin like a good tb but then I guess I`m old fashioned.

                                        There was no such thing as helmet police and can`t remember anyone ever getting sued over trivia. Also can`t remember anyone having head trauma but I am sure it happened. The warm up arena was filled with people schooling without helmets, not saying that was a good thing but it was a personal choice back then.

                                        The "A" circuit was a fun place to be.