Whoops, whistles and “yeeeows” filled the air as McLain Ward, Laura Kraut, Hunt Tosh and Jennifer Alfano battled it out in the ring. But there wasn’t a jump to be seen.
“Rack on!” was the cry, as these four maestros of the hunters and jumpers took to another challenge—they rode five-gaited Saddlebreds in the Saddlebred Hunter Challenge, Oct. 30 at the Alltech National Horse Show. Their Saddlebred star counterparts swung a leg over a hunter for their portion of the competition, jumping a 2’6” hunter course.
Voices were a little shaky and eyes perhaps not dry as the brothers Douglas and Kenny Wheeler, Jr., gathered outside the Alltech Arena ring. They’d just stood for photos with their horse, Queen Lattifa, as she and rider Hunt Tosh collected the grand hunter championship at the Alltech National Horse Show.
This afternoon, there will be a competitor back in the barns scrubbing her horse’s gray coat to a sparkle. She’ll groom the mare herself, change into her only pair of white breeches, and tack up.
And when she trots into the Verizon Center ring for the Washington International Horse Show Adult Jumper Classic aboard her appendix Quarter Horse, the necklace she wears will remind her of one person not in the audience.
As she struck up a gallop to fence 1 on the Dutta Corp. Fair Hill CCI** cross-country course, Allie Blyskal-Sacksen watched the first jump get closer and closer through Sparrow’s Nio’s tightly perked, gray ears. She felt him lock onto the jump and smiled to herself. It was going to be a good day.
Lillie Keenan seems perfect. She’s talented. She’s got a string of phenomenal horses. She wins all the time.
But horses are the greatest levelers, and on Oct. 6 at the Platinum Performance/USEF Show Jumping Talent Search Finals-East (N.J.), where she was leading the competition after two rounds, Keenan experienced just the kind of thing every rider has sometime in their career—a horse that simply didn’t want to perform as expected. Clearway stopped twice at a simple stone wall oxer, eliminating her.
The first oxer of the course is set right out of the corner by the in-gate (there’s a dotted line set generously at about the middle of the ring). From Fence 1 to the vertical at 2, straight up the long side of the ring, is five longish strides.