Amanda from The $900 Facebook Pony did a post a while back about how her and her horse have changed since they started eventing. That got me thinking about what it takes for Tucker and I to be in the hunter ring.
1. Less hairy – as hunters we have to be perfectly groomed. Which means removing all that extra hair. Thankfully Tucker is pretty good about it.
He gets his mane pulled to the perfect braiding length. Which unfortunately means it stands on end when not braided. Draft x problems! His bridle path stay perfectly clipped. And his forelock stays at a respectable length and thickness.
Occasionally we body clip. I feel bad for the person clipping him… My boy has rolls! But mostly we just keep his legs clipped. Good bye draft feathers.
And his face and ears get clipped. Tuck’s new thing is trying to stick the clippers in his mouth while I’m clipping his muzzle. What a weirdo!
2. Fitter and thinner – So this one is a work in progress for us. And by us I mean both of us. Compared to when I first started riding him over a year ago Tuck is definitely fitter, with way more muscle and quite a bit less waistline (I have a smaller girth for him now). He needs to be able to appear to be floating (haha! Sorry I’m picturing Tuck floating his big ass around the ring) and still have a nice bascule over the jumps. And leave the jumps up. As coach G says Tuck gets soft fast and easy. This will always be something we have to work on. He’s much more apt to put as little effort in as possible. He’s a lazy guy. If he were a human he’d be a big fat couch potato. You know one of those guys that has food stains all over his shirt that’s at least a size to small and stained fingers from eating to many cheesies.
Since I started riding Tuck I am also much fitter and thinner. Last year I dropped 30 pounds. Yay me! Little happy dance. I still have a long way to go to hit my goal though. I am aware of how important it is to be fit. Riding properly has gotten much easier since I’ve toned the right muscles. I expect it to continue on that path as I keep working towards my goals.
3. Obsessive – As equestrians I think we can all agree that we are all obsessive no matter the discipline. The more you ride your horse the more in tune you get with them. Any little moment of NQR tweaks your brain into overdrive. I’m not quite at the point where I completely lose composure and imagine the worst but I think it’s only a matter of time.
With my last horse there was a long stretch of NQR. I had vets out, I shipped her to a huge vet clinic near one of the racetracks, we x-rayed and did ultrasound. Never really found much.
Luckily with Tuck the one bought of NQR was easily fixed with one chiropractor appointment. But every step he takes I’m constantly evaluating for soundness/soreness. I won’t hesitate to get him whatever treatment he needs.
4. The importance of certain things has changed – I may be a rare breed of hunter in that I don’t give a crap if Tucker’s coat is sun bleached. I don’t care how nice a non-bleached coat looks in the show ring. I would much rather my horse be outside in the field for as long as possible. And I’d much rather him be in a herd rather than by himself. Sure it makes me nervous that he could be injured but he’ll have way more fun playing halter tag.
For me what’s changed is the importance of money. Having a horse is expensive, showing is expensive and I still need money to pay for the rest of the things in my life. Pre Tucker money was still important but it wasn’t as big a deal. Now everything MUST be tightly (please ignore my Florida shopping spree) budgeted. Entering into that show could mean the difference of Tuck getting a winter blanket or not. Every decision has to be weighed for the consequences.
5. Training – Tuck and I jump only in lessons. We lesson twice a week. Both lessons are usually OF. The rest of our rides are focused on flat, making sure that we keep our fitness up so that we can jump and just working on general flat work. Almost everything that we do in the ring during our practice rides is to win. I’m a competitive person. I like to win. Therefore I need to give us the best advantage and train to win. Tuck has a really cute jump but that’s not going to get us any ribbons if we’re a hot mess the rest of the way around the ring. And unless we drill the hack to as perfect as a draft x can be we’ll never pin against those nicer moving horses.
6. Safety – confession time… up until a few years ago I wore a non-approved Charles Owen helmet. That won’t fly in the show ring and admittedly probably shouldn’t have for regular rides either. I now have a Samshield that I love. I’m also constantly thinking about what could go wrong. This is very counterproductive to riding but that’s what anxiety does to my brain. It’s a struggle!
7. Fashion – As a hunter I can’t wear what I want… wait that’s not quite right. I love the classic look. I like my whole show outfit. But it can get HOT! I would love to wear a golf shirt on those hot hot days, but that just won’t fly.
This is also the side of hunterland that I hate. Most companies gear towards much smaller (read skinnier and shorter) girls. It’s hard to find things that I like and that will fit. This goes back to #4. If I buy that custom jacket/shirt/boots/etc. no more shows until next year… but then why am I buying it!?!?!
8. I’m never alone – I board at a show facility. My barn hosts shows and we go off property to shows. We have a show team and a small army of people that support us. I love this! There’s always someone to help you through a problem or talk you off the ledge. There’s always someone there cheering you on. I don’t have to worry about anything. Our show manager will complete and submit our entries, Tucker will be cared for at overnight shows, and he’ll be braided (thankfully because my braids are awful!). 9. My horse is awesome – Ok so he’s not the fanciest. But who cares… well I guess the judge does. So that’s kind of a bummer sometimes but I like being a hunter. I like working at being the best hunters we can be and I like beating those fancier horses. It would be great if Tuck was a bit nicer, a bit taller, a bit more athletic… but he’s not and I love him. He’s done so much for my riding and confidence I wouldn’t trade him for the world. Maybe he is turning into my heart horse.
10. Shows – There are endless opportunities and shows that you can go to… if you have the horse and/or money. The possibilities are there but you’ve got to be realistic (see #4 and #9). If I win the lottery tomorrow is there any point in shipping Tuck down to Wellington for the WEF? Maybe, maybe we’d pin here and there. But more likely he’d succumb to the heat. My boy does not like the hot weather.
Some days I think we should change disciplines. Dressage might be fun. But for now hunterland is where it’s at for us. We’re both still learning and enjoying the sport and that’s all that matters.