Excerpt from the July issue of Heels Down Magazine.
The hunters. It’s where so many riders begin their competitive careers. Young riders graduate from paddock boots and garter straps in the short stirrup and pony divisions and move on to the equitation and jumper rings, and sometimes to new disciplines all together.
Despite this, there are plenty of young and up and coming riders who remain dedicated to this time-honored craft. By why? There’s no road to the Olympics. It’s largely an American sport with little to no presence overseas. The prize money is far less. There’s a smaller audience for the sport and the cost of entry is still quite steep.
But those that ride in the hunters say it comes down to one thing. The prestige.
“It’s perfection,” says Terence Prunty, a 29-year-old hunter rider with Baxter Hill Farm in Wellington, Fla. “It’s about style and tradition. It’s an art to make it look effortless, to ride slow and light but get the best jump out of the horse.”
Riding the hunters is the art of disguise, describes Mary Babick, current president of the United State Hunter Jumper Association (USHJA).
“You have to be soft, accurate, but still look like you’re not doing anything. It’s such a pleasure to watch a horse with soft contact gallop forward and explode off the ground. It takes a lot of strength and a lot of softness, and if you like it, it’s really exciting,” she explained. “To ride a hunter takes a certain type though. It involves process and personality to do it really, really well.”