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How I Learned That You Don’t Have to Go Broke In the Hunter Ring

How I Learned That You Don’t Have to Go Broke In the Hunter Ring

By Erin Gilmore

I didn’t know the meaning of humble until I spent a whole show season trying to win a blue ribbon in the hunters. To all of you hunter professionals out there who have mastered the art of the scopey, slow 3-foot jump from a consistent canter, my hat is off to you.

Who knew that watching videos of Tori Colvin on repeat, scratching my head over her casual mastery of the hunter round, wouldn’t actually translate to me being able to ride like that? Seriously, how does she ride like that? Even when I thought I had it, I didn’t quite have it.

My very kind schoolmaster of a horse kept his good humor as I spent all year trying to make the steps around the outside-diagonal-outside lines, and my very good friend kept an even better humor from the sidelines as she coached me through all kinds of amateur mistakes and “moments.”

The optimistic language of not winning is having a good learning experience, but I can walk away from my show season and point to one very important achievement: I didn’t have to go into credit card debt to learn these particular lessons.

The three foot hunters are HARD. Photo ©Russ Cash

Earlier this year I wrote about the rise of the schooling show, and specifically, supporting the schooling show series near me in Northern Virginia. That remained my goal all season long, and I was not alone. We saw the Morven Park Summer Hunter Series in Leesburg, Va., take off suddenly and spectacularly, with overflow entries that filled the show day until sunset on several occasions. It necessitated the addition of a second ring by the third show. Morven Park is already looking forward to adding more rings and show jumping classes to its 2020 schedule, with credit very much due to hardworking Equestrian Director Samantha Franklin.

” I’m just grateful that there is another option out there for those of us mere mortals who long ago accepted that USEF-sanctioned shows are priced for the 1%. “

Through the season, Samantha stayed laser-focused on providing a top quality show atmosphere at schooling show prices, and she achieved that with her unrated series. Win or lose, no rider at Morven Park faced a USEF fee, or a USHJA fee, or a facility fee, or a division fee. . . or any other fee that is the norm on the A circuit. So local trainers showed up in droves with groups of clients, and many other riders like me hauled their horse to the show themselves, doing their own grooming and enlisting a friend to pitch in to help.

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Thank goodness for that. The price tag for my “learning experiences” was a whole lot of sweat equity, but it wasn’t a dollar amount in the thousands.

Red ribbons can be fun, too.

It’s hard for me to fathom that my amateur counterparts who learn these same lessons on the A circuit walk away from their show week with any amount of satisfaction after they’ve paid a $2,000 show bill – but what do I know. I’m just grateful that there is another option out there for those of us mere mortals who long ago accepted that USEF-sanctioned shows are priced for the 1%.

I never did win a blue ribbon this season, just a pile of pinks and a few satisfying red ones. But my horse stopped speeding up around the corners, and I relaxed enough to make a hunter distance down a couple of six-stride lines. After a restful winter, who knows what next season will bring?

To all my fellow schooling show riders, I see you, and I implore you to keep supporting the shows that support us. Our passion for horse showing will keep us coming back, and we don’t necessarily have to go broke trying.

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