I’ve taken a small break from eventing, before gearing up for my BE regional Final this Sunday at Milton Keynes. I haven’t sat idle though, and have been trying out a few new things with Wanda and my yearling Wilma. First up it was Wanda’s time to turn her hand at showing…
A couple of weekends ago I decided to take Wanda to a working hunter competition which was a HOYS qualifier. It was held just down the road at the newly refurbed Houghton Hall Equestrian Centre so it was great not to have to travel far. My reasons for entering were twofold. Firstly I wanted to go and practice jumping ‘chilled’ rounds. For working hunter the idea is to produce a forward yet consistently rhythmic round and this is exactly how Wanda likes to be ridden. So firstly a handy bit of practice and secondly I wanted to see how she would behave in the show ring. I may breed from Wanda in the future and it’s nice to have a show judge’s opinion of her.
I set off feeling slightly nervous as I hadn’t competed in a working hunter for about 20 years. Wanda was immaculate, with perfect hunter plaits in and chalked legs so she looked brilliant and white. I was lucky to be met by my friend Frances Murray who is very experienced in showing workers and young stock. She gave me some great advice beforehand about tack and turnout. For Wanda, plain black tack, snaffle bridle, no saddle cloth, a breastplate and boots for jumping but removed for the show part. For me, my usual tweed but a velvet hat, shirt and tie instead of stock, black gloves and the loan of her hunting crop.
It’s quite time consuming getting ready for showing and Wanda wasn’t too sure about having her muzzle baby oiled… and her chestnuts! We looked very smart together and stood out as the only coloured in the competition. Wanda warmed up brilliantly and my eventing experienced showed as she coped with a busy collecting ring while others struggled. I went in early, nodded to the judges and set off over the rustic course that consisted of 6 fences and a double. The course was a simple mixture of uprights, a gate and oxers. The double striding was on the long side which was good training for us. Wanda showed her scope and jumped a pretty much foot perfect round and was praised by the judges. I’d already achieved what I had set out to do.
When everyone had jumped the clear rounds came back into the arena to see the judges for a second time. We were asked to walk, trot and canter on each rein. Stupidly I didn’t hear the instruction to change rein and got shouted at by the judges… oops. Wanda behaved impeccably and enjoyed the gallop section. She really let rip! We were pulled in to stand in a first rank order. I was in 4th, with the other horses towering above Wanda.
Next all the horses were ridden by one of the two riding judges. Wanda was very well behaved and gave her judge a lovely ride, executing a great rein back. Following this the horses were unsaddled and polished to be presented in hand for a trot up and conformation inspection. Wanda is very well behaved in this sort of environment and nothing usually fazes her. It’s one very reassuring element about her character and makes her a very reliable horse to compete on. She was slightly lazy in her trot up and this is something I would work on in the future. We all stood back in line; re tacked and hopped aboard to wait the final judge’s results, walking back in a ride while the judges debated the winners. With the top 2 placing’s going to the final at Horse of The Year Show there was a lot of competition and I haven’t seen so many immaculately turned out hoses in a long time. One lady had even travelled from Wales to Cambridge and had entered every qualifier in order to get here ticket to HOYS.
I was finally called in into 4th place which I was really pleased with. I’d say that Wanda fitted the working hunter stamp well, performed impeccably and did a really superb jumping round. The top 3 placed horses were definitely more of the ‘show’ hunter type. There is nothing wrong with this but I can see how a more Warmblood stamp of a horse is now becoming more popular (bearing in mind my last working hunter competitions were a long time ago so I have an aged perspective!). In my vintage opinion a lighter and less robust type of horse isn’t necessarily a ‘working’ hunter. It would be interesting to run some classes where horses qualify by supplying a card stamped when they actually hunt. In doing this not only hunts would be supported but horses would demonstrate that they would cope in the field as well as the show ring. It would be interesting to see the ‘types’ of horses presented if this were the case.
It was a great experience to have, and the judges gave some useful feedback, being that I should ride Wanda in a higher frame (so different to the longer neck I allow for dressage at BE). They did comment on her jumping ability and manners. I would love to have another go at workers next year, maybe riding at open level which is 1m10 and quite beefy. As a competition in between events it was a really useful thing to do and broadened our horizons. Wanda is definitely not a one trick pony!
Next up will be a bit about my outing to British Futurity with my yearling Wilma. Exciting times for Black and White Eventing!