I read that in 2013 you switched Cornetto Royal from the jumper ring to the hunter ring. How did you make that decision? Should I try my horse in both styles to see which one he does better with? How can you tell which one your horse enjoys more?
I interchange hunter-jumper classes a lot with my horses. I think each division has benefits and can be used as training tools for either style of competition.
Cornetto Royal in particular, was bought as a jumper because of his bloodlines (Cornet Obolensky) and his scopey jump. The more classes I showed in with him, the more photos I was purchasing. Almost every time, his technique was picture perfect. Add that to his beautiful appearance and softness off the ground, and a hunter he would be!
I did a few green hunter classes and he seemed quite content to stay relaxed and still jump in classic form even over the smaller jumps. Knowing he had so much scope and ability, we found our home in the derby ring. I made a similar transition with Quickborn 7 — a jumper turned hunter due to how relaxed he likes to be in the show ring and how rhythmical his canter is. I currently compete with him in international derbies. But I have also swapped from hunter to jumper when it came to Evening Star. He was my mother’s adult hunter that I eventually ended up competing on Nations Cup teams with.
There are many reasons why I might try the different classes with each horse. For young horses in general, I like to start in the hunter ring. They need to learn to go straight, do changes and keep an even canter. But if a horse is spooky or over-jumping, it may be nice to take them into a smaller jumper class to keep their attention, or be able to ride a little harder than what is acceptable in the hunter ring. For a hunter learning “handy” classes, a jumper course is a great way to practice broken lines and rollback turns. Conversely, if a jumper is getting too anxious about turns, it’s nice to let them take a deep breath over a more basic course.
If you have the ability, you can try both rings to see which your horse prefers. You’ll know which he likes by the success he has in either ring. Success doesn’t have to mean what ribbons you get, but how confident you both feel and how enjoyable it is for both of you. Maybe it will be nice to have a trial run in a different division just for fun — of course, only at a level that is appropriate for the two of you. Talk with your trainer and see if he/she has any ideas of which route will take you the furthest.
How do you stay healthy and in good shape outside of the barn?
Staying healthy and physically fit is a very important part of my life. I’ve had injuries in the past that highlighted the fact that my physical condition could have been better, and would have helped prevent the breaks I had to take in my career. I have a few stretching/yoga applications on my phone, so I never have an excuse for not keeping my muscles flexible. I try to do at least 20 minutes of stretching every morning; it’s a great way to ease into the day and I always feel so much better, after even a few minutes. My back and hamstrings can get very tight, and the stretching allows them to relax and loosen up before I start riding.
I also love running. I sign up for one race or marathon a year. That goal motivates me to hit the road to get the miles in so I can be properly trained for the race’s distance. It can be incredibly difficult to lace up my sneakers at the end of a long day, so sometimes I find a partner to run with. It’s easy to decide not to run on your own, but being accountable to a friend can light the fire to actually do it.
I think the cardiovascular aspect of running is key to maintaining my fitness for riding. The physical exertion that is used when jumping a big course is not like anything you can emulate in the gym. Running long distances has taught me to dig deep and find more strength when I think I have nothing left to give. For me, being able to find that extra bit of energy or desire on the road helps me tap into that in the ring.
As far as nutrition goes, that requires a different kind of strength (and I’m not always that strong). I’ve been a vegetarian for more than 25 years, but even so, I may not be the healthiest eater (I love pizza!). I do try to make smarter choices, but it can be challenging. I find it’s best if I can have things that are good for me more readily available. I always have water, a piece of fruit (usually a banana) and a few granola or protein bars in my ring bag. That way, I know I always have something healthy on hand when I get hungry. It also helps me to avoid being overly hungry. For dinner, I like to eat a salad first. That way I can make sure that I have nutritious leafy greens, in addition to whatever is on the menu that night.
I do enjoy ice cream — my weakness — from time to time, as well. But, to stay healthy and in good shape outside of the barn, I try to maintain a balance of a healthy diet, with room for snacks, and exercise.