I usually either show in the hunters or jumpers. Recently, I’ve thought about showing with different horses in both categories at the same show. How do you reset, or make sure you don’t start riding like a jumper in the hunter ring, or like a hunter in the jumper ring?
Transitioning between hunters and jumpers at the show can be difficult at first, but understanding that they’re both really the same rhythm can be a huge help. I have absolutely hunted down to a square oxer in a jump-off only to take out the front rail, or dug in with my seat in a turn in the hunters and gotten an overreaction and left without a ribbon. It’s not a science, and things happen that we don’t always want to when going from one style of riding to another.
No matter which ring I’m in, I always spend a few minutes in the schooling area feeling my horse. I ride a lot by feel and I find that taking a deep breath and reminding myself which horse I’m on can put me in the right mental state for whichever ring I’m competing in next.
I tend to ride the hunters in a more forward seat with a lower hand, so if I start the jumpers like that, I’ll feel right away that I’m using too soft or flat of a canter. Specifically, I think about bringing my elbows back. It immediately puts my shoulders and back in a more upright position, opening up my hip angle, and my hands follow suit. It allows me to have a better connection with the horse’s mouth and have the horse in a better balance. Sometimes I have to force myself to get to the base of the jump a few times, since my eye has been contently finding a hunter gap for a few rounds.
When I go from jumper to hunter, I think about slowing everything down. I keep the same rhythm, but the focused breathing in the schooling area helps bring my adrenaline down and allow for a calmer ride and more subtle reactions.
At the end of the day, when we see the top jumper riders in the big classes, the best rounds have been noted as looking like an equitation lesson or as smooth as a hunter round. It’s all about finding the right rhythm and allowing the round to flow. I guess the difference is just how fast you do it!
What were some of your biggest accomplishments so far in 2019?
My biggest accomplishment of 2019 has yet to be written. So far, I’d say there have been a few worthy milestones to mention.
One of my most fun classes was Week 4 of WEF, when the 4* grand prix was out on the field. I rode my stallion, QuiVive des Songes Z, to a clear first round and was able to do the jump-off alongside some of the best riders: McLain Ward, Beezie Madden and Kent Farrington, to note a few. I did have one down in the second round, but it was such an accomplishment to even be in there with them.
On the hunter side, I recently competed and earned a ribbon in my first international hunter derby with Quickborn 7. It’s such an art to be able to do well in the hunter ring, and especially in the big derbies. Getting to hunt down to the high options is so much fun, but doing that from a half seat can be a little intimidating.
I’m looking forward to doing more big derbies with Quickborn. I’m also excited for what some of my younger horses have being doing so far this year. All of them have moved up a level from what they were doing in Florida and won their classes. I’m looking forward to more of their achievements the rest of this year and can’t wait to see what happens.
My parents are also great, somewhat famous riders. How did you break away from being known as their child to being known as a rider/trainer in your own right?
Sounds like you and I are in a similar situation. I think being able to be known as a trainer in your own right is something that takes time, and I believe I’m still on that path.
Here’s what happened with me that started me on the path to being a trainer myself. I took some time away from the business due to back issues, and even though it wasn’t very long, when I came back, I felt like things had definitely changed. I grew up riding Thoroughbreds, and when I returned full time to the sport, everyone was on warmbloods. I felt like I had to learn how to ride and train horses all over again.
I started reading books on horsemanship and horse training from different riders’ perspectives. We never did many gymnastics when I was young, because the hot-blooded horses couldn’t take too much repetition. I started experimenting more with gymnastics and placing poles. Because I was trying new techniques that we didn’t usually practice at home, to try to understand and train this new style of horse, my parents also started to take notice. I think this was the beginning of me becoming my own person in their eyes, and a trainer utilizing my newfound ideas.
Slowly, I started going to some shows on my own, and when I was seen being able to handle things alone, I believe other riders and trainers also started to see me as an individual.
When I was younger, I took for granted that I was known as Ralph and Holly’s daughter. Being older, it makes me proud to be referred to as being part of my family.
And I’m sure if you ask them, the tables have turned and they feel like they are referred to more as my parents.