This Winter, Anne Hambleton, former eventer, steeplechase rider, pony clubber and now devoted fox-hunter, published her first novel, drawing on her life-long love of horses and riding. Anne’s book, Raja, the Story of a Racehorse, begins at a stud farm where the handsome, black foal with aristocratic genes stands out among the others. With a Kentucky Derby winner as his sire, a great name is needed to seal great expectations; he is named “Raja”, meaning “hope” in Arabic, and “king” in India, by the owner’s daughter. As is the case of many modern thoroughbreds, his life is marked by changes, both minute and catastrophic, that take him from a safe, caring and respectful environment where he is “special,” to places where he is but one of many and “not so special”. Woven through this “first-horse” narrative are the voices of his dam and the Arabic princess who had named him but who is pulled from his life by the exigencies of the 911 attacks. His dam told him, “Remember this always; even when life is hard, never, ever give up.” Princess Ayesha told him, “You’re the most perfect thing in the universe and I will always love you.” He will need the strength of these memories to pull him through because, as the farm manager reminds us, “racing is a business, plain and simple. It’s a beautiful sport, but you can’t be sentimental if you want to win at the highest levels.” Anne Hambleton’s commitment to riding and horses has continued unabated throughout her varied academic and business lives. During the years that she was a steeplechase jockey she was working full-time at her home in Vermont and commuting to the Delaware Valley of Pennsylvania on weekends to race horses. When she left steeplechasing, she picked up three day eventing and continued the commute. These days she is still commuting from her farm to foxhunt with Mr.
The Show in the Woods There are sometimes places so magical that even though you go there every day, it’s spell never fails to seduce you. The Hitchcock Woods, in the center of Aiken, South Carolina, is one of those. Somehow, as soon as you enter The Woods, the canopy surrounds and embraces you and time holds still. The air is clean and soft, scented with Longleaf and Loblolly Pine needles underfoot; footfall is muffled by the sand.
The 2012 Pine Top Farm Advanced Horse Trials organizers had one ordeal after another to deal with this past weekend. Pine Top Farm, in Thomson, Georgia, was the scene of the area’s first Advanced competition for the season and when they realized a week or so beforehand that they couldn’t run everyone in the three phases in the daylight, they had to notify 280 riders that the Dressage and Cross Country phases of Advanced had been moved to Friday. Then Friday opened with a Tornado watch and a Severe Storm Warning. Dressage went on as scheduled but then the skies opened up with such a torrential downpour that riders, horses and grooms sought shelter in trailers and barns hoping that the roofs didn’t blow off. In fact, some distance to the north exactly that happened. Again, the organizers were notifying everyone of a change to the schedule – Cross Country was now moved to Saturday: look at the order of go published on the internet, subtract two hours from the Friday time and off you went. Organizers scrambled for volunteer fence judges but the event went off as planned. The view from the inside of the Aiken Brew Pub during Friday's storm. High winds and hail brought down trees and then the electricity. Saturday dawned bright, crisp, with low humidity and the clear blue skies for which this area of the south is known. One of the early jumps of the day, successfully cleared, a stroller sans baby. A view of 19 and 20A,B and C and 21 on the Advanced cross country course.
Festival in the Country The week before Fair Hill International CCI3* and 2* (October 13-16) was soggy, so much that fields were flooded and I rode strictly on the roads, foregoing hunting on Thursday because the footing was so slippery. Friday was overcast with intermittent showers as I donned my wellies and fleece and headed down to Fair Hill, Maryland to go walk the course. Between leaving the vendor tents and the far side of the course, clouds blew in with yet another rain shower; fortunately fleece is still warm and comfy even when wet. View of clouds and raindrops in the water at fence 22 for the 2* But glory be! Saturday began cold and as the morning progressed past 6 A.M., the sun rose and it turned into a perfect day spend in the country with blue sky, bright sunshine and magnificent foliage in yellows and crimson. It doesn’t get much better than that. Creature comforts The organizers of the event thoughtfully placed many, many trash barrels everywhere. You didn’t need to carry that empty drink bottle more than a few steps.
Sunday afternoon, during a break between the two star and three star show jump phase to decide the winners of the Plantation Field Three Star Event (Unionville, Pennsylvania), visitors were witness to a spectacular jump-off, of sorts, between some of this weekend’s event riders. Three years ago the organizers of the Plantation Field Three Day Event sponsored a casual puissance jumping event during the lunch break. Puissance features a wall that increases in height with elimination of riders as they fail to clear it until there is only one rider and horse combination remaining – a horse version of musical chairs. It’s popularity with the crowd got the organizers last year to entice several event riders to participate and it resulted in a strip-tease of sorts as Doug Payne gamely traded articles of clothing for the right to stay in the game. This year the Professional Riders Organization sponsored the event for the benefit of Operation Homefront, an organization which provides emergency funds for military families and wounded veterans. As the contest progressed and a wall came down, off came the boot of one rider in compensation… **** **** but as the brick wall grew higher and higher, Jenny Brannigan topped them all and retained all her accoutrement
Tuesday, September 13 2011 by Sidelines Editor
With the soggiest August on record behind us and the second week in September requiring the evacuation of Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania and other cities along the Susquehanna River because of the continuing rainfall, a window of opportunity briefly opened Monday, Labor Day, to officially kick off the start of cubbing with Mr. Stewart’s Cheshire Foxhounds (Unionville, Pennsylvania) under a cloudy, but dry, sky. Members of the Hunt parked their rigs at St. Malachi Church, an ancient chapel high on a hill overlooking the Buck and Doe Run Valleys. From there, riders hacked to the front lawn of Runnymede, a farm that includes strenuous hills and wide, open meadows.