By Tammy Chipko
Imagine watching a gorgeous horse galloping a course of fences that replicate what you would find in an open hunt field.
Imagine watching the art of good riding: jumping hunt obstacles that ask different questions of horse and rider – negotiating turns, establishing a true hunter pace, trotting a wide fence like one you might find in the country.
Imagine spectators who typically only watch the grand prix ring enthusiastically showing up at the hunter ring to cheer on their favorite hunters. And, most importantly, understanding what a hunter is all about.
Well, you don’t have to imagine it any longer. The High Performance Hunter is here and, due to those who have worked hard to get it back, is gaining recognition.
It all started with George Morris who earlier this year told me that he had “…planted the seed. It’s now up to everyone else to make it happen.” Well, as most of us know, when George Morris speaks, we listen! So, it is thanks to people like Diane Carney, a member of the High Performance Committee, who have invested valuable time to develop a program that will bring the lost art of showing the traditional hunter back to the show ring.
High Performance Riding means addressing the jump through good horsemanship. We want to build courses that address height and width with more demanding jumps. We have had tremendous support from everyone regarding this class. Riders everywhere are rising to the occasion. Lauren Hough and Beezie Madden are just a few of the jumper riders who have shown a lot of enthusiasm and are looking forward to competing in these classes in the coming year.
How it Works
There will be four classes in each region. The classes will be held at ‘AA’ shows, in grass fields or in sand arenas, and offer a minimum of $10,000.00 in prize money. Each class will be judged by four judges, two groups of two judges each. The first round is a classic hunter type of round. The second round will be a handy course rewarding those who show true handiness with a bonus of up to ten points.
I had the chance to compete in one of these classes at the Washington International Horse Show. The jumps were spectacular, the courses were fun and challenging, and the spectators were thrilled. It was a very memorable experience and I hope all of you, either as exhibitors or spectators, will get a chance to be part of this. These events will be well worth the walk over to the hunter ring.
Check for the 2008 schedule of the High Performance Hunter classes at www.ushja.org.
Special thanks to Kristi Siam for providing this classic hunter photo.