By Tammy Chipko
The USEF West Coast Junior Hunter Finals took place on August 20th & 21st at Showpark. The Finals consist of a handy class, hack class, and then a classic type round. Showcasing some of our top hunters, it was a great opportunity to catch up with one of the West Coast’s top hunter trainers, Archie Cox.
Tammy Chipko: What do you think about the Finals happening at Showpark this year?
Archie Cox: Holding it in the Grand Prix field is an outstanding place for both horse and rider. It is nice to see hunters on a large grass field. It gives you the feel of the horse and rider combination in a hunt field. It’s beautiful.
TC: The Juniors had to prepare their own horses and are not allowed to have anyone else ride them prior or during the competition. How do you feel about this?
AC: I think it’s great. What everyone learns with this format is that the junior riders are very capable of preparing their own horses. It gives the kids a better understanding of their horse and how much work their horse needs or does not need. I think sometimes we as trainers do too much. I think it also gives the kids a sense of accomplishment. It’s great for their confidence when they finish and they know that they did everything from the preparation to the ride in the show ring themselves.
TC: The first round was a handy round. What do you like to see in a handy round?
AC: The best description I have ever heard of a handy round came from Frank Chapot. He said, “The handy course is to be ridden in a ground-saving manner.” This means tight turns, efficient use of the ring, forward pace. I like to see a long gallop to either the first or last jump. This depends on the course as well as the course will dictate the length of stride and pace of the horse. If the handy course is ridden well it should show a lot of expression in a forward hunting pace. Remembering the whole time it still is a hunter round.
TC: How do you like to see the course designed?
AC: The course should resemble what you would find in a hunt field. I like to see a range of solid jumps as well as airy jumps. You want to design the course so that it shows off the classic style of the horse allowing for good gallops, and jumps that really show off the expression and quality of each horse. I think if it is designed this way the horse and rider combinations are able to show in a more natural state and should be rewarded for it.
TC: Can you comment on the turnout of horse and rider?
AC: I am a very detail oriented person. The turnout of both horse and rider is extremely important and both should look their absolute best.
TC: How do you feel about the Jr. Hunter Finals?
AC: I love it! The Hunter Finals have grown significantly over the past five years. We have some of the top juniors and horses from all over competing at this event. Because this is a stand-alone competition I think it creates a great group atmosphere for the kids. They get to meet other junior riders that they might not usually see, and because it’s all about the juniors it builds a strong comradery amongst them. It’s just a great opportunity for the junior riders to really shine and know that it truly is all about them!