I had the pleasure of jump judging some massive divisions at the Carolina International CIC*** event at the Carolina Horse Park in Raeford, NC this past weekend. I enjoy volunteering at the bigger events so I can watch world-class riding up close and rub elbows with some of the most prominent folks in the industry. Being that I had a radio with a constant flow of where riders were on course, I was a pretty popular person to spectators and trainers who wanted to stay in one spot but hear how their rider was doing throughout their XC ride. I met loads of awesome people, many whom have never sat on a horse, who simply came out to enjoy the sheer spectacle of the best horses and riders doing what they do.
This was the third annual Carolina International and it has become one of the final places for the Rolex competitors to fully run their horses before heading to Kentucky. Many riders plan to head to the Fork in western NC at the beginning of April but will only ride a combined test to ensure that their horses are fresh for the big Rolex 4*. Basically, you got to see most riders lay it on the line and see how their horses would handle Ian Stark’s world-class course.
I jump judged the 2*, 3* and Advanced divisions on Saturday. Only one crash at my 2* fence by a very nice Canadian rider that got his horse too deep and he did a swan dive over the brush while his horse slid into the ditch. Both walked away with minor injury and a hilarious attitude about how many extra points he earned making it over the fence sans equine. As I sent them to the vet box after medical cleared the rider at the fence, I realized that type of attitude is what has drawn me to the sport. I had been stuck in hunter/jumper land for a long time and at some (emphasis on SOME, definitely not ALL) venues it is like you are walking on glass trying not to piss off anyone. These riders cuss under their breath, get up, dust off, pat their horse, and head home to try another day. Being that I have worked for every ounce of equine skill that I have, I can appreciate the hard work and disappointment felt when things don’t go your way.
The 2* proved difficult all around with errors throughout the course. This shows that the course was equally challenging throughout instead of one hard question to mess everyone up. The 3* and Advanced rode excellent with Allison Springer and Arthur holding on to their lead in the 3* from the dressage phase to take home the giant check. Buck Davidson took a nasty spill but walked away to ride another weekend. The horses looked in peak condition and was awesome to watch them run!
Sunday ran Prelim, Intermediate, and Training level XC. Mother Nature was spitting rain all day but held off on the torrential downpour until my drive home. I was a Hold fence that day if there was a rider fall or fence repair later in course. Let me just tell you, running out in front of a galloping horse waiving an orange flag was a little nerve wracking but a good chance for me to learn firsthand more of the rules for holds and how the show office goes about correcting times. At these three levels, I saw many amateur riders taking on their first national course and as they galloped home many were ecstatic with making it to the finish. Tons of excellent horsemanship with riders thanking their horses profusely for an amazing ride.
As we riders all know, horse shows would not exist without volunteers. So many people, especially trainers, walked up and thanked the jump judges for giving up their time. Some stayed and chatted for a while to break up the monotony of the day once they found out you had been parked at the same fence since 7:30 a.m. One little girl brought me some Easter candy. Just a simple smile and thank you goes a long way, don’t forget to pass it on next time you are at a horse show!
Last thought for the weekend: I’m convinced Denny Emerson is the fastest man on the planet. The guy never ran, simply walked with such a purpose toward each question to snap pictures of his beloved riders that his working students that were tagging along literally were running to keep up. New goal: to be as spry as Mr. Emerson throughout my whole life!