Hunter pacing has become the single-most exciting thing I look forward to in the year. My reason for finding Tiger was to have the freedom to hunter pace more often.
I never knew what a hunter pace was until 2017 when my friends told me about it and got it in my head. My trainer offered me a chance to participate on one of her horses and I immediately said YES!
What could be more exciting than combining a low key trail ride with mildly competitive jumping? What’s better than getting in two hours of riding through the woods and open fields?
So without hesitation I jumped on the opportunity to go; and my first pace was the Landsmankill Trail Association’s fall hunter pace (LKTA). The pace is known to be more inviting for newcomers as it offers many more natural style jumps that are less spooky and not as large.
The first year I got to ride LKTA I was on a gorgeous quarter horse mare named Chance. In the ring she needs a lot of leg and encouragement but at the pace you really had to hold her back. The experience was incredible save for one minor detail. Shortly after our photo jump the group cantered through a grassy field, over a stone wall into the woods, through a couple of narrow trees, then turned right and climbed a hill. I was trailing the pack so I cantered through the grassy field, over a stone wall into the woods, and the narrow trees had me concerned. I wanted to go to the left around the trees with a wider opening. Chance did not agree. We argued and at the last moment she decided to go my way while I went hers. The result was me pulling Chance away from the tree hard and myself cantering straight into the 12-inch sturdy trunk. You can read all about it in Autumn Colors, New Experiences, is That a Tree?
Despite the incident I finished the ride mostly uninjured. I had such a blast I wanted to go to more events. Unfortunately Blade wasn’t sound enough for such a thing so I really didn’t have a mount unless someone offered. I missed out on the paces in 2018 and ultimately took that entire winter off from riding after being told I’ll never go to one again.
Little did I know things were to go south with the rescue group I was fostering horses with. I loved them dearly but the people became unbearable to work with and I decided having the cost of a second horse would be far better than the drama. So I began my search and found Tiger. NOW I could go to a hunter pace!
Tiger pulled a shoe two or three days prior to LKTA 2019. My farrier being the amazing person he is came out to put it back on right away, but Tiger had stepped on his quarter clip. When I found him the shoe was only half off so he had stepped on the quarter clip a bit. I pulled it off but he must have formed an abscess. Tiger was lame the day of the pace!
Blade at this point had become very sound and very happy. He was nice and fit enjoyed taking small jumps around home but I’ve never ridden him off property before. Since I like to “go big or go home” we decided to take Blade. I went into the pace with no expectations beyond “let’s just go trail ride.” I didn’t care about jumps and I didn’t expect a photo jump.
Blade far exceeded every expectation I could have hoped for. He even took the photo jump after one or two attempts. After the photo jump we came to that same spot where, in 2017, we had cantered through a grassy field, over a stone wall, into a tree, then turned right and up a hill. We were cantering the grassy field when my friend’s horse took off, and Blade followed suit. In my attempt to get him back he threw a dirty curveball at me and slipped left then right. I came off but at least not into a tree. Thankfully I wasn’t hurt and Blade knew he was in trouble so he stood quietly next to the stone wall which I didn’t jump but used as a mounting block. We proceeded right and up the hill to finish our pace with smiles on our faces. You can read more about it in We Hunter Paced; But It Was Not What I Expected.
That brings us to 2020. I now have two horses that jump and “do all the things” but I haven’t jumped Nahe well enough to feel comfortable with larger jumps. I chose to bring Nahe this year to LKTA to help bring our confidence in each other up. He ran every hunter pace in the series last fall with his previous owner AND WON the whole series so I know he’s fully capable…..it’s just me and my mind stopping us.
We start out….underwhelmingly….I trot him at a few logs and get the timing wrong and get jumped out of the tack on the very first jump. We continued on and I began to get into stride with Nahe. We have some great jumps and he’s nice and forward.
This year will be GREAT.
Within the first 20-30 minutes we canter over a small log and approach another stack of logs not to far away. The jump is positioned between two trees. They are pretty narrow…..maybe 6-8ft across. I jump 8ft wide at home no problem but the trees made it seem even more narrow. This is a tiny jump though, no worries.
But Nahe didn’t want to take this jump. As we cantered forward he started to suck back and verr to the right. I closed my right leg on him and directed him left toward the jump. As in 2017, we were about a stride out when I thought he’d actually refuse and turn hard right. I was VERY wrong. He finally committed and went forward over the jump while I went right…right into the tree.
I heard and felt four cracks in my back as I made contact with the little yet solid tree trunk. My hip took the majority of the impact. After my forward motion was suddenly halted my airborn body fell the rest of the way down with my right lower back hitting the log jump below. I’m pretty sure I rolled onto my belly (thanks, helmet cam) but I instinctively sat up and leaned back against the jump to assess myself.
My fingers move. My toes move. What hurts? Where does it hurt? What kind of hurt is it at this moment? I wasn’t sure if the cracking was my body or my phone (in my right pocket). I look. It wasn’t my phone.
I’m worried this time that something happened and the adrenaline is masking the injury. I’m afraid as I pick myself up to take Nahe back from my friend who casually caught him (he didn’t run off because he’s a good dude).
So far so good. I get back on and we walk it out for a while. After a few minutes I decide the movement is actually helping circulate my blood so we continue on.
We take some fabulous jumps including a set of four bounces that I was very proud of. We get to the photo jump and NAIL IT. I felt so good about the jump a smile came to my face immediately. When you do it right you just KNOW it.
The photos speak for themselves.
We continued the pace and made it to the spot as the previous two years. We cantered through the grassy field, skipped the stone wall, went around the narrow trees, and turned right to climb the hill. Thankfully we had a fantastic rest of our ride.
Somehow I managed to escape this incident with swelling and soreness. I’m still quite sore and swollen writing this but I’ve been doing great and riding each day. It hasn’t held me back in any way…but I do think it’ll be time to see a chiropractor once I fully heal.
I have ridden LKTA’s fall hunter pace three times and have come off each and every time. For a beginner friendly pace I haven’t done very well.
The pace itself has natural non-threatening jumps which is great for new people and horses to hunter pacing. Now that I’ve ridden a few, however, I’ve made some notes to self about what DOESN’T work well at this pace.
The trails are very poorly maintained. It’s difficult to tell which way to go, the rocks are hidden under the leaves, and you can’t always tell what’s a down tree and what’s a jump.
The markers look to be quite old and they are faded or have fallen onto the ground. It felt that we were searching for the trail more often than actually moving along. We would take a jump and have no idea which way we were going after (lesson learned). I even heard that the timer was DQ’d for going off trail, too if that speaks to the clarity of the trail markers.
Aside from my gripes the pace itself is lovely and I will happily go again next year!
I do have video footage of the pace and of my fall but I haven’t yet edited it so check the Facebook page often for those updates!