Four pairs of Carroll County horses and riders traveled to the Howard County Pony Club Harvest Bowl Horse Trials last Sunday and returnedwearing plenty of top ribbons.
A horse trials is a three-phase event held on a single day. The horses and riders compete first in dressage, then ride over a cross-country course of jumps and finally negotiate a course of stadium jumps.
Horses and riders compete in various divisions based on their experience. The 10 divisions at Sunday's event ranged from Baby BeginnerNovice Level (for the least experienced) to Training Level (for the most experienced). The divisions were further split by age for juniorand senior riders.
In the Junior Training Level division, Krissy Kirk of Westminster and her quarter horse Mr. Shadowberry were placedfourth after the dressage phase. They finished both jumping phases with no faults, and that put them second overall in their division.
"He did really well today," Kirk said of the handsome gray gelding. "He was very steady in the dressage, although the judge said he needed to go more forward. On cross country, he was very bold and jumped everything very well, then was very steady over the stadium course. I think he remembered all the things he learned over the summer."
Inthe Senior Novice Rider division, Mount Airy resident Lyn Christie and her 8-year-old thoroughbred mare Chelsea established dominance in the dressage phase and never looked back on their way to the blue ribbon.
"Sometimes the cross-country phase brings out the old racehorse in her. She sees that starting box and really wants to go," said Christie with a laugh. "But today was the best cross country she's ever had. She really paid attention."
The hard work of Christie and Chelsea was rewarded by selection to the Maryland Combined Training Association team at a very important competition at the U.S. EquestrianTeam headquarters in Gladstone, N.J., later this month.
"I'm so thrilled, I'm jumping up and down," Christie said. "And winning our division today was a real treat."
Also competing in the Senior Novice Rider division was countian Edna McNemar aboard her young thoroughbred mare Sable.
This duo finished third in the dressage phase, then went clean in both jumping phases to finish second overall in this division.
"We went clean cross country, but it really wasn't her best effort," said McNemar, of Westminster. "The stadium jumping was very smooth and rhythmic, however; she's a very careful jumper."
The cross-country course featured 15 to 19 jumps depending on the division. Horses and riders had to negotiate coops, stone walls, telephonepoles, logs and a water obstacle among other challenges on the course.
There were eliminations on the cross-country course throughout the day -- for three refusals at a jump, for course errors or for unauthorized assistance from spectators -- with the water obstacle claiming the most victims.
"Each individual jump was very fair," said McNemar, who rode the course on Sable with no problems.
"But I thought those first few fences might be too difficult to be placed at thebeginning of the novice and beginner divisions."
The first two obstacles of a stone wall and a coop were set close to the side of a road, which had a fair amount of traffic from the event and which was right across from the trailer parking and warm-up ring. These first fences are permanent fences, however, so the organizers must use them.
"And it was a real test for the riders to ride down by the kennels," McNemar said. "The horses don't seem to mind so much when they seethe hounds and hear them barking, but some of the riders get a little freaked out."
The final Carroll rider of the day was McNemar's husband, Jim, who competed in the first of two Senior Beginner Novice divisions.
Jim McNemar was aboard his big, impressive steel gray thoroughbred Rocky and finished third in dressage, then went on to winthe division with faultless cross-country and stadium rounds.
"(Rocky's) been doing lots of Training Level dressage, and he really likes it," Jim McNemar. "He's been real good, although he could be a bitmore supple. I thought the cross-country course was very straightforward, and we had a good time."
Course designer Tamara Kiser had the services of the Howard County Pony Club kids in decorating the stadium jumps in a harvest and Halloween theme. The kids did a wonderful job, using a lot of pumpkin and corn stalk.
"You always have to wonder how a horse is going to react to pumpkins and other things he's never seen before," said Jim McNemar, "but Rocky did great. He's always very honest."
There was a Great Train Robbery over the weekend in Westminster, and naturally horses were in the thick of it.
In what is becoming a tradition in the county, horses and riders from the Hoofbeats 4-H Saddle Club "robbed" an excursion train to raise money for charity as part of Westminster's Fall Festival last Saturday and Sunday.
"Alicia Wells did it all by herself on Saturday," said 4-H organizer Beth Stambaugh, "but there were 18 kids and horses on Sunday."
The kids were decked out with green 4-H bandannas over their faces as they ran down the train near Route 31 outside of town.Parents and friends held the horses and ponies and cheered on the "robbers" as they boarded the train and relieved the passengers of their valuables.
"It was a great change of pace for the kids to do this," said Stambaugh, who led a group of riders over from her nearby stables. "It was just great fun, and it raised some money for good causes."