Once a year, the Hitchcock Woods come alive. Here, time stands still, if just for the long weekend – the Gatsby era reigns in the Woods. Sited among tall pines dripping in wisteria wines and flowers, the spring brush is lush with lime buds. Fashionable timbers frame the grass ring, distancing spectators and tailgate luncheons, from the horses and course. The footing is delicate, and the sea of emerald grass stands in stark contrast to the muted brown of the forest – a mirage within the desert of pine. This is a day of culture, of history -a moment of release from modern concerns. Consideration is paid to friends, horses, and the generations of tradition that have seeped into the sand since 1916.
Ladies and gentlemen sip champagne around the reserved tables beneath the grand white tent. Planted ferns and delicate greenery frame the center view of the hunt ring. Beautifully turned-out horses and riders in conservative garb share the ring, with the occasional red hunt coat enhancing the scene’s magic. The course was absolutely stunning. Authentic and classic, these fences were individual works of art – spanish moss draped over lean logs, fences enveloped by pine straw, miniature trees and magnolia branches. Natural materials, rustic in nature, came together to create obstacles that were inviting and a treat to ride. These days are steeped in tradition, honored by horsemen and equestrian enthusiasts alike.
This past weekend, Escujor RGS (“Punk”) and I showed at the Horse Show in the Woods. We started our day hacking from The Stable through the woods to the show ground. Trailers are not permitted in the woods, and although each rider is allowed one car to enter with their supplies for the day, Punk and I were a solo team. With our bucket in hand filled with hoof pick, polish, rag, sugar cubes, twine, water, halter and lead, and a Powerbar, we ventured through the pines towards the emerald stand. Upon arrival, we chose a tree and made our mark with our belongings at the trunk. Horses were tied at the trees while their riders rode their barn-mate, and although this greatly concerned the compulsive Pony Clubber within me, all the horses were quiet and relaxed at their tree.
Throughout the day, there were refusals, run outs, falls or rider and falls of fences. It was a shame to see some of the jumps crushed beneath a horse’s forehand, or demolished by a front leg – art stood strong that day, and the stewards quickly raced out to rebuild each fence, trying to maintain the artistic venture.
Punk warmed up in the Welcome Open Stakes. He did the “Baby Wiggle” before each fence – a little shimmy to the right, a little shimmy to the right, straighten out, and over we go! He was brilliant. Given the world of activity surrounding the ring, the unique setting, and the intriguing fences, Punk was a star and schooled with more bravery then many other horses at the show. We showed in all the Open Hunter classes: under saddle and two over fences classes. The divisions were large with nearly 50 combinations. Our flat class was split, and Punk was a bit overwhelmed with the many horses in the small space. Despite fussing about the left canter transition, he handled the environment very well as horse after horse ran up his tail and came close enough to rub boots with us. Our over fences classes rode very well. He maintained his focus and was smoother this second time over the fences. He jumped clean over each jump course and ended with confidence – a very proud baby!
Although Page Brook Farms focuses on International quality jumpers and show hunters, they are now actively breeding for Eventing. I feel strongly that Punk would make a fantastic event horse. He is calm and composed, and does not get rattled by rider mistakes or new environments. He possesses a rare quality where his ability (an incredibly clean, safe jumping style) does not dominate his ridability. I am sad to know that our time together will come to a close in a matter of days, though I know I will see him in the future – hopefully with a new Eventing partner!
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