On February 18, 2012, Cottonwood Farm in Vanceboro, NC, hosted their first ever USHJA/ANRC Horsemanship Competition as part of the annual Hunter Trials event. The competition was a four phase event that tested everything from a rider’s knowledge of the horse to their ability to memorize complex tests and execute those tests while mounted. The judge for the competition was Sarah Rhymer of New Bern, NC.
Riders were able to sign up for one of five levels, three of which were rated by the USHJA. In the three rated levels riders took a written test of varying difficulties, rode in a Program Ride, executed an outside derby course (in the upper two levels), and completed a Medal phase. Each level was awarded places one through six after each phase, and at the end of the day the cumulative scores of each rider in their specific level was used to determine overall champion and reserve champion awards.
The first test in this four-phase competition began with a Program Ride. Horse and rider had to memorize and complete a flat test that demonstrated some of the most advanced skills on the flat. Some of the components of the Program Ride included the counter canter, half-turn on the haunch and a trot jump. Riders were judged on their equitation, horsemanship and ability to complete all of the comprehensive tasks in a controlled manner with a stabilized horse. Each movement was judged on a scale of 1 to 10 and then all points earned were added to determine an overall score of each rider of this phase.
Once riders finished their Program Ride they were directed to take their written tests. All tests were produced by ANRC with questions from their databank. The level the rider was competing at determined the level of difficulty for the 20 question exam. The questions included topics such as horse conformation, barn management, and horse care.
After all riders finished their Program Ride and written test, the derby portion began. On what was once sprawling empty acreage there was now a challenging derby course built by the owners of Cottonwood Farm, Jill, Rhett and Caroline Taylor. The course included log jumps, snake jumps and even an enclosed heart shaped jump that horse and rider jumped through. The course simulated the hunting fields of the past with a forward flowing pace and no related distances. Riders were judged on their equitation and the control of the animal in this open field derby course. Many riders found this phase to be the most challenging as it was something that was unfamiliar to most of the riders and their mounts.
The final stage of the USHJA/ANRC Horsemanship Competition was the Medal phase. The Medal phase proved to be more demanding than most had anticipated as the jumps were decorated extravagantly and the course was a little more challenging than most had experienced. Similarly to the other two phases, riders were judged on their equitation, control and their demonstration of The American System of Forward Riding.
The driving force behind hosting the first ever rated USHJA/ANRC Horsemanship Competition at Cottonwood Farm was East Carolina University’s equestrian coach, Laura Underhill Norment. Laura’s devoted coaching has given East Carolina their first opportunity to send a team to compete at the American National Riding Commission Collegiate Championships this spring. The Hunter Trials that Cottonwood previously held have traditionally been modeled after the ANRC national competition. The four riders who will travel to New Jersey this spring feel fortunate that Taylor’s and Norment provided this opportunity to utilize what they have been working on in such a formal fashion. Overall, the day proved very educational and successful for those involved in the competition including the volunteers and spectators in attendance.
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