Blenheim World Cup, Grand Prix Show Jumping

Rick and I love horses. We actually met over horses. He was the one who first taught me how to ride. Although we love the hunting and cooking, horseback riding has always been that thing that connects us together. We love it so much that we've gone horseback riding for Rick's birthday 2 years in a row. Whether its going to the rodeo or to an English equestrian event, it's something we both appreciate and enjoy. 

Jennifer, me, Briana (my best friend)
Now, I don't know much about English riding. I ride western and have done some gymkhana, but I've always admired English. If only I had a few extra bucks, I'll try my hand it at one of these days. The reason why is because Rick and I really want to go to Africa-- to hunt and to go on a horseback riding safari. Imagine hunting from horseback! That would be an absolute dream. In most countries outside of the United States, people ride English. Other countries aren't as lucky to have a cowboy/western heritage like we do. 

Friday night, Rick took me to the Blenheim World Cup, which is part of the Grand Prix Show Jumping circuit in San Juan Capistrano. Unless if you're a millionaire, this is not your daughter's competition. First place won $50,000. The horses were beautiful and the fences were plenty high. Each jump was around 6 feet high, as you can see in the photo above. 

It's one thing to watch show jumping on TV, but it's an entirely different experience to see it up close. It's not as easy as the competitors make it look. 

This is a photo of the winning horse, but I'll get to that soon. 

The skills used in show hunting and show jumping are the same ones used by European fox hunters on horseback. Often times, riders will have to jump over logs and fences while chasing after their quarry across fields and through the woods. 

Unlike Show Hunters, Show Jumpers are placed according to their time. They have to ride and jump through an unfamiliar course in as little time with as few faults as possible. Riders can get penalized for things like going off course or failing to clear a fence. The rider and horse with the fastest time and the least faults, combined, wins. 
At the end of the night, the winner was Rusty-- the oldest competitor. He competed with riders that were half his age. This may seem surprising, but if you know horseback riding, it's not. It's not that the younger riders were any less capable, at least not physically. But there's a quietness, technicality and poise in horseback riding that takes years of experience to develop-- not only for the rider but for the horse as well. 
The best show horses also tend to be a little older. Although Rusty's horse was younger than other horses of the night, he was still not an excited, hyper 4-year-old. Even though a young horse may be physically up to the challenge, he or she may not be mentally "there." A good horse is not only athletic, but also mentally sound and strong. The same can be said for the rider. It's that perfect union between horse and rider that makes a winning combination. 

We saw an example of that union Friday night. Here's Rusty Stewart and his winning steed "Bristol."

There were many aspiring young riders there. Girls whooped and hollered for Rusty and "Bristol"...

As horse and rider took one last canter around the arena. 

Another beautiful horse. 

Congratulations to the 2nd, 3rd and 4th place winners!

After a horse show, it's perfectly normal to hit the local pub to have a Guinness, or two. ;-)

We hope you all get a chance to experience the joy of horses. :-)

- Rick and Jen