Aug 24, 2016

Top Things To Love About The Charleston Summer Classic!

By Maggie Junkin

The Charleston Summer Classic Horse Show runs over a two-week period in July. It’s held on Johns Island, South Carolina and is managed by Bob Bell of the Classic Company.  In typical Classic Company fashion it is a well run, exhibitor friendly horse show. 

It’s one of my all time favorites, but what makes this horse show different than others? It’s the horse show my entire family doesn’t want to miss. Here are the top reasons my family loves that The Charleston Summer Classic is on my summer show schedule.

 1. It’s a Showcation!
Management coined the term “Showcation” and for good reason. They run the show efficiently. The rings start promptly first thing in the morning and they keep things moving quickly. As competitors, we're able to horse show and move on by midday.
Pastel Adirondack chairs welcome spectators to the VIP tent.

2. Charleston
Just named the #1 city in the world by the readers of Travel and Leisure. Explore all that this southern city has to offer: fine dining, upscale shopping, rich cultural history, and pastel beauty.

 3. Beach House Rentals and First class Hotels
Most families rent homes or villas on nearby Kiawah or Seabrook Island. Both Islands offer plenty of quality rental properties close to beaches and pools. Kiawah offers several boutique hotels as well. Seabrook is our family’s favorite, but Kiawah certainly has its fan base as it was just voted the #2 Island in the Continental U.S. by the readers of Travel and Leisure.

Villas on Seabrook Island offer relaxation and down time.

4. Restaurants
Charleston and Johns Island offer some the finest dining experiences in the country. You could spend a month here and not hit them all.

Slightly North of Broad~ Nothing snobby about SNOB. Southern hospitality and great food!

 5. Fort Sumter
Take the ferry on a scenic cruise across the Charleston Harbor for a visit to the Fort Sumter National Monument. Tour the Fort and museum to learn more about that day--April 12th, 1861 when the Confederates fired the first shots of the Civil War.

6. Mullet Hall Equestrian Center
Offers an exhibitor friendly and spacious venue. There is plenty of parking. The stabling areas are well constructed and comfortable for our horses. There are camping hook-ups and 40 acres of grass fields. 

My favorite part of the show grounds is the trail system.  After an early morning schooling session I love to cool out my horse on a trail ride. Miles of trails are available to explore by horseback or on foot. Pass under the Live Oak trees draped in Spanish moss and enjoy the special beauty of the South.

7. Beachy Barn Setups

Tustin Farm setup

8. Charleston City Market
Spend some time scoping out the vendor stalls in the Charleston City Market.  From regional trinkets, to jewelry, to pottery, you can find a souvenir to take home.  Make sure to look for the sweetgrass baskets made by local artists. This is a unique craft passed down by generations.

9. King Street and Touring the College of Charleston
Cruise King Street by foot if fashion is your thing. Meander the boutiques and shop your favorite designers. While on King Street don’t miss a quick tour of the College of Charleston campus. With its beautiful city gardens, fountains and pastel colored buildings it’s not to be missed.

10. Bohicket Marina
A great place to go for a sunset dinner, the marina offers several restaurants to choose from.

11. The South Carolina Aquarium
This aquarium is a must do if you have younger equestrians. It’s easy to do in an hour or two.

Maggie Junkin with brother, Daniel, and family friend, Harrison.

12. The Angel Oak Park
The Angel Oak Tree is thought to be the oldest living tree in the U.S. The Angel Oak Park is free to visit and is located on Johns Island a short drive from the horse show grounds.

Photo by Maggie Junkin.

13. Fresh Fields Village
Shop, grab a bite to eat, or relax in this outdoor village located between Kiawah and Seabrook Island.

 Maggie getting ready to browse the Tommy Bahama store in honor of her horse “Tommy Bahama.”
14. Beaches
Enjoy private beaches if you are staying on Kiawah or Seabrook Islands.  Folly Beach and Isle of Palms offer public beaches, parking, shops and restaurants.

Seabrook Island beach 

15. The Hunter Derby Night
Spend a fun night with friends and family in the VIP tent watching the Derby.

16. Charleston Carriage Rides
Tour the historical city of Charleston by carriage ride.

17. Recreation
Both Kiawah and Seabrook offer tennis, golf, biking, kayaking, fishing and sailing. The Seabrook Equestrian Center even offers horseback riding on the beach. This is on my  “must do” list next summer! 

Maggie Junkin is a 13 year-old hunter rider.  After showing in the ponies, she has moved on to horses recently and is showing in the Children’s Hunter Horse Division on her horse, Tommy Bahama. She is committed to animal rescue. Her favorite rescue to support is Danny and Ron’s Rescue. Maggie trains with John Mastriano of Tustin Farm in NJ. She lives with her family, 5 dogs, and 3 cats in Jenkintown, Pa.

Maggie with Tommy Bahama. Photo by Alison Hartwell.

Aug 4, 2016

Legendary Show Names Need To Be Retired

By Kim Ablon Whitney

Walk into any sports stadium and you'll see them.  Retired numbers, hung up in the rafters or on the fences.  Retiring those numbers honors the greats of that particular sport.  No player on the Chicago Bulls will ever wear the number 23.  No player for the 49ers will ever wear number 16.  No player for the Boston Red Sox will ever wear number 9.

Michael Jordan's number hangs in the rafters in Chicago.

In our sport we have the same legendary riders and horses.  Of course riders don't have numbers that they keep from show to show, nor do horses.

But horses do have show names.

Some show names are unusual and unlikely to be reused.  Take Rox Dene or Isgilde for example.

But others are more common, and pop up in current day, their owners likely unaware they've christened their mount with such a meaningful moniker.  I'll be judging the children's and in walks a horse that's announced as Master Dan or Cap and Gown.  I've gulped when listening to the announcer say, "Now on course, Touch of Class."

Touch of Class, photo courtesy of Phelps Sports.

That's where the USEF could step in and retire certain names.  Only the best of the best--the horses inducted into the Show Jumping Hall of Fame or the Show Hunter Hall of Fame.

At the very least there could be a web page with a list of the most famous horses and ponies for people to refer to so they don't make the same mistake.

Certain shows could even have names "retired" on their walls--shows where that horse won year after year.  The Idle Dice Open Stake at Devon has this idea in mind.

Why should we not truly honor the greats of our sport?

Kim Ablon Whitney's is an 'R' judge in hunters, equitation, and jumpers.  Her latest novel is Hunter Derby.

Jul 25, 2016

Emptying Out the Mind of a Judge

By Kim Ablon Whitney

It's mid-summer with many shows already in the rear view mirror.  Here are some random thoughts from my judging adventures.

1. Too many horses look sour, going with their ears back.  I keep finding myself writing "ears" on my card.  When pinning several hack classes recently the best mover's ears were solidly pinned back... but so were the horses I had in second and third, leaving me without much choice.  Too many horses are rubbing (sometimes clonking) the jumps too.

2. Speaking of hacks, a little frame is a good thing, but this is not dressage or an equitation class, people!  I want to see your horse carry himself on his own with a nice light rein.

3. Coming into the ring, picking up the wrong lead, and coming back to the trot to change leads counts in the hunters (and equitation).  Everything you do from the moment you enter the ring to the moment you leave the ring counts.  The in-gate is the timers of the hunter ring.  

Why do people seem to think everything you do on your opening and closing circle doesn't really count?  Breaking stride to change leads before the first jump or after the last jump is the same as doing it in the middle of a course and shall be treated as such, at least when I'm judging, with the exception of baby green or beginner classes.

4. The most important person at every show might just be the in-gate person.  He/she is much more important than the judge!  The success of an exhibitor's and judge's day is due in major part to the in-gate crew.  They should be treated like royalty.

5. If a study was done I think a direct correlation would be found between going within the first ten trips in a class and getting a top ribbon.  This is because the barns that are organized and regimented in getting to the ring are also the barns that are regimented and organized in their training, no matter how big their barn is.

6. When you fall off, if you're not hurt, do you:

a) Roll up your stirrups, take the reins over your horse's head, and lead your horse out of the ring?


b) Leave your stirrups dangling, leave the reins over your horse's head, and wait for your groom to come help you walk him out of the ring?

Sadly, I see a lot of b.

7. Some horses have amazing, floating trots but then they canter and it's not pretty.  The canter is what gets you to the jumps and one drawback of warmbloods is that their canters can be very different from their trots.  You might be winning the hack at the trot, only to plummet to third or fourth after the canter.

8. Moving kids down in the conformation is perhaps harder on the judge than the kid.  When I do it, I feel like I'm committing a crime.

9. I know you have to wait for your trainer to school you, but can you learn the course yourself?  That might speed things up a little!

Well, that's it for now!  Hope everyone has a great rest of the summer season!

Kim Ablon Whitney is a 'R' judge in hunters, equitation, and jumpers.

Jun 27, 2016

A Day in the Life of a Judge: The One-Day

5:45am -- Alarm goes off.  Not too bad for a show day.  Try not to wake the kids as I get dressed, make a cup of tea in a to-go mug, and throw my big duffel bag with everything in it from sunscreen to hand warmers to galoshes into the car, along with four different jackets.   You never know what to expect.  Rule #1 of Judging: Be prepared for any kind of weather.

7:20am -- Stop at Starbucks.  Buy breakfast and a smattering of snacks for the day.  Rule #2 of Judging: Always bring food!

7:40am -- Arrive at show.  Check in at show office.  Say hi to USEF steward and catch up with other judges.  Get clipboard and walkie-talkie.  Judging the jumper and eq ring.  Drive car out to the ring--going to judge from my car because of cold and predicted rain.  Note location of nearest porta-potti.  Rule #3 of Judging: Always know where your bathroom is.

7:50am -- Set up card, learn course for first class, get stop watch ready.  Make sure walkie-talkie is working and I'm on the right channel.  Course designer comes to say hello and check in.  Also say hi to in-gate crew.

8:00am -- First horse on course.  Love it when a show starts on time!

9:00am -- Quick bathroom break between puddle and training jumpers.

10:10am -- Ring on hold.  Read People Magazine while waiting for last of children's jumpers.  Rule #4 of Judging: Always bring reading material!

10:30am -- Ring drag and course change before eq starts.  Go to the bathroom even though I don't have to go.  Rule #5 of Judging: Always take an opportunity to go to the bathroom.

12:10pm -- Rain starts in earnest.  Very glad I'm not riding!  Opening MHJ and MHC Medals to speed up the day.  MHC Mini Medal is going at the same time in the other ring so make sure not to grab those numbers by mistake when announced over the radio.

Glad I'm in here and not out there!

12:30pm -- Lunch arrives.  Yum!  It cracks me up when my non-horse friends ask if I get a lunch break when I judge.  No, I just eat fast!

1:10pm-- USHJA Jumping Seat Medal, M&S Jr/Am horsemanship and M&S Junior Medals don't fill.  On to the Washington.  Need to pee but now going to wait till after the Washington.

1:22pm -- Really have to pee now.  Ring empty but if I make a run for it the horse schooling will undoubtably rush up to the in-gate.  Make up my test for the Medal.

2:10pm -- Somehow the Medal started right away and I didn't get a chance to go to the bathroom.  Now it's really urgent.  Hold it and judge.

3:05pm -- Pin the Medal and rush to the bathroom.  Relief!  Settle in for the Maclay.

4:20pm -- Show's over.  Early day!  Empty car of discarded wrappers and napkins.  Bring clipboard and last remaining cards up to the office.  Climb in the car to head home!

Kim Ablon Whitney is an 'R' judge in hunters, equitation, and jumpers.

Jun 15, 2016

The 3 Things That Go All Wrong in a Jog

by Kim Ablon Whitney

You've ridden the courses--seemingly the hard part.  The numbers are called and it's time to jog your horse in for soundness.  How does it all go wrong?

1. You can't get your horse to jog.  The rider is clucking, pulling the reins, and looking pleadingly at her horse.  The trainer and other helpful bystanders are flapping their arms at the in-gate.  Still, he won't budge.  Practice at home so your horse knows what's expected of him.

2. You stop jogging halfway into the ring.  What happens next resembles a multi-car pileup on the highway.  Horses risk getting kicked, the judges don't get to see all the horses jog, and the whole thing needs to be done all over again.  Keep going... and then keep going some more.

Photo by Sassy Strides Photography.

4.  You forget to listen to the jog order.  Wait, did I get called third or fifth?   After asking the patient in-gate guy five times when you were called, you jog in where you think you were and figure the judge will sort it out, which causes an unnecessary hold-up.  Next time count where you are in the order and also try to remember who jogs in front of you.

Jun 1, 2016

The Real Horses of a Lifetime

by Kim Ablon Whitney

When some riders talk about a horse of a lifetime, they're talking about a horse that they rode at the most prestigious horse shows to big wins.  With these horses, they won coolers, had their names engraved on trophies, and saw their photographs on the pages of The Chronicle.

But what about the rest of us?  We've had horses of a lifetime too.  They just aren't horses whose names people remember for years to come.  Well, we remember their names.  We always will, because they taught us important lessons about horses--and life--we otherwise might not have learned.

They are:

The horse that never worked out.  He seemed perfect when your trainer matched you with him.  You could envision how far he'd take you.  But for some reason you could never figure out how to ride him.  In the end, he brought only disappointment and eventually you had to part ways.  You learned that partnerships can't be forced.  

The horse that wasn't fancy or careful enough.  He was straightforward and solid and you nearly always put in a good trip on him.  But he just wasn't fancy enough to win the biggest hunter classes, or in the jumpers he always had that one careless rail.  Sometimes it was hard to put in a perfect trip and still finish out of the ribbons.  You learned to care more about how you rode, than what place you got.

The horse that was never sound enough.  He had everything needed to win.  Movement, scope, attitude.  But it was one thing after another and no matter what treatments and training regimen you tried--and you tried everything--he just wouldn't stay sound enough to achieve all those dreams you had in mind for him.  You learned that talent doesn't matter if a horse isn't healthy.

The horse that killed your confidence.  He was a nice horse, when he wasn't spooking or stopping.  Sometimes he'd win for you, then, bang; he'd stop dirty, leaving you in a pile of rails.  You began to doubt your ability as a rider and soon you didn't know who was more worried about a spooky-looking jump, you or your horse.  You learned to be a little less trusting, and to pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and keep on going.

The horse that was too easy.  He was so perfect, it felt like you were just along for the ride.  You didn't have to ask him to swap leads or work to keep him straight down a line.  He was on auto-pilot.  It was fun for the first few shows but then you found yourself getting bored and feeling like he had won the ribbons, not you.  You learned that you like a bit of a challenge or else it doesn't feel like a sport.

The horse who fought you.  You wanted a hunter and thought you'd bought yourself a nice green one that you could bring along.  Only he turned out to be too high-strung for the hunters.  You thought about selling him but you liked him too much.  So you switched rings just for him.  And he loved it although he still wanted to go his way.  After trying to make him do it your way, you decided you needed to be a little flexible to make this work.  You learned that sometimes you have to meet a horse halfway.

The horse you never could let go of.  You didn't mean to keep him forever.  There was a time when you should have sold him.  But for some reason you didn't, and then you'd had him for ten or fifteen or twenty years.  You leased him out but he always came back to you.  He became family and now you're spending more for his retirement than you do on your own groceries.  And it's worth every penny.  You learned that a horse of a lifetime can have many different meanings.

Kim Ablon Whitney has had many different horses of a lifetime, including the one that she had for twenty years.

May 23, 2016

It's Almost Devon Time

By Maggie Junkin

May has always been one of my favorite times of year.  Spring in Philadelphia.  The weather gets warm, the spring flowers bloom, and the Mainline prepares for my favorite horse show of all: THE DEVON HORSE SHOW!

Growing up in the suburbs of Philly as a young equestrian I have been fortunate to visit the show almost each year.  I competed in the Lead Line division as a 4 year-old and have been lucky enough to compete in the pony divisions.  I hope, in the future, to compete in the junior hunters there as well.

What makes Devon so Special?  There are so many reasons. Where do I start?

1. The Devon Blue
This is one of the few horse shows I can think of that has a color theme.  “Devon Blue” is seen throughout the show grounds, from the stands, to the stabling areas, to the fair grounds.  It’s Devon Blue everywhere!

2010--decked out in my Devon Blue. 

2. It’s Where Champions Meet
There is always someone to admire or be inspired by.  Sit in the stands and soak in the talent.  Learn from the best and appreciate the dedication it took to get there.

3. Devon Lead Line
Don’t miss the Devon Lead Line class that takes place on Saturday afternoon of Junior Weekend in the Dixon Oval.  This is cuteness overload.  Young lead liners with their adorable ponies and finely attired handlers strut their stuff for a coveted Devon ribbon.  But don’t worry because everyone goes home with a prize.  A Devon baby blue ribbon and a lollipop to thrill these tiny equestrians. 

4. Pony Hunt Teams
Pony Hunt Teams are so much fun, not only as a spectator, but also as a competitor.  Pony Hunt Teams are made up of three pony riders in the same division. Teams choose a theme and dress in costumes while jumping a course to music.

Maggie Junkin as Olaf in the Fabulously Frozen Pony Hunt Team.

5. Shopping
From clothing to art, needlepoint belts to jewelry, and equestrian gear to engraving, there is plenty to browse.  I love the Devon Booth, where you will find all things Devon.  This is a great place to pick up a keepsake or that new Devon sweatshirt you wanted.

6. Good Eats
They do not cook your usual horse show food here.  Devon provides guests with a variety of options.  From healthy choices, to pizza, burgers, their famous tea sandwiches, and oh, can’t forget those Devon Fries!  For the adventurous, the carnival side offers batter-dipped treats from funnel cake to fried Oreos, cotton candy, and fresh-squeezed lemonade.

7. The Carnival
Being a horse show exhibitor occasionally leaves you with some downtime.  Devon offers some carnival entertainment.  A Ferris wheel provides the backdrop to the Dixon Oval and offers a sky view of the horse show.

8. The Grandstand
I think it is a dream for many young equestrians to compete in a beautiful ring surrounded by the Devon Blue Grandstands. 

9. The Candy booth
Where you will find sweat treats... from Devon fudge to a variety of candy choices, and Lemon sticks.  The candy booth is a favorite for all Devon guests.

10. Grand Prix Under the Lights
The highlight of Devon Week.  Gather together with your equestrian friends to watch top athletes compete in the Devon Grand Prix.

That memorable night in 2013 when McLain Ward shared his blue ribbon with me. 

Maggie Junkin is a 13 year-old who competes in the Large Pony Hunter Division with Shaded and the Children’s Hunter Horse Division with Tommy Bahama.  She is committed to animal rescue.  Her favorite rescue to support is Danny and Ron’s Rescue.

Maggie trains with John Mastriano of Tustin Farm in NJ.  She lives with her family, five dogs, and three cats in Jenkintown, Penn. Maggie is thrilled to have qualified Shaded in the Large Pony Division for The Devon Horse Show 2016.