So an eventer, a dressage rider, and a hunter walk into a bar….Just kidding.  It was just me.

I walked into the bar.  Only the bar was my home, and the bartender was my boyfriend.  Too broke to afford a real drink, or a designer beer — the money had been drained from my account into the pockets of Hunterland.

And as I grabbed the Bud Lite from his hand, I sank into the couch. Exhausted, covered in dust and quiksilver.  Wearing a ball cap, with perfect hand prints on my brand new Tailored Sportsmans.  And I turned to him, and tried to explain my day.

I had just completed my first recognized hunter show at Country Heir I – at the world renowned Kentucky Horse Park. In true Carleigh fashion, I decided to go big.  Who needed the local schooling shows to be my entryway into Hunterland?  Not me.  Let’s do a AA show as our first.

It will go well — it will be stress-free, my eventing brain reasoned. It’s only a few “stadium” rounds and a “miniature dressage test”.  This was my rationale as I entered a 3′ division on my training level eventer.


Training level eventer?  Or 3′ hunter?

But it wasn’t.  It wasn’t stress-free.  It wasn’t just some stadium rounds.  And it wouldn’t have been plausible to survive if I had not had a handful of amazing friends who calmed my nerves, polished my boots, and answered my questions.  So I feel as though I should pay it forward – to the thousands of (a HA, lets be honest  – the three) eventers who want to journey off into Hunterland, and provide the answers that I received.


  1.  What should I wear?
    • Well young one, you can wear whatever you like – we are so accommodating to unique styles and fun colors. Oh wait, no?  That was barrel racing I was talking about.  But us hunters are also “hip” and “cool” – trust us!  
      • You can wear any jacket, just as long as it is either black, or a navy dark enough that it looks black.  Your breeches can be one of 30 shades of tan Tailored Sportsmans, and please, please, please, make sure your black custom made hunt boots come exactly 0.4 up your knee cap.  
      • Your shirt must be white and a wrap around, and your helmet must be Samshield.  You could possibly wear your Charles Owen Ayr8, but don’t you dare have any of that fancy schamcy piping. 
      • Do you have pearls? No?  Does your grandmother have pearls?  GREAT. Wear those. Both in your ears AND around your neck.
      • Put on your clothes early in the day so that you can walk around with a floppy hat and look cool, but make sure that your groom is the only one who touches your horse.  Stand at least 12 feet away from all equus caballus until 30 seconds before you get on. Put your hands into latex gloves so as not to touch your clothes.  Smudges are not cool.
      • HUnter 11.PNG

        Look like this, even if every article of clothing besides your thong is borrowed.

  2. What should my horse wear?
    • Ahhhh, great question.  Your horse should be adorned with just enough tack that it looks as though you are ridiculously wealthy, while at the same time not standing out from any other horse on the grounds.  Here is what you should have:
      • A CWD/Devoucoux/Antares saddle of a specific hyde (preferably buffalo skin) and shade of brown, with a pristine white cut out pad.  If said pad has a tint of off-white, throw away immediately.
        • Don’t even think about using your monoflap.  I repeat, don’t even think about it.  You’re still thinking about it. Stop. Seriously, stop.
      • A finely stitched bridle with plain noseband.  Bridle should be adorned by a D ring, but if your horse could possibly top 7.6mph, add a pelham.  Regardless of bit, always have a standing martingale attached.
        • Regardless of horse, bit, or speed, draw reins should be attached at all times up until the moment in which you enter the arena.
        • Speaking of draw reins, make sure that they are on while you jump.  Because nothing tells your horse to jump well more than having his eyes directed downwards towards the jump while going over it.
    • Moving onto braids.
      • The horse should be braided with at least 727 braids.
      • They should be perfectly spaced, and sewn in with so much strength that a gorilla cannot rip them out.
      • Use an entire bottle of either hairspray or quikbraid to ensure that they will not move in even gale force winds.
      • Stare at your (best friend) braider’s hands to try to learn how said braids go in so evenly and to tightly. Take 2 Advil after your eyes cross.
      • Hunter 10

        The tiniest braids in the world.

      • Be convinced that your (best friend) braider is actually an alien.  Or a Stepford wife. No one else could create such perfection.  Unless they suffer from OCD.
      • Speaking of gorilla’s – find one.  You will need him to get the braids out at the end of the show.
  3. When should I get ready to go the ring for my class?
    • The answer is never. But always.
      • Always be near enough to the ring to know exactly when you need to get tacked up.
      • Never actually tack up.
      • Check with the ring steward.  Get a growl and a glare.
      • Don’t tack up.
      • Text your friends that you won’t ride for at least a few hours.
      • Check with the ring steward again.  Get a deeper growl.
      • Play on Facebook.  Play on Instagram.  Watch Ellen on Youtube.
      • And then, TACK UP. OH MY GOD. NOW. GO GO GO GO.
      • Hunter 6

        Getting to the arena as quickly as possible!

  4. But then, how should I warm up?
    • Well, dear friend.  This is where the fun really starts. First off, find a friend.  Or, if you don’t have and friends who are willing to show their face in Hunterland, pay a homeless person to stand next to a jump.  Because you are not allowed to jump anything until someone or something that shares a closeness to you has claimed a jump.  It’s kinda like a dog peeing on a fire hydrant.  Your space must be claimed. Mark that territory.
    • Pick up a canter.  Jump a crossrail.  Jump it again.  When you are bored with jumping off of your left lead, get confused.  Because your homeless person had chosen the jump closest to the right side of the arena, you are unsure how to jump said fence off of your right lead.  Stand in the middle of the ring looking perplexed.  Finally voice your confusion. Let a nice trainer tell you that you can just change directions and jump the crossrail in the other direction.  Stare at the standards to check for red and white flags.  See none.  Jump the crossrail quickly and while glancing off towards the in gate, waiting to be eliminated for jumping it backwards.  Relax once you see there is no such thing as a ring steward.  It’s literally a free for all.

      Hunter 1

      Scare everyone but your homeless person when you take a long spot in warm up.

    • Because you don’t actually have a trainer, be forced to scream at your friend, or homeless person, to raise the jumps as you go.  Get stared at for speaking.  Rider’s should never speak.  We are supposed to be robots.  Trainer’s and homeless people speak.  Remember this.
  5. OK, I’m ready.  Can I show now?
    • You had your homeless person put you down in the order of go? Right?  Oh, didn’t?  Then no.  You don’t get to show.  You get to sit under a tree and drink a bottle of water. 
    • You tell the ring steward to add you to the order of go.  She says you’re 11th.  Great.  You can handle that – 2 minutes a ride?  Thats like twenty minutes. Sure.
    • You count 11 rides.  Start walking to the in gate.  The ring steward growls again.  Whats wrong?  Oh. Wait.  You’re 11th in order of go, not actual rounds.  People get to do both rounds back to back?  Oh, Ok. Sorry.
    • HUnter 7

      Can we go yet?

    • Back to the tree. Let the tree become your friend.  Name it Fred.  Fred is nice.  Fred gives you shade and a friendly face.
  6. Oh wait, 837 is my number?  I just heard it called!  Now! Now I ride!
    • Yes!  That is correct – you hunter you! Now is the time to strut your stuff.  So you know how to jump a hunter round, right?  You learned your course.  It’s soooooooo easy.  Outside line, diagonal line, outside line diagonal line.  Jump all the jumps – WHOOOOOO!  LET’S DO THIS!
    • Wait. One second. You want me to do what? You want me to get how many strides in that line?  FIVE? HAHA! What?  It walked in like 5.5!  Oh, you not only want me to get a five in a practically six stride line, you also want my horse to still *appear* to go slow.  And his head can’t come up at all?   
    • Oh, thats not all that matters?  I need to go in and immediately do a walk canter transition?  Right THERE. No no, not two feet after the second fence, THREE feet after the second fence.  Calm now, calm down.  WHOA Mak.  No.  Not a 13′ stride, a 13.6′ stride.  GOODNESS.  Don’t you know what you’re doing?  I thought I had trained you!
    • Push!  Leg!!!!!! Whoa, not THAT much leg.  Calm down.  God damnit this is harder than stadium
    • Pace. Pace.  1, 2, 3, 4….1, 2, 3, 4…..1, 2, SHIT, 4. Whoops.
    • Get in your corners.  Deeper.  DEEPER.  Oh crap, no Mak, don’t jump the arena.  We’re not heading for cross country.  Shit.  He’s going to jump out.  The brush is there for decoration, not a ground line!Hunter 5
    • No. No.  I didn’t want you to angle that fence.  Just go straight.  STRAIGHT.  Why don’t you know what straight is?
    • Ok, only one more line.  There’s the first fence. Great, perfect distance, and 1, 2, 3, 4……..f*$k.  Huh.  Was that 5?  Did I count the first stride?  Or was it 4? Humph. Whatever, he left the rail up.
    • Oh yay, are we done?  Thank god.  Walk Mak, we good. Get me out of here before I mess up.
    • Oh. Wait. We were supposed to circle at the end. Damnit.  We messed up.

I left the arena on a loose rein, and hopped off.  My homeless person came up and gave me a massive hug and fist bump.  We had done it.  This ranch worker, turned eventer, sometimes prancing dressage queen, but mostly bumbling idiot had completed a AA hunter show.

We didn’t even place, and yet you couldn’t wipe the smile off of my face.  I had begged, borrowed, or stolen every ounce of clothing and equipment on my horse. I had paid for the worlds best braider (Kaitlin) with a hug and a cup of coffee.  I had found the best homeless person/trainer (Alexa) to set fences and polish my boots.  I had the best videographers (Jeff and Courtney) who stood there with smiles, calming my nerves.  My vet even showed up and offered me calming acupuncture….again. And at the end of the day, I accomplished my goal – I fit in.

And all jokes aside, it was a great experience. The show was run amazingly, with friendly office staff who answered a million questions, amazing ring crews who worked efficiently and with a smile, and a beautiful course.  I met numerous trainers and competitors who offered a helping hand, a golf cart, and their own warm up fence, and I forced the other grumpy ones to smile.

And at the end of the day, I conquered yet another goal on the bucket list.  Right there next to “play hunter princess on a thoroughbred you brought along yourself” I get to put a big fat check mark.

And lets be honest, thats all that really matters.  My pony was phenomenal.  My posture didn’t suck.

And my pearls, well my pearls are placed safely back in my jewelry box – polished and glistening, ready to play another day.

Until then, Hunterland, until then.



18 Comments on “Hunters for Dummies: One Eventers Guide to the World of Draw Reins, Samshields, and Pearls

  1. I literally have a strand of pearls just for riding & showing. Yes, I’m fully committed to hunterland. Poor, but committed.

  2. This. Is. Amazing! I laughed. I cried. Because it’s true. And after years of hurry up and wait, warm up horse, horse gets cold, warm up horse, you still have 11 rounds in from of you 3 hours later, I retired completely to dressage and combined tests… that have ride times! 😉 Thanks for the laugh!

  3. Speaking as a hunter turned eventer, I admire you for the courage to go brave Hunterland because it can be such a scary place! Hahaha.

  4. This is hysterical! I went to the big HJ/Jumper show at Upperville yesterday, and my friend and I were just discussing Hunterland and our complete lack of understanding! I’m glad you had a good show, but maybe a bit too much for me! hehe

  5. Found your blog off a FB link and I am SO glad I clicked. This was a riot!! I also almost went to this show but for jumpers. No way would I play in hunters haha. Way to go on your TB you made! You both looked lovely

  6. This is exactly how I felt when I went to hunter shows as a kid. I had done most of my riding in the lesson ring or (fox)hunting and paperchasing out in the field. All of a sudden, I got dirty looks when my horse bucked or when I yelled at him for thinking about bucking at a show. In my previous experiences, I was praised for taking control and staying on in less than ideal circumstances, not shunned for forgetting to act like a princess. I was also completely bewildered by the fact that clothing/tack decisions were made based on what everyone else did, not based on actual function or suitability for the horse/rider pair. Brava for taking all of this on with a smile! And thanks for making me laugh!

  7. My eventer friends sent me this because I’ve done hunters for decades, with a recent 2-3 years in eventing, and you so nailed it! “Hurry up and wait.” Every show! Very funny – Thank you! And your pony has excellent hunter jumping form!!
    (didn’t know about the pearls, but also haven’t shown at that level for years…)

  8. Congrats on having fun at the show! My horse Eklund was in your same division so we probably brushed shoulders without knowing it. Hope you will give hunters a few more rounds in the future!

  9. Great post. Ah I remember those days so well. Glad to know not much has changed especially the “hurry up and wait” part. Looking forward to your next post. Glad you are keeping it fun… that’s what it should be.

  10. Hahaha, love it!! Great post 😂 I remember thinking hunter shows were really really strange when I lived in the US. We dont have those here in Sweden, thank god.. 😎 Well done, yay!! 👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻

  11. This was such a great post. As another interloper into the Hunter realm, I totally get it. Your writing style is pretty funny, I actually spent a couple days reading your blog and was inspired enough to start my own. Thanks for the laughs. Keep writing!

  12. Not sure how I managed to miss this post, but as a hunter princess, I can confirm all of this. I actually have a collection of pearls that I use for showing, all different colors and sizes.

  13. I’m a died in the wool hunter person and you nailed us, down to the pearls. I found this quite informative, do eventers not do it this way?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: