February in Florida- My Experience At HITS
By: Triple Crown Insider- Julia Marrinan
I think we all can agree that it would be more fun to spend winter’s chilly months in Florida, where dwell the tan of skin – like Gryffindor, where dwell the brave at heart, but without the robes. I was lucky enough to play hooky and spend a week of my freezing February in Ocala, Florida.
I traveled down to Florida as a groom to my friend’s beautiful chestnut Thoroughbred, Calvin. Calvin was even luckier than me. He spent several months in training with Lynn Symansky. This was my first long road trip with horses, and while I was nervous, things went well. Besides one minor hiccup involving a majorly blown tire, and a few hours at a Virginia truck stop the trip from Connecticut to sunny central Florida went very smoothly. Unloading Calvin at the place where Lynn was staying was like pulling into a fairytale barn – Palm trees graced the long sides of the dressage arena and the jump field was covered in lush grass. I started wondering if I could ask to live there myself!
Once my duties as Calvin’s travel agent were over, I spent most of my time grooming for a top showjumper from my area, Sally Hinkle Russell, and my own trainer, Heather Navarrete, at HITS Ocala. There I saw some of the best showjumping I have ever experienced. Jumper shows are quite different than events, and learning the ins and outs of the barns, rings, and warmups were quite the experience. One thing I really enjoyed learning was a different technique to use in warmup. For most of the horses, I was grooming for, jumping warm-up started with a relatively small oxer to get them thinking forward and attacking the fence. As the jump heights went up, they began jumping verticals to get the horses to achieve a more round bascule and to encourage them to be more careful.
Watching several beautiful (and fast!) rounds an hour, every hour, made me vow to return home and practice my showjumping until I could nail any course at any event…This hasn’t happened yet, but I figure it’s always good to have goals.
Course walking with many upper-level trainers also greatly increased my knowledge of excellent showjumping technique. They emphasized the importance of proper pace, balance, and (most of all) picking your line and sticking to it.
Transporting a horse to Florida for show season and training was an experience I’m so lucky to have had; I only wish it could have been for more than a week! I’m so grateful to my friend for allowing me to accompany her horse, and for my trainers at HITS who taught me so much about the art of show jumping – I can’t wait to bring it back to eventer-land this season.