Photos and story by Chris Stone
By the time your preschooler is 3, you probably have a good idea if the tot is a cooperative soul or a handful. The same is true for horses.
“You ride the horse that you have today, not the horse that you rode yesterday – and it’s the same horse,” she said.
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The Hunter/Jumper group is the last to be highlighted in the Horse Arena in the three-week event at the fairgrounds.
And horses are just as unpredictable as their human counterparts, Nass said, who has been riding since she was 5.
At 3 or 4, horses show a lot about their personalities, said the 31-year-old rider.
Do they have a good attitude? Are they cooperative? Or will they refuse to follow instructions? Some get spooked and come to a standstill in front of the barrier rather than jump over it.
They have their good days and bad days, but good jumpers are responsive, enjoy their job and show happiness by having their ears forward, the rider said.
“When I was in training,” Nass said, “we were told that horses aren’t machines” and were different each day.
Some horses never balk at the barriers. Others do occasionally, while some do all the time, Nass explained. The latter usually flunk out of jumping school.
“They sort of fit into categories depending on how they were bred,” the Moorpark resident said Tuesday while watching horses in the Hunter category.
Nass explained that the Hunter class has more to do with style and finesse. Jumpers need to be able to leap higher, and be careful and faster. Both categories need to show good movement and athleticism.
They are scored on speed and the number of faults during the competition, Nass explained. Riders are scored separately.
“I like the quality of the horse personally,” Nass said, “I like to learn how to jump better and give them best ride that I can.”
Many riders own their own horses; others use ones supplied by trainers.
It takes about a week of daily riding for a rider to understand their mount’s personality and idiosyncrasies, she said.
But after about 15 minutes, an experienced rider can get a feel for whether the horse steps off right, stops and turns easily. Or if you have an animal that spooks easily.
Nass had two misconceptions she wanted to dispel about horse jumping.
People think this is just for the rich,” she said. “Having money certainly helps, but if you work hard, you can do this without being rich.”
Secondly, she said some people have claimed the horses may be mistreated.
“Most barns treat the horses very well and care about their health and well-being,” Nass said.
The Hunter/Jumper week continues through May 3. Free daytime shows are from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
The $25,000 Surfside Grand Prix starts at 6:30 p.m. May 1, and the $100,000 Grand Prix of Del Mar along with $10,000 Speed Derby begins at 6:45 May 2.
Tickets may be had at the horse show box office at the fairgrounds or online through Ticketmaster.
“It’s fun to watch,” Nass said.
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