Hood River Classic rides again

June 15, 2005

Horse trailers by the hundreds, filled with hunter and jumper equine participants from around the U.S. and Canada, will turn the upper valley's Jensen Mills Meadow into one of the largest equestrian competitions in the country. Starting at 8 a.m. Wednesday and stretching until Sunday evening, the 2005 Hood River Classic is considered one of the most popular and prestigious shows of its kind in the Northwest. Locally, the Classic is a benefit event for the Providence Hood River Memorial Hospital Foundation.

"It's a fun and beautiful event," information director Davinne McKeown-Ellis said. "It's exciting to watch, even if you're not a big horse person. These are the top athletes of the horse world. It will truly be exciting to watch."

Riders will compete for cash purses and product prizes. The climax event of the show is the $10,000 Hood River Inn Grand Prix set for Saturday afternoon. Wrapping up the action on Sunday will be several fun derbies and a Mini Grand Prix.

In its 14th year running, the show this year is expected to be the largest one ever. About 420 horses are expected, to fill the five full days of action— in five show rings— with more than 50 divisions and 200 classes of competition. The Classic is a sanctioned Portland Rose Festival event and is A-rated by the United States Equestrian Federation.

On Wednesday and Thursday, spectators can view the Classic for free. General admission on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday will be $3 a person or $7 a car.

Hunter versus Jumper

The Hood River Classic is a hunter-jumper horse competition. For those unfamiliar with the definition of or the difference between the two, the following is the Hood River Classic's description of each.

Hunter Division:

From the cross country adventures of the British fox hunter comes today's modern "hunter". Although the hunts still flourish and demand the large, powerful, and heavy hunters, you will find today's show hunter to be a more refined animal. These horses exhibit an easy style and grace, being more pleasure than power.

Hunters should give the overall impression of being a pleasure to ride in any circumstance on the flat or over fences. They should take everything in stride, maintain an even pace and a pleasant attitude.

Hunters should be obedient, alert, responsive, and move freely. They should be balanced and on the bit.

A hunter should maintain an even pace taking all jumps alike, working on straight lines and bent corners. The jumps in a hunter class simulate obstacles that might be found out in the hunting field. Therefore you will see picket fences, gates, planks, brush jumps, walls, and other natural obstacles.

The horse must be turned out beautifully, completely clean, shiny coat, and braided mane and tail. The rider's attire is also important. The rider must look his/her best to complement the horse. This means polished boots, a well-fitting coat, gloves, and spotlessly clean riding pants.

Jumper Division:

Jumpers are judged solely on their ability to jump obstacles. They need not be any special breed or size, nor do they need to be beautiful, well-mannered or stylish.

A jumper's ability is tested over a course of eight to fourteen obstacles of varying height, width, and design. Almost anything goes when constructing a jumper course. In this division, according to USA Equestrian, accuracy and time determine the winner.

The most exciting part of the competition is the jump-off. This occurs when more than one competitor has a "clean" round. The course is then shortened, timed, and ridden again. The rider with the fastest time and the fewest faults wins.

The course designer is the person responsible for deciding the track of the course. Depending on the caliber of riders in a given class, a designer may choose to make the course more or less difficult depending on the abilities of the riders. His goal is to design a tough yet rideable course that at least a few riders can navigate cleanly, thus ensuring a jump-off.

Riders have an opportunity to walk the course before their class starts. During this walk, they determine the best approaches to fences, the most timesaving track around the course, striding between fences, and how secure the jump's poles are in their cups.

The rider is the horse's guide around the course. He/she has to know what might surprise the horse and be ready with a firm, supporting ride. Other things the rider studies are the course footing and any possible distractions around the ring.

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