Sunday, April 12, 2009

Incredible Athletes

As greyhound owners, we are acutely aware of what incredible athletes our dogs are. They are the 2nd fastest animal on the planet. They have a grace and elegance when they run and play. Some seem to float across the ground. They smile big toothy smiles as they whiz past us in a blur.

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to view another incredible athlete at work - Cross Country Jumping competitors. I helped judge several jumps where the cross country course was between 1 - 2.5 miles in length with 17 - 27 jumps depending on the competitors level (intermediate, training, or novice).

Carl Bouckaert owns 8400 acres in south Fulton County called Chattahoochee Hills. He is an accomplished show jumping champion, and offers his land for Lure Coursing events and eventing horse competitions. It is a phenomenal piece of property with grassy rolling hills and valleys, some pines and hardwood trees on the hilltops and many small lakes peppered through out. When you drive down the gravel road onto the property, it reminds me of taking a drive on a forest service road in a national park.

Carl, the owner of Chattahoochee Hills, is pictured above on Raphael in the Intermediate Division running as team #5 clearing jump 11. He is highly ranked by the USEA - United States Eventing Association with Raphael.

He is also pictured below on Cyrano clearing jump #7 in the Training Division. He was the 107th rider to run the course at this point. He rode 3 different horses during the event, Raphael, Cyrano and Big Skye.

Below are just a few of the photos that I snapped while judging the jumps as the horses paraded through. There were 181 horses on the Order of Go listing, but several did withdraw. Every 2 - 3 minutes another horse would come by and strut their stuff over the jumps. I was in a unique part of the venue - the water feature. The old saying, 'You can take a horse to water, but you can't make him drink...' - they sure can splash though when their jumping in the water!

Jump 7 in the intermediate course above - coming down a 100 yard hill from previous jump. Featured is # 12 Tops ridden by Danielle Dichting.

Jump 8 below is 2 strides from jump 7 with a 4' drop into water.

Jumps 9 & 10 were rolltop jumps in about 12" of water. There was only 1 water refusal all day in the novice category where the horse ran around this small body of water.

Jump 11 - a wide stone table which as you can see is well over 6' wide on the top, but only about 3.5' tall.

Another incredible photo below - look at the tuck on those front legs. This was another Training Level rider, # 116 Kristen Gallo riding Sonny Side Up. The next jump took them back into the water, and he did terrific.

The following two photos of team #66, On The Rocks ridden by Kayla Diehl, are probably the best I took all day. The look of determination and focus on Kayla's face made for a clear ride through the entire 17 jumps on this Training Level event. On The Rocks didn't seem to exert any effort going over these jumps at all.

Jump # 6 in the Training Level

Jump #7 in the Training Level.

A few other notables, just because they just looked so darn GOOD at going over the jumps and splashing through the water feature are below:

Team #45, Fleet Makani ridden by Katherine Sulzbach

Team #26: Desperado ridden by Andrea Leatherman

Team #22: Tomada ridden by Amy Barrington

Team #27: Lorenzo III ridden by Leahona Rowland

Team #30: Prince Noah ridden by David Adamo

And the last one has me wondering - the horse's eyes are closed as it clears this jump. "Please let me clear this jump perfect, please don't let there be water on the other side, please...."
Team #40: Henry ridden by Scott Keach

There is another jumping event scheduled for Chattahoochee Hills on May 16-17. If you're interested in volunteering to be a jump judge, you won't be disappointed! It's also free if you just want to be a spectator, bring your dog on a leash and walk the grounds to observe the events. They also feature dressage and show jumping classes. Little girls and horses, a deadly combination!


Sarah, Tara, Annie, Sammy, and JD said...

wow! Watching those jumpers in action is amazing! I am more of a western style girl and always wanted to get into barrel racing, but the english riding side of it is also interesting. The grace and presence of the sports are wonderful!