By Mackenzie Bernas
The diagonal jump was the hardest obstacle in the competition for sophomore Simone Chapman. Bad habits could lead to serious injuries in the ring, and her horse Snow was a victim of his tendency to head in a direction contrary to where Chapman wanted him to go.
Coming to the nearly two-foot tall oncoming jump to her left, Chapman knew that Snow would veer to the right; there was a possibility to have “gone over the jump without him,” said Chapman.
Risking being “thrown the opposite direction,” Chapman decided to make her ascent into midair early to account for Snow’s habit of switching up the directions. “It was scary…I would have flown over,” said Chapman, who has been horseback riding for 10 years. She ended up successfully making it over the jump without a scratch during the Williamston Hunter Circuit Show in North Carolina that lasted Aug. 5-6.
Although Chapman faced the threat of being thrown from her horse, she was a seasoned rider with years of private lessons under her belt. “I’ve fallen enough times where it’s like oops, oh well,” said Chapman, who continued to comment that her worst fall resulted in around a month of physical therapy.
Chapman’s years of experience were reflected in this show as she was named champion of her division in light of her four first-place wins in the Over Fences and Flat classes.
Chapman found the show overall to be an enjoyable experience with “a very nice, welcoming atmosphere.” Chapman commented on how entertaining it was to watch fellow riders display their own horseback riding skills, and that it “is really fun to compete against other people.”
Her journey of 10 years of horseback riding experience and first-place wins started when Chapman was a young Girl Scout. After she went on a trail ride with her Girl Scout troop for a field trip, Chapman told her mother she really wanted to take horseback riding lessons. She then promptly entered the world of private lessons, and started learning under Adam Smith at Pam Herman Farms. Horseback riding became “a way to forget about everything else that I’m doing,” said Chapman. “It was a stress reliever for me…that’s why I really love it.”
Aside from clearing her mind of worries, Chapman appreciates the sport for being “very adrenaline-pumping.” It’s especially heart-racing because of “the anticipation when you’re going towards the jump and the excitement when you’re actually going over the jump and landing it. It’s amazing.”
The more unpleasant heart-racing parts of the sport were the nerves of competing. “That was my first time jumping in a show after a year,” said Chapman, who was challenged with jumps 18 inches high in this competition. She wasn’t used to the height of these obstacles since the last show she jumped in had shorter jumps. “I was nervous about that.”
Nerves also happened to be a problem for Snow. After getting to know a horse for a while, “you see each of their personalities, and it’s really funny,” said Chapman. His personality was on the timid side, and as Chapman put it: “Snow is a complete chicken.” His fears varied from the likes of chairs and wash stalls to show jumps. Chapman had to exercise confidence because “he can feel that you’re nervous.” Snow was specifically a more nervous horse because his previous owner would crash him through jumps and get mad at him for it. This led Snow to the line of logic: if he makes a mistake, “he’s going to get beaten for it,” said Chapman.
When Snow first arrived and was soaking in the environment of the show, “He was extremely nervous,” said Chapman. Although nerves were shared by both horse and rider, Chapman commented that “he got a lot better during the competition.” There was an issue with Snow stopping before the obstacles, but “by the second day of the competition, he was just popping over all the jumps,” said Chapman. With the looming stress of the show in fear of doing “something stupid in front of other people who ride horses,” Chapman mentioned she was able to “bond with a lot of the other girls at the barn that I don’t usually talk to when I’m just riding at our barn at home.”
Chapman’s next plan to compete is in another Williamston show called The Derby through Oct. 15-17. This competition is going to be tougher according to Chapman who commented that “you get judged on anything” like position, speed, and if you knock down a pole. The goal is “to get as many points as you can.”
Horseback riding has continued to help Chapman forget her daily anxieties like school work and marching band. She was also able to find moments of stress relief during the show. “I could just watch my friends ride and I can just talk with them, take care of the horses, and eat and chat with each other. It was really fun.”