That Time I Won a Car in the Hunters

Photo © Andrew Ryback Photography


October 26, 2019 will forever be known as the day I won a car. Just to be clear, it’s not a lease. It’s mine until I decide otherwise. I am sure that until someone comes up with a better prize to give away than a new car, I will always be known as “that girl who won a car.” But where does this fairy tale begin? 

In July, I was at a show in Princeton, NJ, and stopped in the show office to have a chat with one of my favorite show secretaries, Julie Agar. I met Julie a few years ago at the World Equestrian Center (WEC) and became a frequent flyer of the facility, and so it was only fitting that she would ask when I’d be back in Wilmington. I said that I was planning to come for the Invitational week, which runs the week before the National Horse Show. I had already scanned the prize list, and had some questions about some special classes called ‘WEC Premier Cups.’

Julie politely told me that the classes were so brand new they barely made it into the prize list, and that she didn’t have any answers for me yet. As I thanked her for her time, she looked me in the eye and said, “It will be worth your while to come for those classes.”

As it turned out, she wasn’t wrong. 

More information emerged, and I got more and more excited to participate for “the chance to win a car and other great prizes.” There was a hiccup though—to be eligible to participate in the “car classes” you had to have shown during one of the previous 4 weeks and been first, second, or third in a class of junior/ao hunters or children’s/adult hunters. I had only planned to go for one week and save the horses to show the following week at the National, but all of a sudden my plans changed. Showing at the National is a privilege and I was going to savor every moment of it, but I also wanted to win a car… so I focused on that. 

Apparently, many other people had the same idea. The two weeks of showing I was going to attend were sold out. I checked the stable chart—no empty stalls whatsoever! My favorite show facility was going to be overrun with people. The needle on the Fun-O-Meter started to dip. 

Still determined to win a car (and junk my older one!), I got the Kimba-mobile packed up for three weeks of showing. 13.5 hours of travel later, I arrived with a sore ass and droopy eyes to find my stalls literally as far away from the rings as they could be, so much for being a regular! (Don’t worry Kelly I actually really liked the location in the end).  Week one was productive, it was not without its ups and downs. I chose to show Finch Hatton in 3’6” AOs, and Light it Up in Adult Hunters, but after day one it didn’t look like either horse was going to qualify for the car classes with the fist full of fourth place ribbons we brought back to the barn. Thankfully, each horse won a class on day two to secure their spots in the car classes. 

On week two my trainer, Jimmy Toon, rolled in to help. We (and by we, I mean me) changed the weekly plan for Finch no less than 3 times. Finally settled on a plan, I went to pull my horse out to find him missing a shoe. To most people this would be a moment of panic, but to me it was a great sign. Every time he has lost or sprung a shoe at a show he has been champion or gotten a score in the 90s, so I was stoked to see his bare foot. 

Photo © Andrew Ryback Photography

His AO classes went at 8am Saturday, he finished first and second. Usually you would be thrilled with results like that but instead I was panicked. He didn’t do the car class until 3pm—would he still be feeling it then? 

Trotting into the ring that afternoon, literally my biggest concern was getting to the far end. I knew that if I could make a full pass of the far end at the trot, he would take a breath and be fine. And fine he was. I can’t say that I remember how it felt or what I thought going around, all I remember is that when I jumped into the bending line (the last two jumps), I told myself just count 1-2-1-2. As Finch cleared the back rail the place erupted. I thought he was great, but opinion doesn’t matter. The announcer pronounced, “90 points, new leader!” 

I immediately texted my mother and her response was “great! Don’t mess up the handy.” Thanks mom.  

In the handy round, the 3’6” riders were going to go first and some of the girls had multiple rides which meant I went back in the middle of the pack. We know that Kimba’s favorite thing is to go first, but going in the middle of the pack was better than last. I hate going last. My ideal is to go in and lay it down to make the others catch me, but I did not “lay one down” in the handy. We got an 80, but it put us at the top of the leader board and had to wait.

For every horse that went in the handy after me, I superstitiously did the exact same thing—I gave Finch a mint and 4 kisses on his nose. Over and over. My friend Anne stood with her back to the ring, she couldn’t watch.  As I watched the closest girl to me from the first round (she had an 88), cross canter from jumps 1 to 2, I thought that I must be imagining it. At the same moment, Jimmy walked over and pulled from his pocket a wooden cross he’d picked up at the main hunter that ring that morning. “We have help,” he said. “Did you think I wasn’t going to have this in my pocket?” 

They announced the girl’s score, and I screamed “We won!” I remember the presentation, the victory gallop and standing on a podium with two teenagers who were complaining that their cheeks hurt from smiling. All the advice a cynical old lady would offer them was, “Let this be a preview of your wedding day, except it will last for 10 hours and your face will be frozen in that smile.” 

Photo © Andrew Ryback Photography

Next we had a photo shoot with the car. I wanted to leap up on the hood and sprawl out in some kind of Marilyn Monroe remake pose, but the car was soaking wet from the down pour occurring and I had to succumb to sitting inside and giving my trademark #1 finger. Now it’s a waiting game. I am waiting for my new Chevy Blazer to be delivered to Florida, but you better believe I have requested a vanity plate from the Florida DMV that says “IWONIT.” Let’s hope it isn’t already taken!

Photo © Andrew Ryback Photography