It Happens: Ailish Cunniffe, KC Claffee and Nada Wise

Ailish Cunniffe

We all make mistakes. But horse people, as a group, aren’t always the best at handling them. So TPH reached out to some top riders to share their own show ring bloopers to prove, once and for all, that mistakes really do happen to the best of us!

Ailish Cunniffe

When I arrived in Mexico, none of my equipment showed up, and as a 5* Nations Cup debut, that was a little stressful for me. I actually showed the first day in the 1.40 m with everybody else’s tack but my own…I used Tanner’s saddle and Maria’s stirrups and some other girl’s bit that I don’t know. 

At that moment in time I was very thankful for my teammates who lent me all of the stuff I needed to complete the course and prepare for Sunday. It was slightly stressful, but there’s always hiccups and bumps in the road so you just have to make do.”

KC Claffee. Photo by Shawn McMillen Photography

KC Claffee

This was about five or six years ago on Snowy, who’s a really reliable 3’6” horse. We were at Fairfield during the WCHR week, and I had won both over fences classes the day before, and was feeling great. They were offering warm ups because they weren’t able to do the ticketed warm up on Tuesday because of rain. I opted to not do the warm-up, because it’s Snowy—he’s reliable, he never spooks at anything, usually my first trip is the best trip. 

I go trotting across the diagonal, and all of the sudden I’m on the ground. Because Snowy had caught sight of a baby carriage all the way across the ring and spun right out from underneath me. 

I got right back on, won the handy, but because of that I ended up reserve champion instead of champion. Horses are horses, things happen.”

Nada Wise. Photo by Andrew Ryback Photography

Nada Wise

My very first A show was in Colorado. I was probably 13 years old and I had the biggest crush on Hap Hansen. He was standing at the in-gate and I jumped the first six jumps better than I have ever jumped in my life. 

At fence seven, it’s this huge swedish oxer and my horse stops and lands in the jump, and I go flying to the other side and the bridle flies across. I can’t get my horse out, and I just walk to the in-gate holding the bridle because I’m not sure exactly what to do. 

Hap Hansen is staring right at me and he goes, ‘Your horse…’ and I’m so horrified, I go running back to my horse, and I have to get the bridle on to walk him out of the ring. I have been horrified my whole life about this.”

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*This story was originally published in the May/June 2022 issue of The Plaid Horse. Click here to read it now and subscribe for issues delivered straight to your door!

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