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Jump into the year of the horse

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Because cosmic coincidence, this January you have golden opportunity to celebrate the Year of the Horse.

And it’s free.

The North Florida Hunter Jumper Association’s three-week Jacksonville Winter Series opens January 15.

Starting next week and running through Feb. 2, over 500 horses and riders from the southeastern US compete for cash prizes and points in several national and international trials.

Some of the riders and mounts are Olympic hopefuls.

Right here in GreaterJax™.

So what happens at a horse show?

Most people have seen rodeo on TV, and it’s true that there is a little overlap between western shows and what most people call “equestrian events.”

For one, there are confirmation shows, where breeders bring their best exemplars – best American Saddle Horse, best Quarter Horse, etc.

Rodeo fans will recognize roping trials in the dressage competitions, where rider and horse must complete a series of obedience trials and work “obstacle courses” without the rider giving verbal commands to the horse.

In dressage, horse and rider must work together seamlessly, and the precision required have a clean dressage round is almost unparalleled in sport.

Training a good dressage horse can cost $20,000 and more.

Jumping fences

The flashier part of a hunter jumper show is the jump competition, where riders take their mounts through a series jumps called gates set up in a modified steeple chase.

If you’ve paid attention during the summer Olympics or you’ve caught ESPN® on the right day when you’re bored, then this is kind of equestrian event you’ve seen.

The goal is for horse and rider to take all the jumps as quickly as possible without knocking down one of the fences.

A good round is jumped in under two minutes.

And there’s considerable money attached to a really good ride, like for instance:

  • $10,000 NAL Children's/Adult Jumper Classic
  • $10,000 NHJL Open Jumper Classic
  • $25,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby
  • $2,500 USHJA National Hunter Derby sponsored by Jerry Parks Insurance Group

And there are other competitions and purses as well.

Stick around for the big finish

Should you be lucky enough to watch a jump-off (tie-breaker), you’re in for a real treat.

All of the riders with clean rounds (finished without knocking down a fence) compete to see who can finish the course the fastest.

The first rider sets the benchmark, and then everyone else tries to beat it.

It’s a showcase for horse and rider, and good teams make the rounds look like magic.

From toddlers to teenagers and adults, there’s something for everyone.

Riders of all ages compete in several different classes across events, and should you take a shine to riding, there are plenty of people who can tell you how to get started the right way.

Tally ho!

About the North Florida Hunter Jumper Association, Inc.

The NFHJA is a volunteer based 501(c)(3) organization that was established in 1969. Over the past ten years, NFHJA has donated in excess of $500,000 to local charities, including the Jacksonville Zoological Gardens, the Marine Corps Toys for Tots Foundation, the Children's Christmas Party, The Donna Hicken Foundation, The North Florida Land Trust, H.O.R.S.E., The Ravenwood Farm Foundation and the Clay County 4-H.

NFHJA Jacksonville Winter Series

  • Jan. 15-Feb. 2
  • Clay County Fairgrounds
  • State Road 16 W.
  • Green Cove Springs, Fla. 32043
  • Phone: 904-284-6378
  • E-Mail: alexisgnewman@gmail.com

www.nfhja.com/schedule.htm

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©2014 All rights reserved.

OFFICIAL BIO: K Truitt is a second-generation, native Floridian born in Jacksonville. Truitt worked in public higher education for 25 years and knows newspaper publishing, printing and graphic design. Contact: kt.4examiner@yahoo.com

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